TXMMA – Texas Mixed Martial Arts

Legacy Fights Interview Series – The Last Person to Leave the Mat – Joe “Jitsu” Christopher

The main event of the January 29th Legacy Fighting Championships card features a welterweight showdown of Texas-sized proportions as current Legacy welterweight champion and Houston-resident Mike “The Greek” Bronzoulis takes on Dallas-area submission specialist and current XFL welterweight champion Joe “Jitsu” Christopher for the Legacy belt.

A win in this bout would mark the second title victory for Joe Christopher as he already has a title to his record after defeating Levi Avera to win the XFL title in Tulsa, Oklahoma this past November. The veteran Joe “Jitsu” is now training for what couple be one of his toughest challenge yet as is set to take on hometown favorite Bronzoulis in the Legacy FC main event.

I recently spoke to Joe Christopher to get some background on his fighting history for our Houston fight fans and gather his thoughts on this upcoming bout.

Here’s what Joe “Jitsu” had to say.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me regarding your upcoming fight at Legacy Fighting Championships Joe. I believe this will be your first time fighting in Houston. For the local fans reading this, please tell them a little bit about yourself. How long have you been fighting and why did you get into this sport to begin with?

I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Dallas since 2003. I got involved in MMA because the academy I’d been training at did kickboxing and Brazilian  Jiu-Jitsu and had smokers on Wednesday nights. I tried it out and enjoyed the realistic nature of fighting. From there I fought at Renegades a few times and enjoyed. I fought Todd Moore back then, who ended up becoming a good friend of mine. We actually fought again as professionals. Ever since then, I’ve worked on getting better within MMA. Three years ago, I decided to devote my career to fighting and now, that’s what I do.

Where are you currently training?

I train everywhere. I work with a few pros and travel all over the place to train. My focus now is pretty much solely on fighting so I don’t go to one academy and do one-hour instructed classes anymore, per say. My focus is solely on fighting now so that’s how I train, I focus on the fights. I do go to Master Carlos Machado and train BJJ in the gi once a week for a group class.

I see you’ve got some grappling matches with Tony Tipton, Albert Hughes, etc. online along with instructionals on YouTube. I also see that your nickname is Joe “Jitsu.” That’s one heck of a statement as a nickname, if I may say so.  Why are you so passionate about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Grappling? What do you get out of it that you cannot get elsewhere?

The reason I call it Joe “Jitsu” is because I use Jujitsu. The thing to remember is that Jujitsu originated in Japan. The style I practice is actually called Machado Jujitsu. The reason I’m passionate about grappling is because it’s a way of using another person’s mistakes against them. I feel like in order to succeed in BJJ and life, you have to know two things – when to capitalize and also when to yield.

Any advice to new guys just starting out?

Be the last person to leave the mat and that included being the guy that volunteers to stay and mop.

In speaking with your manager Pierre Bertrand the other day, he says you’re currently in the midst of a mini-camp with UFC veteran TJ Waldburger, TUF contestant Cleburn Walker, members of the 2010 Army Combatives Gold medal winning team from Fort Hood, UFC prospect Chas Skelly and many others. That’s quite a lineup of training partners. How’s that been going what do those guys bring to the table that helps you adds to your skill set?

They’ve all got professional fight experience, same as I do. Us sharing our experience, what we know, and what we think people are going to attempt to beat me with really helps. That and the fact we can keep trying things out in practice let’s me have a solid strategy put together when I fight.

Do you like to cross-train often? Who are some of the other guys that you’ve worked with?

I’m afraid to say any names because I know I’m going to leave out too many. I will say I love going to New Mexico to train at Greg Jackson’s and also Albuquerque kickboxing. I was introduced to Sifu Ray Yee by Donald Cerrone and he’s helped me out a ton. Between him, Mike Winkeljohn, Greg Jackson, Joe Stevenson, Cowboy, Tom Watson, etc. there are so many good pros out there. In Dallas I have Cleburn, Will Florentino, just about anybody that comes into the door at Carlos’ (Machado) gym. I tend to train with a lot of different people.

Moving along to your fights – Before we talk about your next one, let’s briefly touch on your record. You’re currently 11-5 right, coming off a submission win against Levi Avera and a tough decision loss to Andrew Chappelle previous to that at Bellator. How would you sum up your career so far? Where do you hope to take things moving forward?

I think you just summed it up. I’d say I don’t have any plans per say as far as taking my MMA career anywhere in particular. The difference a lot of people don’t understand is the reason I fight is to pay the bills so I can keep doing what I love doing. As long as I keep getting phone calls and keep getting fights, I’ll keep doing it. It’s the same thing as if you asked somebody like a ski instructor why they enjoy their job. I think they do it because they love skiing.

Let’s talk about your upcoming fight on January 29th at Legacy Fighting Championships. You’ll be fighting for the welterweight belt against current champion, Mike “The Greek” Brounzoulis. What do you know about your opponent? What strengths do you think he brings to the table?

He trained at Saul’s (Soliz) for a long time so I know he’ll be well-rounded. He’s got some size advantage on me and I know he likes to kick. Other than that, he’s lost fewer times than me so he’s obviously doing a good job at his game.

Your opponent’s notable wins include Cleburn Walker, a fight you’re training with now. Was Cleburn able to tell you anything about your opponent’s style or otherwise help you prepare for him?

Yeah, we definitely talked about it.

Without giving anything away, how do you think this fight is going to go? Any predictions?

No, I don’t make predictions.

If you didn’t see the video from the last Legacy weigh-ins, there was an incident where a lot of heat was exchanged between Bronzoulis and his last opponent, Jonathan Harris. It culminated in Mike throwing a handful of salad in his opponent’s face. How do you feel about that?

I feel sorry for him.

I don’t want to take up any more of your training time so I just want to thank you for the interview Joe. Any last words out there to your family, sponsors, or anyone else that’s helped you along the way? Any last words to the fans on why they should come watch you fight?

Sure. I definitely want to thank IDS Supplements for making sure I have all the supplements I need every day. I want to thank Jaco for keeping me wearing fairly new clothes all the time. I know my family really appreciates that since I sweat a lot. I also want to thank Hayabusa. I also want to thank all my training partners, whether I mentioned them or not. What a lot of people don’t see if come fight night, there isn’t just one guy in that cage but a thousand people standing behind me that allow me to do what I do.