The second part of the interview Ernie discusses his time in Strikeforce, if he would fight in MMA today if given the chance and his goals in the entertainment business.
Not many people know that you were in 3-0 Strikeforce. How did you go from training karate, to the sport of kickboxing?
I started training Muay Thai with Saekson Janjira who was one of the first guys coming from Thailand. He really made a mark for Muay Thai before MMA or from what we know it as today. It hadn’t become the biggest sport in the planet yet, so he really made an effort to spread the word about it.
When he saw me in the gym he barely spoke any English and said that I was pretty talented. I was like 25 at the time and he pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to fight for real. I felt I was a good martial arts and learning a new art form was something I wanted to prove to myself.
He said if you want to fight for real you need to train for real. I didn’t object that but I also tried to explain to him that I may not be that guy that could follow it all the way. I had a lot of other things going on but I don’t think he got that at the time and I’m guessing he didn’t care. I have developed a great relationship with him and he really showed me what Muay Thai was all about.
Now you also have a great relationship with Scott Coker who is currently the founder and CEO of Strikeforce. How did that relationship develop over the years for you as a kick boxer and martial artist?
Well Scott Coker trained with my dad Ernie Reyes Sr. and earned a 5th degree black belt. I have known him my entire life and he has been training since he was a young boy. For the past 25 years I have seen him develop into one of the best promoters in the business. He let me fight on his cards and gave me an opportunity to prove to the world what I could do.
Fast forwarding to today, if the opportunity was offered to you to fight in the sport of MMA would you accept?
Looking at the sport now, there is no doubt in my mind I would love to do it if I was 25 years old. I would love have to fought in the UFC at the 135 lb. division and in my opinion would have been a great fighter. Saekson Janjira has trained with Anthony Njokuani and I even trained with Anthony and sparred with him. His Muy Thai is awesome and he will be hard to beat. I know he trains Muy Thai like I did and nobody can relate to the skills Anthony has.
I love MMA and Martial Arts and where it has evolved. Even it was 10 years ago I would definitely want to take a stab at it and chase the great champions such as Dominic Cruz. I think it has been great for everybody that is involved such as karate and other art forms because more and more people are taking on the sport.
Do you keep tabs on the UFC and other big shows or is it something that if it’s on you’ll watch it?
Well it’s sort of like the year of Michael Jordan. I missed all those great years and it goes the same for the UFC and Strikeforce. I’ve caught quite a few of the fights but I’m not catching every one. With me being a new Dad and developing my own comic book there is a lot of other stuff going on. BJ Penn actually started with my Dad at one his schools in Hawaii. I even did an independent film with Gray Maynard and got a chance to experience what it’s like to be face to face with gloves on. So I’ve been around the sport for a long time and I’ve seen it develop over many years.
With your Dad being one of the best trainers out there for karate, has anybody come through his school or even your school to get some training?
No not really. But most of the ‘AKA’ people such as Javier Mendez came through my Dad’s school and developed a foundation. I remember watching him before he was a kickboxing champion just kicking the bag when I was 8 years old. But nobody after the fact but like I said, but they have built great relationships thanks to my Dad. San Jose is a hotbed for MMA and hopefully it continues to grow.
Recently you have been doing a lot of stunt work for multiple movies. Is that something you are focusing on right now or will we see you back as a pure actor in the near future?
In all honestly I have been slowly transitioning from being on camera to going behind it. I really enjoy the behind the scenes work and one project I have is I think is awesome.
I have my own project in the works that has a Chinatown inspector investigate a murder where the person who died is his old master. It was built as a movie but now it has been turned into a comic book. I hope to launch it at this year’s Comic Con. With Jim Lawson on-board it’s coming together as a great project and I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Eastman and Peter Lairs. Maybe one day I will play that character in a movie but who knows. Creating these superheroes is a lot of fun and telling my own stories is something I really want to do.
The comic book is coming together nicely and hope everybody at Comic Con will enjoy it. I think it’s a great idea and hopefully a lot of other people do as well.