The sport of mixed martial arts can be just as fun as it is dangerous. It’s one where you better have multiple strengths or you’re not going to get very far these days. You better have a good support system, and a great cast of characters to train with as well. Add in those intangibles that just can’t be taught – passion and determination – and you have all the makings of a world champion. Joshua Sampo has all of the above and more. This is one of those guys with the tools and skill set to be successful in this sport for a very long time.
The man they call “The Gremlin” will make the first defense of his CFA flyweight title this coming Saturday night. He’s earned his spot as a headliner for the Florida based promotion and an impressive win on the night could also earn him a call up to the UFC to add some flavor to their shallow 125 lb. division – sooner rather than later.
Sampo was nice enough to take some time out of his day and answer some of our questions ahead of his title fight with Sam Thao this coming Saturday. You can find the interview below in full written form.
Joshua Sampo: My teammates gave me that name. I was grappling with a teammate and was trying to choke him, he was defending well and I couldn’t free my hands so I decided to bite his ear, which worked perfectly to distract him enough to get the choke, and after he tapped he started calling me the gremlin and it has just stuck.
DR: If you eat after midnight on the night before a fight do you fight angrier inside of the cage?
JS: (Laughter) No I usually try to be in bed a few hours before that (laughs).
DR: When I think of the best flyweights in the world today outside of the UFC the names Sampo, Campuzano, and Ozkilic are the first that come to mind. With the recent signing of Darrell Montague do you feel like you are one win away from getting that call or is that something you try not to think about before a fight?
JS: It’s always in the back of my mind. But I look at it like a job promotion, with Dana being my boss. All I can do is train and work and hope that I get recognition for the effort and performances I’ve been displaying. In the end it’s his choice to promote me or not. All I can do is continue to work.
DR: I read somewhere a while back that you were put into tap dancing classes by your mom as a child and this has actually helped you as an athlete. Are there any particular areas of your game that your tap dancing expertise has helped you in?
JS: Tap dancing was a major influence into my athletic ability. I wasn’t very coordinated as a child until I began to tap. It really helps with my foot work and agility as well as my coordination and timing.
DR: Your next fight will be the first title defense of your career as a pro mixed martial artist. Is there any different mind set coming into a fight as a champion or is it just all about getting that W in the end?
JS: No different mind set. I really just want to hit him more then he hits me, push the pace and work to finish him whenever the opportunity arises. If I execute all these things then the W should come.
DR: Who are some of the guys you looked up to before you got into competing professionally?
JS: Coming from a wrestling background I really looked up to Dan Gable. That man is such a beast and is sooo passionate about the sport of wrestling. It’s something I truly admire. I also really like Urijah Faber. He is one of my favorite fighters. He always brings everything he has and is extremely humble as well. Really would love to get out and train with him and his crew.
DR: Your late finish of Alexis Vila showed us that cardio is a non-issue for you. Do you actually prefer the 5-round tilt or would you rather train for a 3-round fight?
JS: I train to fight as long as the fight is scheduled. If it is for five, I train my body to be able to go five hard rounds. I’ve never been the most talented athlete, but one thing I’ve always had is the determination to outwork my opponent before and during a fight.
DR: You’re a 3x All-American out of Lindenwood U and you now have 3 muay thai fights under your belt which has helped make you not only a dangerous fighter but an exciting one that isn’t afraid to mix things up a bit. What else do you compete in and is there anything you’d want to do that you haven’t already to add to your lengthy resume?
JS: I really would like to compete more in Jiu Jitsu tournaments. It always seems to conflict with fight camps and such. I really enjoy that sport and would love to be able to compete at Worlds or even Abu Dhabi
DR: St. Charles MMA has put together quite the roster which features yourself and the aforementioned Alp Ozkilic. We just saw Alp score a nasty finish over Antonio Banuelos, the same guy you beat to catapult yourself into the upper echelon of the division. Talk about your relationship with Alp and how important he’s been in terms of your fight career and life in general.
JS: Alp is one of my best friends. He’s more like a brother. Alp and Matt Ricehouse have been major contributors to my success. They push me everyday in the gym and are amazing friends outside the gym. I don’t think I would be where I’m at in my career if it wasn’t for both of them. Alp is an amazing workout partner. We have different styles, but both coming from a wrestling background we know how to train, and train hard. It works against us with other workout partners because we are at a different level with our intensity that most guys cannot keep up and/or break mentally.
DR: Aside from your fight next Saturday night are there any other match ups on this CFA 12 card that have you intrigued?
JS: Ya, I definitely want to see Efrain Escudero fight as well as Ashlee Evans-Smith. Both are going to put on really good shows. I can’t wait to see the outcome.
DR: Are you still working on your Masters for teaching? If so, how do you juggle between school and the daily rigors of training for a major fight?
JS: No, I graduated last May with my masters. I currently am teaching full time right now. It’s challenging to get everything done that has to be done. Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day, but the more structured my schedule is the better I am at accomplishing all my tasks so in a sense it’s better for me to have a full schedule. Work all day, and then train. That’s been my routine most my life (laughs).
DR: Your opponent, Sam Thao, is coming in hot with a four-fight win streak. Is this a guy you’ve watched a lot of tape on in preparation for this fight? If so, what does he do well that could pose a problem for you?
JS: I don’t watch much tape at all, I leave that up to my coaches and teammates to dissect my opponents then implement the keys into my training. I know that if I execute my fighting style then he won’t be able to mount much of an attack. At this point I’m just going to worry about my game – just push the pace.
DR: You asked your Facebook friends to help suggest a walk out song for your fight on October 12th with Thao. What were some of the more interesting suggestions and did you ever decide on one. Or are we just gonna have to wait until fight night to find out?
JS: I really liked all the suggestions that were given, I currently haven’t decided on one yet so that’s something you’ll have to wait and see.
DR: Thanks for the time Josh. This is a huge fight for you next Saturday night and we’re all looking forward to it over here. Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to and thank before you go and where can we find you online?
JS: I want to thank all my sponsors and support staff for the continued love and prayers. Thank you Mom and Dad. Thank you Mike Rogers and Rodrigo Vaghi and all of SCMMA for the instruction and guidance . Special thanks to Alpteken Ozkilic and Matthew Ricehouse for the friendship and motivation. Thank you Francis Howell Wrestling for the continued support. And of course all glory goes to God for blessing me with all these people in my life and allowing me to chase my dream.