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Chris Brennan interview
Hawaii411: How'd you get the name "Strangler?"
Chris Brennan: A lot of my fights ended with the Guillotine, even in training I used to use the choke on a lot of guys. It kind of changed now because I like to arm lock and kimura everybody, but when I started it was because I choked everybody. I think Mikey Burnett had the ******** Assassin so one of my students took that and called me the Westside Strangler.
H411: How long have you been fighting?
Chris Brennan: This December it'll be 10 years training and I've been fighting for 8.
H411: What got you started?
Chris Brennan: Todd Medina, who fought in UFC, was my friend. We were body-building together and he started to get into Jiu-jitsu. We bounced at a club together and would always get into fights. I'd do pretty good in the fights - I wasn't a trained fighter, just a street-fighter, but I figured with some training, it might be fun. The first UFC came on TV, and the owner of the bar we bounced at had it on the big screen. I saw it and said, 'man I want to do this.' By the 3rd UFC, I was training.
H411: Did you ever do underground type fighting?
Chris Brennan: My first three fights were underground.
H411: Was that just crazy?
Chris Brennan: Yeah, it was like IBC rules: elbows, headbutts, even soccer kick in the ground - everything was legal.
Fun Strangler Fact:
His favorite Hawaiian food is Poi. "It must be what gives you Hawaiians the punching power." Give him some Kalua Pig too, and he's in heaven.
H411: You used to be a surfer, did you ever catch any of Hawaii's waves?
Chris Brennan: No, the last time I went surfing was in '95 in Brazil.
H411: Tell us about Brazil
Chris Brennan: One of my friends from Torrence was teaching at the academy. He set me up with a place to stay. I showed up with four bags in my hand, no friends, showed up at the gym and stayed for a year.
H411: You got to train with some of the Gracie Family. How did it feel to train with legends?
Chris Brennan: When I first started I was in awe of the whole thing, but then I realized that my goal wasn't like every other student who was there - they just wanted to be good in Jiu-Jitsu while my goal was to have my own school and to fight professionally. I started to get on a friendship level it Royce (Gracie) instead of just being so 'oh-my-god, I'm talking to Roryce Gracie.' We used to go to Magic Mountain together and hang out and stuff. Anytime people in the class wanted to ask Royce a question, but didn't have the balls to ask, they'd ask me to ask him.
H411: What was training under Frank Shamrock like?
Chris Brennan: I didn't get to train under him. I trained with him a couple of times and he's good. He's different than a regular Jiu-Jitsu guy on the ground. He doesn't care what position you're in, he never stops moving. He's always bouncing around and you never feel secure with him, even if you're on top. I was excited about training with him because he's my favorite fighter. I think e was the first person to bring stand-up, ground and supreme conditioning together.
H411: You ever meet Ken Shamrock?
Chris Brennan: A couple of times.
H411: Any predictions on his UFC match with Tito Ortiz?
Chris Brennan: I like Ken, but however much money I have at the time, I'm gonna put in Tito. I think Ken is skilled, but he's getting old and he's too angry at Tito. He fights with too much emotion. He's going to be so angry that at the end of the first round he's going to be tired. I think Tito's going to play the same game that Frank played with him. He's gonna take his time and then turn it on when Ken gets tired.
H411: You want to be a champion, so you have a specific goal?
Chris Brennan: No I just like to fight. I've fought in just about every event now besides Pride. I don't know if I'm big enough to fight in Pride or if they have a weight class for me. I'd like to fight there, but if I don't I'm pretty happy with what I've done so far. I've had the opportunity to win a lot of belts... as long as I put on a good performance and I train hard and do my best, I'm happy. I think it's very hard to be a very good teacher and a very good fighter, but I think I've succeeded pretty well doing both. It's only going to be a bit longer that I'll be fighting, then I'll be training and teaching my guys.
H411: Who's been your toughest opponent so far?
Chris Brennan: You know even some of my losses weren't tough fights, because I think I beat myself. I think the only person who I had a hard time re-matching who I lost to, would be Pat Miletich because he's so well rounded and so experience. We fought three times- he can take you out of your game and make a good guy seem really boring.
H411: What is your strength?
Chris Brennan: Ground for sure. I think my ground and submissions are underestimated by some people. I think my takedowns are underestimated. I never wrestled, but I took Gomi (Takanori Gomi - last fight for the Strangler, ending in a decision loss in Shooto Japan) down five times, and he was never taken down once before. If I go into a fight and my goal is to get you to the ground, I'll get you to the ground.
H411: Do you focus more on Stand-up to balance that out?
Chris Brennan: Not more, I still like to train stand-up, but I try to consider myself a smart fighter. If a guy wants to stand up then I'll try to take him down, if he want to go to the ground, then it's an opportunity to work on my stand-up. I see a lot of guys here in Hawaii, because they have heavy hands, they like to stand in the middle of the ring and throw bombs. I'm not down for that... I'm not going to trade bombs and see who's going to win the fight.
H411: Who catches your eye from Hawaii?
Chris Brennan: I think all they guys from Jesus is Lord, Ray (Bradda Cooper), Ronald (Juhn) Bozo (Stephen Paling), Bob-O (Ostovich) even, they got good hands and good chins and that's dangerous. Egan Inouye, I think he's a stud. Another one of my favorite fighters is BJ Penn. He's got phenomenal ground and his stand-up is underestimated. I like his old-style better, where he was aggressive and tried to kill the guy. Now he kind of paces himself. I think his old style would suit him better.
H411: Why do you think Hawaii puts out so many top fighters from a small state?
Chris Brennan: I think they've been doing it since day one. They were fighting before they were training to fight. I don't know, maybe it's the way they were brought up. Like I said, they all have heavy hands and they all can take a punch.
H411: With only a few more bouts left in your fighting career, who do you want to fight?
Chris Brennan: I would really like to fight Jens Pulver, because he's like Pat ( Miletich). I think I could solve the Rubik's cube this time. Even though BJ is one of my favorite fighters, I'd love to fight him because it'll be a good test of my ground skills. I want to fight Gomi again. The guys from Shooto are all exciting. People thought my fight with Gomi would be boring, but I promised none of my fights would ever be boring. Anybody at my 155 weight class... I feel I can dominate at that weight.
I was watching Matt Hughes' last few fights and he just crushed everybody. He had great ground skills, but his wrestling wasn't that good. Then all of a sudden his ground got better, he was passing Carlos Newton's Guard and the same with Sakurai. I knew my ground was already that good, so if I had the strength and power to go with that and good conditioning, I knew I could fight for a belt.
H411: How has the weight loss helped you?
Chris Brennan: As started to get light, I was so much more flexible, and my bottom game came alive. I'm a lot faster, plus I'm still strong.
H411: You're going to be doing a seminar in Hawaii. Why Hawaii?
Chris Brennan: This is the sixth time I've been here in a year, and all of the people treat me great. I love it here. I enjoy all of the guys over here, and I want to keep coming back. By the middle of next year, I'd maybe like to open a Next Generation fighting academy here in Hawaii. I've learned from a lot of different people, so I have a lot to show to everybody.
H411: Tell us about your Next Generation Academy.
Chris Brennan: Size-wise, it's one of the biggest in the US - 60' x 60' mat space, a full-sized 21 foot Octagon, plus two bedrooms for my live-in guys, a front office that looks like an executive suite in a building, a nice lobby with two bathrooms, and plus it's very big and very nice and well kept. That's one of the thing I learned from the Gracie Academy, people come in and see a clean school and they're going to come back. It think student enrollment-wise, it's gotta be one of the biggest too.
H411: You do a lot of person hands-on training at Next Generation, would you be in Hawaii teaching too?
Chris Brennan: At my school now, I teach all of grappling and jiu-jitsu teaching unless I'm training for a fight. At my school here, it would probably be Jeremy Williams teaching. His ground is very good, and I would be here once a month. Still, I'd have to be at my California school a lot. The school here will do well, but I don't think it will be as big because I won't be teaching here all the time. People come to my school because of me, and if I'm not there, the enrollment goes down. That's one of the reasons I'm going to stop fighting too. I need to be at my school more.
H411: People have been critical of Mixed Martial Arts being more offensive rather than just self defense, and there is a lack of discipline. How do you respond to that?
Chris Brennan: I definitely think you shouldn't teach people to go out and beat people up. I've had problems with that in the beginning when I was teaching. I was like that myself when I was first learning from Royce - I felt I was invincible. I'd go out and never start a fight, but if someone were to start one with me, there was no talking - it was on. Now I try to keep my guys as mellow as possible so they don't get into fights. I also have a lot of police officers in my school, so if my guys were to get arrested fighting, it wouldn't look good. I try to keep everyone out of trouble, but I do agree that the discipline is not there like regular martial arts.
H411: What drives you to succeed?
Chris Brennan: As far as fighting goes, it's fear of failure. I hate to lose. I had nothing going into starting this school, but fear of failing kept me from failing. Now I'm married with three children - and that will drive me to have a successful school. Plus I love teaching. I want my fighters to succeed as well.
H411: You're one of six brothers - was there a lot of scrapping growing up?
Chris Brennan: Not bad between us, but me and my older brother used to get into a lot of fights together against other people. He used to smack me around a little bit, but not anymore.
H411: You have three boys now. Are you going to encourage them to step in the ring?
Chris Brennan: Not into the ring - my wife would kill me. But definitely encourage them to train for self-defense purposes. I just got custody of my 10 year-old when he was seven, so I don't push him to do it at all. My two-year old will definitely do it, but whether he wants to continue is his choice. Hopefully they'll all want to train like Dad. If they want to fight, I'll back them up 100%.
H411: With your seminar in Hawaii, you say that you are infamous for sharing ALL of your secrets. Do you think that hurts you in the ring?
Chris Brennan: No. I don't care really. It took me probably three or four times longer than it took my students to get good. I think if you're paying me to learn, then I'm going to show you everything I know. You're not going to know it or master it today, but if you continue to practice, you'll get good. I'm not affiliated to any other schools so I figured I'm going to make a group of guys really good really fast and have good training partners. Now I have good training partners. My mom always says, 'Don't show them everything, or they'll use it on you.' I hope they use it in me, because I know all the counters. I train on it every day.
In my video series I don't hold anything back because when I was training, I could see every day that the instructors were holding back and not telling me everything. I was really frustrated and angry with that and I didn't think that was fair. If someone shows me something today, I'm going to teach it tonight.
H411: You had some trouble getting here to Hawaii, any shout out to those who helped you?
Chris Brennan: Yeah, everybody. Bazo is a guy on the internet who hooked me up with a buddy pass. STP is another young guy from the internet who tried to help. Bran42 picked me up from the airport. James Wong from Fairtex sponsored my whole team. He also was trying to get me a pass. Even though Brennan didn't come through, he introduced me to all these nice people in Hawaii. Phenom, Hitman, and Big Bear fitness support my team. My family, I thank for supporting me and putting up with my trips. You guys (Hawaii411) and everybody who helped out. We pulled it off and here we are in Hawaii.
It's just been brought to my attention that I may have misheard Mama's advice about not talking to stranglers... It's 'strangers' that I'm not supposed to interview. And that's good, because Chris Brennan is definitely no stranger to Hawaii. A big mahalo goes out to the Westside Strangler - Not only for providing Hawaii with some fantastic entertainment, but also for caring enough for our local fighters to help them learn through his technique seminars and hopefully a Next Generation Fighting Academy to the islands.
Check out the Next Generation Website. www.chrisbrennan.com. There you can buy Chris' Instructional Tapes, Strangler Shirts, Fight Gear, and Stickers. Next Gen is one of the largest training facilities in the nation, and one with a great reputation for turning out winning fighters.
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