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Interview: Enson Inoue & George Sotiropoulos (Part One)

Posted by Tommy Hackett on May 2nd, 2008

The PRIDE & Shooto legend and the budding UFC & TUF6 star talk to Total-MMA about their different martial arts paths and fighting spirit they share

George and Enson

“We always say, we’re cut from the same cloth,” Enson Inoue says with a smile. The pioneering MMA legend is about to begin conducting a jiu-jitsu seminar with current UFC star George Sotiropoulos at Fisticuffs Gym in Vancouver, WA. The two are friends from the days when Sotiropoulos was cutting his teeth in Guam, fighting MMA at a show promoted by an old friend of Inoue.

“When I first met George, I looked at him,” Enson begins. “He was to fight this guy Sergio, this famous jiu-jitsu guy. And look at George, he doesn’t look like this mean dude. He looks like a nice guy, you know. I mean, he’s not a nice guy.”

“Hey! Come on now!” Sotiropoulos yells in a sarcastic protest.

Enson continues, mimicking George’s Australian accent: “‘Hey! I know you, Rites of Passages! Yeah!’ He wants to shake my hand… and I think, oh my God, this guy’s gonna get his ass kicked.

Inoue goes on: “And it was the opposite way around. I saw the fight and he was spanking this guy. The thing that really impressed me about George is that he just kept moving, kept going for submissions. Even though he won the first two rounds convincingly, he kept going for the finish. After the fight, I said, George, you’ve got to come to Japan. They’re going to love you in Japan.”

Sotiropoulos, a longtime fan of Inoue, jumped at the chance. “He saw something in me and believed in me. He would encourage me to do the right thing. I went to Japan. Professional and sentimental reasons, I wanted Enson there in my corner.”

“That’s when we made that connection,” Inoue continues. “Just the way that he trained. When I trained, that’s what I would do. I’d live out of my car and train three times a day. I never used to go out, I didn’t drink or smoke, and he’s like the same exact spitting image of me eight years ago.”

Other than being Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts, George Sotiropoulos and Enson Inoue wouldn’t seem to have much in common. They’re years apart, from different parts of the world, and at totally different stages in their careers. Yet a fighting spirit, and an intense dedication to training, serves as a common ground. While Sotiropoulos’ star is rising following two straight UFC wins after a strong showing on Ultimate Fighter 6, Inoue insists the sun hasn’t necessarily set on his career.

“Well, you look at someone like George Sotiropoulos, and you look at me, we’re like whole different stages of our lives right now,” Enson explains. “He’s at the stage where I was, maybe eight years ago. His whole life is training. He’ll fight anybody for any amount of money. Of course he needs to make a living, of course he considers the fight money, but basically he fights with his heart. I’m at a stage where I’ve done that. He wants to be a UFC champion. I’m not going to be a champion. I don’t really care about a belt. If I fight, I fight for the money. If he fights, he fights for the love of the sport, for his name, to get better.”

“I fought Igor (Vovchanchyn), I fought (Rodrigo) Nogueira, I fought all the guys I wanted to fight,” he continues. “I don’t think there’s anything in the MMA ring that could improve me as a person, except financially. I’m thinking of maybe getting back next year, or the end of this year, but it would be for the fight money. It would be because this is maybe the only time I can actually do something I really enjoy and make a lot of money at it. The only thing I’m worried about, is that enough to make me train like I used to train. The way George is training, for the love of it, he has it in his heart, he can train ’till he drops. But if you’re training for financial reasons there’s a whole new thing, the motivation is different, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”

“I’m looking at, if I fight in Japan, a payday of $70,000 to $130,000 for one fight. I’m actually thinking about it, because I don’t want any regrets.”

Sotiropoulos’ goal is different, but the road is similar. “I’d like to fight anyone in the top ten,” he replies when asked his next step. “Honestly? I have no say who I fight anyway. If that was the case, I don’t know. I look at it purely from a sporting perspective. I try to fight guys who are worthy opponents, because the true victory comes from the strength of your opponents.”

Next weekend, a new chapter of Inoue’s career begins as his motion picture debut, David Mamet’s Red Belt, opens across the US.

As Inoue explains it, “the movie’s exciting because it shows it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about morals. You fight hard, you fight for the right reasons, you don’t want to throw any fights, you don’t want to give up any fights, you fight for what you believe in. It’s good because a lot of fighters just fight to win. A lot of fighters, guys like “War Machine” (Jon Koppenhaver), will pick a fighter that they can beat. Whereas someone like George will pick a fighter that he doesn’t think he can beat, to create a challenge for him. Like he said, the top ten in the world.”

“One thing David Mamet did is show that it’s not all about the winning. The main actor, he needed to make money to live, but when he found out the whole tournament was weird, he made the right decision. The minority of fighters have that now. The majority are fighting for money, for the win, not for the deeper reasons. That’s one thing I like that it showed.”

“The second thing I like that it showed, because it was choreographed by Renato (Magno) and John Machado and Ricco Chiapparelli, nothing was unrealistic. Everything in the movie, the armbars, the escapes from the armbars, when he’s choking, everything was real. Everything was something that could be done. Not these fake fight scenes. David Mamet has a way to start off and build and build and build. Not have one climax but have three climaxes.”

Inoue, who famously fought through a swollen brain and numerous other injuries, refusing to quit in a titanic battle against Igor Vovchanchyn in PRIDE in 2000, relates well to the movie’s theme. “You know, for me winning and losing isn’t about (recording) the W or the L. You can win a fight and not learn anything and get nothing from the fight. Like when I fought Igor, I lost the battle but I won because I learned so much about myself in that fight. If I had opened his cut and I hit him again and I won the fight, I would have won as far as record wise, but as far as for me as a person, I wouldn’t have won what I won that night. As far as the experience as seeing what was inside me.”

Part Two: Inoue recalls one of his most career’s most controversial moments, Sotiropoulos on why he moved to the US, and more.

Afterward: After reading the above article, Inoue posted to the following to the Underground Forum regarding his statements about Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver:

Holy shit…. when I saw the interview I realized what I said didn’t look so great on paper. George and I was talking about WAR just before the interview and it was said as sort of a joke between George and I. Didn’t think it was going to be written in serious context and really didn’t mean to “diss” WAR or offend any of WAR’s fans. My apology to all this statement rubbed the wrong way.

3 Responses to “Interview: Enson Inoue & George Sotiropoulos (Part One)”

  1. Total MMA - » Interview: Enson Inoue & George Sotiropoulos (Part Two) Says:

    [...] Interview: Enson Inoue & George Sotiropoulos (Part One) [...]

  2. Says:

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  3. Total MMA - » Honor: A Quick Red Belt Review Says:

    [...] of the MMA fighters who appears in the movie (guess who?) is fond of saying that “real power, strength and heart can’t be given, it must be [...]