Mitch Chilson is an integral part of perhaps the two most important institutions in all of Asian MMA. He has been involved with ONE FC since day one, appearing at the inaugural show, and was also a founding member of Evolve MMA.
Although ONE FC’s significance has been well publicized the role that Evolve MMA has played in the renaissance which Asian MMA is currently enjoying has been more discreet. In the past a lack of top class training facilities has been widely credited as one of the reasons Asian fighter have struggled to make the breakthrough into international title contention.
Evolve MMA is slowly starting to change the perception that training techniques in Asia are not as sophisticated as those in the Americas and fighters such as Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren, and most recently former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin are now travelling from the US specifically to spend time training in Singapore.
Shinya Aoki, for many the face of Asian MMA, decided to join the Evolve MMA team in 2011 and Chilson also trains alongside a number of promising fighters such as Zorobabel Moreira, Leandro Issa, Eddie Ng and Fabricio Monteiro who are slowly but surely working their way up the rankings.
In the beginning there were only a handful of fighters at Evolve MMA and Chilson, who won two fights out of two for ESPN Star Sports owned promotion Martial Combat, was one of them. He has been involved in the MMA scene in Singapore since well before ONE FC was founded in the days when there has never been a live show and was literally nowhere to train.
Chilson has really seen first hand how MMA has developed from a minority sport to one which is capable of packing out the biggest indoor arenas in the country and, after beating Malaysian AJ Mansour in Kuala Lumpur, he is currently preparing to face unbeaten Thai fighter Shannon Wiratchai at ONE FC: 'Pride of a Nation' on August 31st
He caught up with MMA Mania to discuss the preparations for his fight and how Evolve MMA has helped him become a force in ONE FC's featherweight division,
What are your thoughts on Shannon Wiratchai as an opponent? Have you seen many of his fights?
Yes I have seen some of his past fights in other organizations. He has a unique style. It will be a tough fight, I am looking forward to the challenge.
Have you already started training yet? How long does your training camp last and what does it consist of?
Yes I was back in the gym the Monday following the fight. I didn't take any time off and was back in the Evolve MMA fight team training. The training program is broken into different sections. The morning is wrestling or grappling while the afternoon is Muay Thai and/or boxing. There are different workouts of bjj or strength and conditioning depending on what each individual fighter is working on.
Who comes up with the gameplan when you fight?
Chatri Sityodtong and Heath Sims create the gameplans for each fighter. We are lucky to be working with two of the top minds in MMA.
Are you nervous about fighting in front of 16,500 fans in Manila?
This is an incredible opportunity. I am excited to be fighting in the historic Araneta Coliseum. The Filipino fight fans are some of the most passionate fans in the world.
Jens pulver is a legend and this is a good chance for him to get back on top. He is coming off a decision win so he has some momentum. Eric has a fast pace, exciting style. I don't know if Jens can keep up with Eric for 3 full rounds. Jens will need to finish it early.
You have been involved with Evolve MMA since day one, are you surprised by how quickly it has grown?
No I am not surprised by the growth of MMA in south east Asia. I was actually surprised there was so little martial arts here in the first place. Everything was underground or hidden in small shop houses. MMA is now a main stream sport, it's everywhere.
I read somewhere that the first three Evolve MMA fighters were yourself, Chatri Sityodtong and Leandro Issa. What was the training like back then and how does it compare to the training now?
Yeah, there were just a few of us. One thing that has not changed is that since day one we have always had world championship instruction. Even when there was just 10 of us they were the some of the best martial artists on the planet.
I don't really think about future fights. I have one goal and that is to be victorious on Aug 31st in Manila. I don't choose my fights, I ll fight anyone.
Are Shinya Aoki and Rodrigo Ribeiro training with you and if so how much does it help to have other team mates fighting on the same card?
I always appreciate having teammates compete on the same card. In Manila. Not only will they be there competing but we can also train hard together in the weeks to come. It's great to be able to work with such a high level martial artist as Shinya Aoki, I enjoy learning for him.
Will the fight in Manila be your last of the year or are you hoping to get one more in?
I would love to compete at ONE FC: 'Rise of Kings' in Singapore. Singapore is my new hometown and I love to fight in the Lion City.
It's exactly a year you signed with ONE FC, how has your life changed in the last 12 months?
My life has not really changed too much. I still train everyday and teach my classes. I have a simple life that is focused around competing.
Now that ONE FC is signing more big name fighters are you noticing that awareness of ONE FC is increasing among your friends and family back in the US?
Everyone knows about the new big time player in the MMA world. ONE FC is becoming a major promotion and of course my friends know about ONE FC. They all want in and keep asking me to get them a fight for ONE FC!
Thanks to Evolve MMA for providing this interview.