By Jesse Holland
Don't call him big-time.
"I'm not big-time just yet," according to an outgoing and jovial Sokoudjou. "Right now I'm just a noisemaker."
And that's some racket he's making.
Earlier this year Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou made his PRIDE debut at Second Coming to little or no fanfare.
What a difference a few months makes.
Sokoudjou first shocked the world of mixed martial arts by doing what no other man had done before him: Knocking out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
After the dust settled however, it was seen by many "experts" as just another upset that would be reduced to a footnote over the coming months.
Terms like "flash-in-the-pan" and "lucky punch" were showing up on MMA forums across the Net.
Then just over a month later, he knocked another Brazilian Top Team fighter in Ricardo Arona.
So much for the experts.
I caught up with "The African Assassin" over the weekend after several attempts (and much badgering). He spoke with flamboyancy and charisma, and I sensed this was a young fighter who was a little surprised by all the attention, but also enjoying every minute of it.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Rameau, first and foremost thank you for taking time out of your schedule to check in with UFCmania. Tell me, how are you handling your newfound stardom? You've gone from relative obscurity to overnight sensation. Has it been a challenge for you to adjust?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Shit, I'm the same guy I was, but now I have to always be serious. That sucks because that's not me but I got to be on guard now ‘cause people are listening to my every word.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You're getting recognized everywhere now I'm sure. One of our readers recently posted a picture of you posing with him at Denny's. I think that picture is getting more circulation than your last two PRIDE fights. Maybe we'll have to change your nickname to The Denny's Assassin.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: (Laughs) Man I had no idea that was going to blow up like it did. But that's what I mean about being careful. I could have been acting crazy like a joke and who knows what people would say.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): They would probably say there's a guy who really likes his Grand Slam breakfast.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: (Laughs) Yeah.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): I want to know how a fighter known for his Judo ends up knocking out two of Brazil's top names (Nogueira & Arona). You're supposed to be throwing them around like rag dolls not putting them to sleep.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: My hands have always been good. In the jungle you got to always be ready. The Judo is there but it hibernates until I need it.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Tell me more about the jungle.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Well I moved to California six years ago after growing up in West Africa. That was hard man, you got to walk miles just to get a pail of dirty water.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): At what point did you start your martial arts training?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: My parents started me in martial arts when I was five. I was a crazy boy always running around, they knew I needed something to direct all that energy.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Are they your biggest influence?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Yeah man, definitely. They kept me going in a positive direction.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Are you parents still in Africa? Have they seen you fight?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: They are still there. I would love to have them come and see me. I want them here very much but after 9/11 it is too difficult to get them Visas. Too much red tape.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Outside of your parents, who do you admire or look up to?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Dan Henderson. He's got two belts and he's on his way to a third!
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): He may very well be after the UFC buyout of PRIDE. What are your thoughts on having the two organizations under one roof?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: I think it's good for the sport. Before you had to always guess who was the best fighter in the world. Now hopefully we can find out.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Speaking of the UFC, have you been in contact with Dana White? Does he have you on speed dial?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: (Laughs) No, I haven't spoken to him.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): What is your contract status? Do you know who you'll be fighting next?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: I'm not sure when or where I'm fighting next. I leave that stuff for my management to pick and choose. That stuff is too much for my jungle brain to handle.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): But I'm sure you must have someone in mind – and I think you know where I'm going with this!
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: (Laughs) I want Shogun. I'll fight him in the cage, in the jungle, wherever he wants it.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): So who do I have to petition to make it happen?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou:That's up to Dan Henderson and Ryan Parsons. They handle my contract.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Dan Henderson? How did you get involved with him?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: I was working for a guy Lou Demas who was a Greco Wrestler back in the day and he knew about my Judo background. He asked me to come out and help Dan Henderson train for his fight against another Judo guy Kazuhiro Nakamura. After that I continued training at Team Quest.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Dan Henderson is now fighting in your weight class and he could end up the champion before the year is through. What happens then? Do I hear Sokoudjou/Henderson at UFC 80?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: (Laughs) Oh no, I'll wait until someone else has the belt. Dan would beat the crap out of me and I don't need to be embarrassed on TV. Besides I don't think it would make sense for me to fight a teammate. There are a lot of other people to fight first.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Like Shogun!
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Hopefully Shogun will be next.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Are you training differently with no fight in your immediate future?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: I'm training right now to improve technique. It's a good opportunity for me to get better. When I find out who my next opponent is I will bring my training to a higher level.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): It must be difficult to train now that you're easily recognizable.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Sometimes it's cool to be noticed, but it can also be bothersome when I have to focus and train and all people want to do is talk. But I have to make time for them because that's part of this too.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Would you consider training at a private gym?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: No, that's no good for me. I will be doing everything except training. You have to have eyes on you all the time or you slack off.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Are you at a point where you make your living as a fighter or do you have to supplement fighting with another job?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: No I am a full-time fighter now. I do teach classes to keep busy. Idle time is not good for me. I like teaching.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): A video of you and Karo Parisyan competing at a Judo tournament is currently making the rounds on the Internet. Is there any friction between you and Karo?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Since that match I have not seen him until just now at UFC 71. At the time we competed, my English was very bad. I have no hard feelings or animosity towards him. I respect him as a fighter. But also I have no friendship with him.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You're still pretty young. How long do you see yourself competing?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: I will fight as long as I am healthy and can do it. My body will tell me when it's time.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): What would you be doing if you weren't a fighter?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Maybe a porn star? (Laughs) I don't know man, I like computers. After I retire from fighting I would like to do something in computers.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Maybe you can do both. Internet porn is a billion dollar industry. Uh, not that I know, that's just what I've heard. Really.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: (Laughs) Yeah I've heard that.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Rameau, thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at UFCmania. Is there anything I can plug for you?
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: Go to my Web site www.africanassassin.com and check me out. I want to give a shout to the fans. Peace.