Another highly anticipated interview, can’t express how excited I am to move forward with this one. Again, thanks to Lisa at Mezereon Management, I was introduced to the whole Striker Fight Center and they have all showed NOTHING but LOVE to KnockOut Lounge. Gerry Tena was introduced to me by Lisa after reading an interview I did with fellow SFC fighter, Cody Maiden – and apparently he wanted to share a more personal aspect of the fighter/interview world. Happy to finally say that we have had the opportunity right before his upcoming fight!
Jason Przewoznik: Gerry, Thank you so much for finding some time to sit down with us and discuss your story, career path, and goals in the world of MMA. I just wanted to say I enjoy the love from everyone I’ve been working with lately at SFC and hope we all continue to work together and grow in the public eye! With that said, let’s take some time to focus on who Gerry Tena is, as a fighter and as a human being…
Genaro Tena: I’ve lived in the states since I was 10 years old. My mom, being a single parent, thought it would give my sister and I a better chance to succeed in life. At first, it was very difficult to adapt to the culture and way of life here, not to mention the language barrier. I learned the language fairly quickly as a kid, and although I made friends and had some family here, I always felt like an outsider. During my middle school years and some of high school, I would find myself hanging out with the wrong people. Even though I was a smart student, I started falling behind in school, and getting into trouble. My sophomore year I was arrested and put on probation, the judge added a kind of alternate sentence where I had to complete a 9 week course of self defense in Judo.
….When you think of someone who is rebellious, has no respect for people, and is always looking for trouble, the last thing on your mind is “Hey, let’s put this kid in a martial arts class and teach him how to fight… so he can go around picking fights in school and beating people up for fun“. This program had the complete opposite effect on me. I got hooked on Judo, started competing regularly, and found a place where I felt like I fit in. The owner of the Judo club was Bob Byrd, he took me in and helped me straighten up a bit. The foundation of who I am today, I owe to this man and Judo …Long story short, I competed in Judo for 5 years, went to some big tournaments as a junior competitor, graduated high school and got accepted into Kennesaw State University. I received my Bachelor of Science diploma in Information Systems this past Summer, and I got a job in the IT field. All this while training five days a week and fighting at the same time.
JP: Haha, exactly an outsider’s mindset, but it’s quite the opposite and the judge offered a great opportunity to you. Discipline in any art, you learn a respect for that art – you also learn that you’re no longer in a position to prove yourself on the streets, when you know what you’re really capable of. That is really cool. One of my favorite movies is ‘Only the Strong‘; Now granted it’s Capoiera and not Judo, the concept of learning discipline through martial arts for the ‘troubled students’ while developing a personal relationship with each of them is pretty similar to your story. If it wasn’t for that alternative sentence who knows if you’d have even stepped into the cage – or even learned the discipline needed to succeed. Much better than probation, if you ask me! (lol). You’ve also come a long way; Your drive to success academically and physically is really inspiring! So you’ve had a few doors opening your way, what inspired you to actually step in the cage and become a pro fighter?
GT: When my old Judo school was turned into a MMA gym, I started training in some Kickboxing and Brazilian Jujitsu. After doing Judo for so long, other arts and disciplines started to look interesting and fun. Getting hit in the face was different, I would leave the gym with headaches, and frustrated that I couldn’t do anything about getting punched all the time. Like anything in life worth doing, it takes time and effort to get good at it. I knew that the only way to get better was to get in there and roll with the punches. I learn well from watching other people who are skilled, I pick up on their good habits… and bad. A couple of years into training in mma, my coaches approached me and asked me if I was interested in fighting, I said, “Yeah that would be fun, cool man“. They must have taken it as a sign that I didn’t really care much for it, and probably wouldn’t do it. I was used to competition by then, and the idea of getting in a cage and slugging it out with someone was not that intimidating. We left it at that for a few months, when it came up again we decided to get me a fight.
JP: Haha, so how was your first fight? Do you remember much about it?
GT: My first amateur fight was in Cookeville, Tennessee. It’s a small college town with not much to do from what I remember (lol). My training partner Scott Farhat and my friend CJ Lewis drove up there with me for weigh-ins, it was a long drive and I remember it raining on the way up there. When we got there, I got a call from my coach and he said that my opponent had pulled out. He also said that the promoter had found a replacement. I was there to fight at 145lbs, and the replacement weighed around 160lbs. I got a little nervous at first, then I decided “What the hell! I’m already here. Let’s do this”. There were a lot of people from our gym who drove up there to watch me fight, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, you know. I beat my opponent in the second round via ground and pound TKO, it was a great win and I was full of adrenaline the entire time. Let me tell you something about adrenaline, you go numb for a few minutes, you feel like you’re breathing hot lava, and you don’t hear anything going on around you. After that, you crash and feel exhausted.
JP: Haha, I know a little about it. Adrenaline is an over-powering experience, but when you come out in such a big debut victory, it’s probably got to be the best feeling in the world! Now, with your background in Judo and TKO victory as well as Kickboxing/BJJ training, what would you say your fighting style is?
GT: I like describing my style as smart and aggressive, a big part of it does come from Judo. In fighting, you have to be smart, and also quick enough to beat your opponent to the punch. It’s a balance of different aspects that make a fighter well rounded. I knew going into mma that I was not going to get by with just my Judo skills; it did however give me an advantage over opponents who were mainly strikers and ground guys. I’ve been working on my striking pretty consistently over the past few years and also my ground game. Striker Fight Center’s mma coach Steven Broughman is very experienced in Muay Thai, boxing, bjj, and other arts that he has implemented into his mma curriculum. He has been doing martial arts his whole life and he is a library of knowledge for us young fighters. I also train with bjj black belt Juan Guevara, he works with me on my ground game and also does some of the management for the fighters at our gym. Recently, we acquired two great boxing instructors, Coach Nate Livramento and his son Adam. It’s really starting to feel like we have the whole package at SFC. My striking has improved greatly over the past few months; I even go down to Delgado Boxing gym in Buckhead to spar once a week, they have some great boxers over there. I like to isolate the game so I can focus on fixing bad habits and improving my footwork.
JP: Nice, I notice you represent Striker Fight Center and American Ground N Pound very well, care to share a little bit about them and how things fell into place for you?
GT: Striker Fight Center evolved from TUF Martial Arts, that’s where I originally started. TUF started out as a family oriented martial arts center, we had a kids program, self-defense classes, and we also did MMA training. After I started fighting, other people got involved in the gym, and we had other fighters join. This is where I met my close friend Scott Farhat. Coach Steve Broughman joined in and saw the opportunity to put together a gym that brought together a system of disciplines all under one roof. He’s been working on this for some time now. it’s finally happening!
…My manager Lisa Webb worked to get me my current sponsor American Ground N Pound, they are based out of Colorado. It’s great that they decided to sponsor me, even though they are a long way from Georgia. I’m happy to represent their brand, and I hope to represent it well. Even though I’m originally from Mexico, I became a US citizen this year in April, and that makes me very proud.
JP: That’s pretty interesting, you’ve seemed to have been around for a while. It’s also great to hear about fighters that Lisa brings to me, every fighter she finds, she hand picks and really puts so much time and dedication into them – it’s wonderful. I really enjoy working with SFC and Lisa! You have a great mind-set, lots of dedication, and you’re a very smart and accomplished guy; What do you feel are your goals in the MMA world? Are you doing this as a hobby, career, or any other ulterior motive?
GT: My goals are always to succeed, so far it’s been going pretty well. It’s still early in my fight career to expect anything big, and I know I got some more experience to gain before I can start getting some recognition. I plan on taking this MMA gig as far as I can. In case that I get seriously injured or can no longer compete for some reason, I always have my college education and IT experience to fall back on.
JP: That’s always smart to have a fall-back, but keeping your eye on the prize in fighting is great. Now, do you fight for any particular cause or is this a ‘career’ for you?
GT: As a professional fighter, I take this very seriously. I consider it a career, even though it is a very low paying career, for the moment (haha). I fight because I love the sport, and that feeling of meeting challenges head on. I receive a lot of support from my peers and people close to me. They’ve all inspired me to become a better person; I guess I fight for the people close to me.
JP: That’s a pretty awesome way to put it. My current career is very low paying as well, as not as fun as kicking some butt in the cage! (lol) At least you’re allowed to explore your passion and make a name for yourself. With a very great pro record, care to share some of that information with us? What is your current pro record? Do you have any memorable fights or experiences you’d like to share?
GT: Currently my professional record is 3 wins and 0 losses, I won the first two by TKO and the third one was a unanimous decision where one judge even gave me a 30-25 score. My most memorable fight has to be my last amateur fight in which I fought for the Georgia ISKA title belt. My opponent was Travis Lord from the Hardcore Gym in Athens, GA. I remember it feeling like the longest fight of my life, we kept going back and forth throwing punch combinations and landing good hits on each other. At certain points of the fight I felt like he had the advantage, and then I would retaliate and put the pressure on him. I ended up winning a split decision; the fight was set for five 3 minute rounds. At the end of the fight, we hugged it out and stepped out of the cage, I gained a lot of respect for Travis in that fight. The doctor ended up giving me some stiches on my upper lip. Also my throat was pretty sore for some reason, I think I got punched in the neck… there went my singing career. Most of my other fights have been pretty exciting, although this one is the most memorable to this date.
JP: Haha, “there went my singing career” – that’s awesome …I mean that’s a shame, but at least you can still kick some butt in the cage, right?! (lol). I like that, no bad blood after exchanging punches for 15-minutes; there’s so much respect in this sport. You mentioned your amateur fights and your record being 3-0, how much different is it when going pro?
GT: My past three fights as a professional have been very challenging, and I only expect for future fights to be even more challenging. There is no easy mode in MMA, no cheat codes, no secret moves. Just hard work and determination.
JP: What, no cheat codes?! That ain’t right! (lol). I crack myself up. …On another note, as building the ranks, I heard you have a fight coming up this week? Care to share some insight on that? Got a game-plan?
GT: (Haha) …My upcoming fight is this Friday, Sept 23rd. I’m fighting Chris Cain who holds a record of 3-2 as a professional. The fight will be held at Wild Bill’s in Atlanta, it’s a pretty popular place for mma fights here in Georgia. I’ve been training for this fight for the past two months, although I had to adjust my training for the last two weeks due to a change in my opponent. Chris is mainly a ground fighter, I believe he is a brown belt in bjj and comes out in southpaw stance. Just had to do some minor adjustments to my game plan and we’re good to go. Gameplan is simple, keep it standing, defend the wrestling shoot, clinch with takedowns, establish dominant position on the ground. As always, you can’t rely solely on a game-plan, you have to be able to adapt to the situation and react accordingly, like water.
JP: Ah, the mind of one of the greatest martial artists, Bruce Lee; “Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” …So with that, be water, my friend – I’m sure you’ll tie down this victory! Now, before we wrap up, I need to ask one of our trademark questions, that I mistakenly forgotten in my last two interviews; You’re the lucky one! Who is your favorite super hero and why?
GT: Megaman! You know the little guy with blue spandex suit in the Nintendo games? Haha, that actually sounds pretty gay. I grew up playing video games, and Megaman was my favorite. He took on all the bosses in the game; then after defeating them, he acquired one of their special skills. It was all about the new skills and power-ups! So yeah, pretty lame right? haha
JP: Probably the most out-of-the-box response I’ve heard, actually. Well, the fact he’s your favorite in the way you described him, does worry me a bit (lol), but was also my favorite video game. Though, every time you fight someone, you learn a little from them, whether it be defense, a strike, or a submission. That’s pretty cool that you’ve threw him out there!
….Well, Gerry, it’s been a real pleasure and I would like to give you the opportunity now to give some shout outs or special thinks; Do you have any you’d like to share?
GT: Big shout out to all my fans! Also, my always supportive and amazing girlfriend Rachel Hawkins, and everyone at Striker fight Center (Striker Army!). Special thanks to AMERICAN GROUND N POUND for giving me the opportunity to represent their brand in my upcoming fight. They are involved with big fight promotions such as Ring of Fire, Fight to Win, and No Mercy Extreme out of Colorado, also other promotions in Missouri. Big thanks to Jay Pagliaro for letting me be a part of their radio show at CAGE JUNKIES. Huge thanks to TRICOASTA for taking care of our amateur fighters! And last but not least, Thank you Jason at KNOCKOUT LOUNGE for giving me the opportunity to do this interview, it’s great to meet people who love the sport and want to help it grow.
JP: Thank you VERY much for your time Gerry. This interview went really well and I think it lets people hear exactly who you are! As always with the fighters I work with, feel free to contact me in any future events and we can do something on it. I’m sure we’ll be working together again real soon!
Image courtesy of Eric Langley Photography