MMA personality, entrepreneur, and former UFC fighter Nate “Rock” Quarry was nice enough to answer some questions for me, leading up to HK31. Shortly after the release of Jon Fitch from the UFC, (which has been controversial to say the least), Nate, among other people across the MMA community, voiced their opinion about it. There are cries of favouritism, poor judgement on the part of UFC brass, and some blaming some sort of personal vendetta for the release. UFC President Dana White has stated it is simply a matter of trimming the fat off of an inflated fighter roster, apparently over 100 fighters too big for the payroll. He has also stated there will be more blood spilt, so watch for the cuts to come. I personally never said to anyone “I gotta watch that event this weekend, because Fitch is fighting.” He’s personally not my favourite style of fighter to watch. However, he was effective, and turned out an impressive record considering he was only fighting top tier fighters for the mainstay of his UFC career.
Nate shares some opinions on this, advice for up-and-coming fighters, and insight into his MMA and personal life, which I hope at least one HK fighter finds useful or intriguing. Here’s the Interview:
HK: Nate, thanks for taking a moment to answer some questions for me. Everybody in the MMA community knows you from Ultimate Fighter, UFC, and MMA Uncensored Live. What has been keeping you busy lately?
Nate: It seems like if I get 5 minutes to breathe I’m overwhelmed with boredom, so I always have to be working on new things. One of the big things is working as a patient ambassador with the medical device company that gave me my life back 7 years ago. In working with Nuvasive we’ve formed a patient support group called The Better Way Back. My goal is really just to reach out to people that are suffering and give them hope. I’m not a doctor and I don’t even attempt to diagnose anyone. I just share my story and let people know that the days of big open procedures are over, minimally invasive back surgeries are now available, and you can get back to living your life on your terms. On top of that I’ve got my clothing line and comic book, ZombieCageFighter. Throw in being a single father and my days are pretty full.
HK: Recently you were on an episode of Comic Book Men, where you gave Jay & Silent Bob a lesson in MMA. How fun was that? Do you often visit MMA Clubs as a guest trainer or speaker?
Nate: In the past I’ve just been too busy. I live in Oregon, and MMA Uncensored was filmed in NYC every Thursday, so the with all the travel when I’m home I really try to focus on being the best father I can be. That means passing on some coaching and training opportunities, but I think in the long run it’s more than worth it.
HK: A post you wrote on Facebook was what prompted me to ask you for this interview. You were talking about Jon Fitch’s recent release from the UFC, despite his impressive record against the Elite fighters in the division. You said it was something about entertainment. could you elaborate on that?
Nate: Well, what I was saying is that now more than ever, fighting is a form of entertainment. People want to see finishes and lacking that, they want to see fighters attempting to finish the fight the entire time. But another element that people forget about is giving people a personality they can remember and root for or against. To compare a couple of fighters who’s fighting style is almost a mirror image to one another, Chael and Jon Fitch. What’s the difference between the two fighters? Fitch finishes more fights and Chael talks more trash. It’s true. Since making it to the UFC Fitch has finished 4 fights, Chael has finished 1 fight in the UFC and WEC combined. Fitch went the distance against GSP in his title fight after an 8-fight win streak in the UFC, won another 5 fights in a row, and never made it back to a title shot. Chael won 3 fights, all by decision, lost his title fight by submission, won two more fights, and got another shot at the title in which he lost in the second round. His very next fight after losing the second title shot will be another title shot at a heavier weight class. It doesn’t really make much sense does it? Except from a monetary stand point. Chael has shown he knows how to sell a fight. He’s adopted a pro wrestling persona, even directly quoting pro wrestlers in his post fight speeches, and gives the fans something to remember and root for or against. Ask yourself this question, why is pro-wrestling so popular? It combines sports, which everyone loves, with stories, which everyone loves. Another example is Phil Baroni. With a UFC record of 3 wins and 7 losses you have to look beyond his record to see why he continued to get fights in the UFC. A few reasons, he comes to fight every time and can deliver brutal knock outs. But even more so, man, can he talk some trash. Everyone always wants to see if the trash talker can deliver or if he’ll get his ass kicked. You have to give the fans something to remember and root either for or against you. In the business of entertainment you have to either be loved or hated. If the fans are indifferent, then they don’t care if you’re fighting or not. And quite honestly, it’s a lot easier to be hated than loved. If you’re going to be loved, that’s a 24 hour a day job. To be hated you just have to insult someone once and it’s never forgotten.
HK: Hard Knocks has an event coming up March 2nd, which is an All Amateur event. What advice do you have for up-and-coming Amateur MMA Athletes, as far as training and advancement through their career?
Nate: You have to love the sport, absolutely LOVE fighting, otherwise it’s just too hard of a job to try and fight for other reasons. But as much as you love it, remember that at the end of the day it’s a business. Your coach has rent to pay. Your promoter has a venue to fill. I got some advice a while back when I took a contract I had been given to my lawyer to read it through. The contract basically said I get nothing and the person giving me the contract gets everything. I was so angry that someone would try to take advantage of me like this. My lawyer laughed. “What don’t you understand? Their job is to make money. Your job is to not be stupid.” I wish I had heard that at the beginning of my career. Like with Team Quest. I would make appearances for them at their gym at no charge, I would corner fighters at no charge, I even put the Team Quest logo on my shorts all because I wanted to see my friends be successful. But when it came down to helping me when I was in need, then it was all a business. But that’s the way many places are, “Hey help us out because you want to see your friends succeed but we can’t cut you a break because this is a business.” Would I have still done all those things? Probably. But then I would have known not to ask for anything in return.
HK: What memory of your early MMA career do you still remember to this day? Any hard life lessons learned, big moments or turning points, or words from a mentor that are engrained in your memory?
Nate: There are so many little things that changed my direction so many times. One of my first coaches, Tom Oberhue, asking me to be on the Straight Blast Gym competition team. I said no, those guys were too tough for me to even think about fighting. But he believed in me and encouraged me to give it a shot. That one conversation changed my whole future. Then later a different coach at SBG who took pleasure in trying to knock everyone out flat out told me that I was, “no good and you never will be.” At the moment having a coach tell you something like that was devastating but looking back on it now, I should send him a thank you card. That one sentence pushed me out the door and off to train with Randy who was a real fighter and was able to help me get to the next level. I guess it comes with years of experience, you can see what people’s motivations truly are, and you learn to be with the right coach at the right time. I’ve had so many training partners and coaches that have given me so much that I don’t think I could ever repay them. People stepping up when I needed them. That’s the true spirit of martial arts.
HK: Canada has been supplying some great MMA talent over the years and the numbers are growing. What career advice would you give to Pro fighters that are on the cusp of getting noticed and making it big in MMA? “Do’s or Don’ts” so to speak.
Nate: It’s simple, make them want you. Don’t beg to be in the big show. Make them beg you. Looking again at Jon Fitch, ask yourself this question, are you better than Fitch? If you are, great. If not, then you really need to look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Because if you think you can make it to the UFC and have a long career when you gain fame and fortune and yet Jon Fitch would wipe the floor with you, you need to make some changes. It’s like turning pro, once you go pro you can’t go back. Stay amateur as long as you can. When you’ve crushed everyone out there, then think about it. And when you go pro, have someone that cares about your success. Get a real manager. This I can’t stress enough, ask yourself, how does your manager pay his bills? Back at Quest my managers and coaches paid their bills with the students that trained at the gym and by fighting themselves. As a starting pro I would make maybe $500 a fight. So the split to the 3 owners would be around $25 each. If you’re fighting for half a million or getting 10k a month from students, how much time are you going to dedicate to earning that $25? I met with Monty Cox while I was in the middle of my split with Quest, I’ll never forget what he told me. “Look at how many champions I manage. Do you think that’s a coincidence? Hell no. I MAKE champions.” And he was right. He’d put on shows and build up his guys, Franklin, Hughes and many others. That’s why when they’d make it to the UFC they’d have ten times as many fights as your average guy. A manager should be greedy. The more money he makes, the more you make.
HK: As a Father, you know what it is like to train and compete with young children at home. How do you recommend fighters stay balanced between training and personal life? Or is that even possible when you have to train for a big fight?
Nate: It’s brutal. And I’m in a special situation. I’m a single father and my daughter lives with me. I’m up every morning at 6:50am and I’m home at 3pm when my daughter gets back. Now that I’m retired that’s not that big of a deal but when you’re training doubles and have a big fight coming up, man, that’s tough. But here’s the thing, it’s worth it. How many celebrities have you seen that have just messed up family lives? Over and over you see the kids of celebrities OD’ing on drugs or just getting into trouble. It’s such a fine line as a parent because an athlete has to be selfish. It has to be all about me when I’m training and fighting. But that leads to problems later on. I decided a long time ago that being short term selfish wasn’t worth the long term consequences. I didn’t want to turn around and be 60 and wonder where my daughter was and why she didn’t want to spend time with me. So I live in Oregon where I don’t want to be because it’s the best place for her. Her mother and relatives live up here, and the school system and activities are great up here. So I don’t get to just selfishly do what I want all the time. But that’s what being a parent is all about.
HK: Finally, What’s next for Nate Quarry? Do you have any plans or offers on the table you would like to tell us about?
Nate: I’ve go some more stuff in the works with Spike. Spike has been such a great place to work with, such genuinely friendly people. And of course ZombieCageFighter. Go to www.zombiecagefighter.com and check out the comic book and t-shirts I have. It’s underground cool right now so get them before I completely sell out and everyone talks about how down to earth I USED to be
Thanks taking some time out for us Nate, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours. You can follow Nate on Facebook , and his Twitter handle is @NateRockQuarry . You can also visit his website at www.nathanquarry.com
Be sure to have a look at Nate’s post-apocalyptic inspired vision, Zombie Cage Fighter, where you can become part of “The Horde” or just buy some cool Tees.
Shane @ Hard Knocks Fighting