Exclusive: The African Assassin – Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou Interview
By Dave Carpinello
PunchDrunkGamer’s Dave Carpinello had a chance to speak with light-heavyweight “Sokoudjou” about his upcoming fight with Kazuhiro Nakamura at UFC 84, training with Team Quest and his experiences in the world of mixed martial arts.
PDG: What have you been doing since your last fight with Lyota Machida?
Sokoudjou: I have been hiding from the public eye and training. I have been working on some things that I needed to improve on that I didn’t work on before my last fight.
PDG: What is your current training schedule?
Sokoudjou: Two sessions per day and usually five days a week. On Saturdays, sometimes I train and sometimes I just take it easy and sleep so that my body can recuperate.
PDG: How many hours are the workouts when you are doing two a days?
Sokoudjou: It depends on what we are working on; the sessions can be very long sometimes and very short other times. It also depends on how I feel, I have to listen to my body and not over-train.
PDG: What do you know about your opponent; Kazuhiro Nakamura?
Sokoudjou: He is a pretty tough guy with good grappling. He doesn’t have perfect striking but he is good at, so I would have say that he is a well rounded fighter. He makes it tough for his opponents to get to him. I think this is going to be a very good fight.
PDG: Do you see any advantages that you think you will have in this fight?
Sokoudjou: I am prettier than him [laughs]. Does that count?
PDG: Maybe in the eyes of the ring girls…
Sokoudjou: [laughs] It is a fight that you might think you have an advantage in some area but nowadays fighters are very well rounded. It is about the fighter who shows up in better shape and is more prepared for the fight. So, I don’t really see myself as having any advantages, I just need to make sure that I am ready and that I show up to fight.
PDG: What changes to your game have you made since your loss to Machida?
Sokoudjou: I think I was over-training and not listening to my body. I am training smarter this time around and I am just trying to be the best fighter at the gym.
PDG: Who are training partners this time?
Sokoudjou: Right now, Dan Henderson and some other guys. Next week I have some other fighters coming in to work with me and get me ready for next month. It will be a gym full of strikers, wrestlers and grapplers.
PDG: Last week you were in the corner of Brian Stann at the WEC event, when he knocked out Doug Marshall. What did you think of his victory?
Sokoudjou: It was beautiful… I was nervous before the fight but I knew he would come out of the fight with the victory. He did exactly what we worked on in his training. I was very happy for him.
PDG: It was a short, furious fight and it looked like Stann might go down until he landed that left hook.
Sokoudjou: He knew “Rhino” was going to come at him swinging wildly. I think he did a good job covering himself and then did a great job with his counter-strikes.
PDG: Back to your career; what are some of the differences fighting in the cage in the UFC as opposed to the ring when you were in PRIDE?
Sokoudjou: I am not going to say that there is that much difference. When I was in PRIDE, they had the best fighters and now the UFC has the best fighters. As far as the cage versus the ring, when you are in the center of the ring or cage you don’t feel anything around you. I don’t think the cage had anything to do my performance against Machida. The UFC has the best fighters and I plan on becoming one of them someday soon.
PDG: Some fighters prefer one or the other; does it make a difference to you?
Sokoudjou: Actually the ring is tougher to fight in because guys can make it harder for you to take them down by holding onto the ropes. There are so many ways that you can use the ropes to your advantage that you cannot do in the cage. The only time that you can hold onto the cage is when you get your fingers into the holes. In the ring, you can use your elbow, your armpit, your knees and even your neck. The cage is much better for takedowns than the ring. In the ring, you can also take breaks by stepping out of the ropes.
PDG: You mentioned Dan Henderson; he recently lost to Anderson Silva. What did you think of the fight?
Sokoudjou: It was a pretty good fight up until when he got caught by that knee and then from there, he tried his best but… Its a shame, he trained hard to go home with the belt but that is fighting, there is one winner and one who goes home without a victory.
PDG: How many fights would like to have this year including your upcoming one with Nakamura?
Sokoudjou: I would love to fight every three to four months. I hate being home, training when there is no fight scheduled. I would prefer to have materials to work on. It sucks that it takes six months between fights because I love to get in there and compete and I want to fight as many times as possible. I wish it was something that I could control but I can’t. If I could I would fight every month.
PDG: Is there anyone in particular that you would like to fight after Nakamura?
Sokoudjou: I really am just taking each fight one at a time. In the UFC, every opponent is a potential threat, so you don’t want to look past anyone. I would like to fight more often and it doesn’t matter who they put in front of me. I will be ready and I will show up and fight.
PDG: What has been your most memorable experience so far in MMA?
Sokoudjou: Seeing Wanderlei Silva in the front row was the best moment in MMA for me.
PDG: Anything that you would have done differently so far in your career?
Sokoudjou: I would have fought three to four fights between my last fight in PRIDE and my first fight in the UFC. Then again, I am a fighter and all I can do is train and wait for the businessmen to put the fights together. So more fights is the only thing I would have changed. I think that during that long layoff, I stayed the some because I didn’t really have anything to work on and other fighters were getting more experience in the cage.
PDG: Thanks again for your time; is there anything that you would like to add?
Sokoudjou: Thanks for the interview and to all my fans. I am looking forward to my fight in May at UFC 84. I want to thank all my sponsors and the fighters that train with me at Team Quest.
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