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Muay Thai, Jazz, and a Glimpse Into Kevin Ross




One of my favorite Kevin Ross moments on AXS TV came during Lion Fight 9. It did not happen in the ring. It was in one of those backstage interviews before his fight, and he was going to answer a question or two from Pat Miletich. When they cut to them Miletich  said, “I’m here with Kevin Ross tonight he’s ah…” He then got that annoyed with yourself look on his face and muttered what looked like, “son of a bitch, I have like four questions I want to ask you at the same time and I forgot what I was going to say,” and Kevin was either smiling or fighting back a smile during the brief segment. I always thought it was a great little real moment that you do not get to see very often on TV and there was a little kid in his element air about Kevin, in that moment. Able to laugh before a Muay Thai fight. One that we found out later he was sick with the flu at the time as well. That is something that happens when someone is doing what they love. Hurt, tired or sick they can help being happy because they get to do what they were meant to do, that thing they love.

I also appreciate Miletich’s situation even more after talking with Kevin. You find yourself wanting to ask him four different things at the same time. Listening to Kevin and reading his blog I was struck by  similarities to the jazz great Dizzy Gillespie. Jazz and fighting share many things and one of the traits is that the greats make it look easy. Part of this is because of all the hard work they put in before the fight or performance. Another part is because they are doing something that they love, something that brings joy to them and others. The true greats not only leave masterpieces of in the moment brilliance with their art forms – they inspire others to reach for the greatness within themselves.

The way Kevin fights has been inspiring fans and other fighters throughout his eleven year career. His style is one that demands hard work in the gym before the fight. His latest blog post on the Can’t Stop Crazy site is titled, “The Willingness to Prepare.” It is about pushing yourself further in training so you can fight to your fullest potential on the night of the fight. This is the same as a jazz musician who practices long hours searching for new subtle ways to string notes together much like a fighter and their combinations.

For Kevin and Lion Fight, 2013 was a big year. It was the first season on AXS TV for Lion Fight, and Kevin was returning from ACL surgery. Kevin went 2-2 during the year. He won his first two fights and lost the last two. He will get the chance to avenge his loss to Matt Embree later this week. For some people, dropping your last two fights would be ending the year on a down note, but not Kevin. Many people consider his fight with Tetsuya Yamato at Lion Fight 11 as the fight of the year. He lost a close split decision that many people feel he won. It was also the first fight that he felt like he was really back.

His thoughts on that fight and fighting in general:

“That was the first fight since coming back from surgery where I really felt like myself again. Getting all the rust off and getting over the injury, and everything just kind of came together. I felt like myself finally after almost a year of fighting and I finally felt good. Even though I lost it was like the best feeling ever just knowing that I had a fight like that, I felt like myself again and that people really appreciated it. I mean I really don’t care so much that I didn’t get the decision, its whatever to me. It doesn’t play a part into how I feel about the fight, and I think that is what is most important. If you are solely concerned with the decision that’s why really doesn’t matter. The fight should be important but the end result is whatever it’s going to be. Maybe you knocked him out, maybe you lost a decision. It’s whatever . You know the work you put in the performance you put on. That’s what’s going to stick with you, that’s what’s gong to stick with the fans and everybody else. When it is all said and done the result is just a number. It’s nothing. It doesn’t mean anything.”

When Kevin talks it is more like listening to an jazz musician talk about their music. For many people they have a hard time seeing the artistry in fighting, but the more you understand about the sport the easier it is to see it. Some fighters concern themselves with their records. Floyd Mayweather is the best example of that mentality in combat sports today. For Kevin it is about the fight and did he fight true to himself.

“That’s the stuff that is important, that’s what the real fans, the real fighters like. The real people know whats real and whats not. The random people on the street get concerned with un-meaningful things, but to the people that actually matter, that care about the sport or that love the sport. Real fighters know whats real, whats not, and what really matters. I always try to stay true to that.”

He further expounds on the topic of wins and losses.

“I don’t feel like I ever really concern myself so much about it. I mean it still sucks to lose and everything, but it was never something that I thought about. I never thought that I would even fight to begin with, it took me forever to start, I was too old to start. Once I was able to get in there and do it I was just so happy to be fighting, doing what I love and living my dream. The fact that I even get to fight period is such a great thing for me and like I say everything else is extra, winning is extra, and titles are extra. I just want to fight man, I just want to fight all of the time. I want to fight great people. I want to get better and over the years I started getting really good becoming this person. To this day its the same thing that drives me, it’s that I love the sport and I love to put on great fights.

“I definitely didn’t consciously do it. It just kind of happened. It was just in me. More so over the years I kind of grasped how I do want to fight and that is owning it….It is just the way I am….I intentionally want to fight this way. It really came from a lot of things for me…I want to fight the way I want to watch other people fight. The guys I look up to, the guys I love to watch fight, I could care less whether they won the fight or lost the fight. Obviously I want them to win all of the time, but when people fight like the way I want to, I really find they are a lot more memorable regardless of whether they win or lose. Whereas someone who doesn’t fight that way you know people don’t really care so much.”

As I listened to Kevin talk about his sport, inspiring people, teaching and giving back to Muay Thai, the more similarities I saw between him and Dizzy. Dizzy was known to many people for his puffed out cheeks, and easy big smile, but that was hardly who he was as an artist or a man. Among other things he was one of three or four individuals that invented and drove Be-Bop Jazz back in the day. One of the things that separated Dizzy from his contemporaries was not just his virtuoso playing, but his willingness to teach others. Many trumpet players would hide their playing so other could not see and emulate their fingering techniques and playing style. Dizzy never had a problem explaining and teaching others throughout his career. It was just one of the ways he gave back to Jazz. You see the same thing with Kevin. He is teaching, inspiring others and bringing people together and always giving back to the sport that he loves.

There is a great piece on Kevin by Galen Okazaki from September of 2011 for Muay Thai is Life. It starts out defining the word inspiration. It is something that is a natural part of how he lives and fights. He did not set out to inspire people but by just being himself he has inspired fans and fighters like Jason Andrada. It is something that he has embraced.

“I used to look up to these fighters and be amazed by them and now I’m that person to other people…It made me want to be there for them as much as possible because I know there are many athletes that don’t have anything to do with their fans. I think that is the most important part, without those people you are nothing. You have no fans. No one cares about you fighting. You are not going to get any fights….It is surreal for me. Especially when somebody like Jason or Chaz (Mulkey) says that. I’m like, dude these are the people that I look up too as well. When they are fighting, the way they do things. Then they tell me I’m the person that got them into the sport or why they stuck with the sport. It’s crazy to me. It’s never been something that I’ve been that I’ve been able to get my mind around. I’ve always had a hard time understanding it you know, it’s hard for me to look at myself as I look up to other people, I don’t think of myself as that person that people look up to…I feel the same as the person who is starting out. I mean I’m just trying to get better…I’m just trying to do my best with what I have, the same as someone who has never fought before….I can always get better…I don’t feel like I’m any different than anybody else.”

It is that attitude that makes it easy for fans to identify with him. While he is capable of doing extraordinary things, he still sees himself as someone who can get better. The difference is that he puts in the work and is constantly trying to improve himself and the sport.

Given his knowledge and his desire to give back it is only natural that he also teaches classes. Part of it is also the reality of the sport. Even though he has been the face of American Muay Thai, and Lion Fight is entering their second season on AXS TV, he still has to support himself outside of just fighting. He talks a little bit about teaching and the future.

“I’ve definitely kind of came into it over the years. Coming up I never really thought about it but once you start getting good, you just start helping people in the gym…Then it was something I started to do on the side a little bit. Then more and more and more. I really enjoy it. I love teaching people and helping people…I’m still fighting and I don’t have much time and I don’t like to half-ass anything. If I was somebody’s coach there is no way I could still be fighting. That’s what I tell people in my classes. I’m not your coach…When it comes down to it I take priority over you. That can’t be the case if you are somebody’s coach. They have to be the priority…Once I’m done fighting, whenever that is…Then it’s something I would like to do more full-time, right now its something to do on the side to keep me busy…I can’t just live off of fighting.”

Again it reminds of the old school jazz musician working hard and giving back to the art that he loves. Jazz shares another trait with fighting and that is they both require others for greatness. A jazz solo comes from within the group and what they are doing. The further the group goes the further the soloist can go. For a fight to be truly great it takes another fight willing to push for that greatness. Kevin is always in that mode and has had to deal with opponents that push him and others who do not. Here are some of his thoughts on the subject.

“It takes two people to have a great fight. You know it can’t be one person. That’s kind of a problem I’ve had over the years. I need somebody really great to push me…I tend to fight to my opponent’s level unfortunately you know. It’s something I’ve worked on. I’ve been lucky enough to have always been fighting people above my level, but things would happen and I’d have to fight somebody else and I just hated it. It’s like, if I don’t feel threatened by you then I don’t want to hurt them…You know it might not be the best mentality to have. I’m lucky that I have fought a lot of great people where I really didn’t have a choice but to raise my level. Those times where I had to drop back down a level for whatever reason, I just hated it. I hated those fights that I’ve had with those people. It just doesn’t work for me.

“I’m still kind of struggling with it. Sometimes it might not be that apparent. You know my first fight with (Matt) Embree…He’s definitely a great fighter, a talented fighter. I just don’t have any real concern for anything he’s doing. Not that I’m concerned with anyone that I fight. There are certain people that force you, that you have to respect what they do. You say like Malaipet, you have to respect the way he kicks. He is going to kill you. You know Saenchai, you have to respect everything he does, but with a guy like Embree, he’s kind of passive. You know what he is going to do, he’s going to wait, he’s going to do whatever it takes to get the win. Jabbing somebody to death…Whatever, you know I never really wanted to fight him to begin with. It’s one of those things where it’s like we have to fight because he’s the top guy in Canada. I’m the top guy in the US in our weight class and it just needed to happen. He was not somebody that was on my list of people that I want to fight. There’s guys I want to fight because I know it will be exciting and I know they are dangerous…With Embree it’s just whatever needs to happen and I think that kind of came out in that fight unfortunately. I looked bored, I was bored, it was a boring fight and I really hate that fight…not that I’m happy with any fight I’ve had because I always want to do better…I’m glad there is a rematch. I still don’t want to fight him again I definitely want to make sure he does not want to fight me again so I’m definitely going into there to do what I normally do and that’s put on a show and try to hurt people. I’m not playing around anymore…I’m definitely going in to put my ‘this is how I fight’ stamp on it. I really don’t think he’s going to be able to do it. I barely fought last time and he was looking for the door.”

In that first fight Kevin started slower than usual and did not start to push the pace until the third round. Even so, Embree was so out of breath after that fight that he could barely give his after fight interview. Expect a much different fight this time around. Kevin has never lost a rematch and does not plan on making this his first one.

If you are interested in learning more about Kevin then check out the Can’t Stop Crazy website he is El Presidente of that crew. Their website is great place to learn about him and the other fighters in the group. They come from different gyms and are spread out, but when they can, they get together to train and support each other. On their website you can also find his blog, little clips, features and documentaries on the different fighters. There is also information about them and their upcoming fights there. You can also follow Kevin on Twitter @dasoulassassin and Can’t Stop Crazy @Cant_Stop_Crazy also.

Also, you are going to want to tune into AXS TV this Friday night for Lion Fight 13 and the rematch between Matt Embree and Kevin Ross. Kevin will be joined on that card by fellow Can’t Stop Crazy member and Lion Fight featherweight champion Tiffany Van Soest who is in the main event taking on Australian Muay Thai Champion Caley Reece.

Kevin would like to thank his team and everyone at CSA, his family, friends and fans, his sponsors Khero (who does his signature walk out shirt), Triumph United, Osiris and his Can’t Stop Crazy family.

image via Chad Hill Photo

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny