In life, a man can wear many hats. Some are forced upon us and some we freely choose. For Tom Atencio, the latter is the case when it comes to fighting.
Atencio is well recognized for his role as both Vice President and fight promoter for Affliction. But beyond the limelight those roles derive, his favorite job may have become doing what he has come to promote.
Back in 2005, Tom Atencio made his mixed martial arts debut against David Martinez at Total Combat 7 in Tijuana, Mexico. Four and a half years later, Atencio will return to the ring, this time skirmishing stateside against the debuting Randy Hedderick on the under card of 'Ultimate Chaos' this Saturday, June 27 in Biloxi, Mississippi.
For Atencio, fighting is in his Mexican-born blood. Growing up, it’s how boys settled their disputes. Now fighting has become a way of life. Whether it’s battling with the UFC or competing inside the ring, Tom is living the motto of his apparel company: "Live Fast."
We had the chance to talk with Atencio before he started his morning at the Affliction head office and he spoke about his upcoming fight, the challenge he issued to Dana White and why he believes there is nothing more honest than mixed martial arts.
Check it out:
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Everyone knows you as the Vice President and fight promoter for Affliction. But you are also a fighter. How is it that you have the time to run a company, promote mixed martial arts and also train to fight?
Tom Atencio: Training is part of my weekly routine. I am fortunate to have an incredible team at Affliction so I don’t have to micromanage. Leading up to this fight, I have been doing a lot of running and a lot of sparring. I have great trainers so I do what they tell me. Training is a part of my everyday life so I will be fully prepared for the fight. I can promise you that my "day job" hasn’t gotten in the way of that.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): It has been said that fighting is a labor of love for you, a release from the everyday pressures associated with your Affliction job. You have also talked about growing up as a young kid fighting and that being Mexican, fighting is in your blood.
Tom Atencio: Growing up, it’s just what you do. If you’re a boy, you settle your issues by beating the heck out of each other. My grandfather was a boxer. I watched boxing with my Dad growing up. It’s just part of the culture. I know some people will disagree with me but I think it’s a healthy way to settle things. You can fight, shake hands afterward and move on.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): You are 1-0 in your MMA career. You hold a decision win over David Martinez at Total Combat 7. Can you tell us about the experience of having your first MMA fight?
Tom Atencio: It was pretty exciting. I don’t remember too much of it (laughs). It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve wanted to do it again ever since. I have had that itch that every fighter gets. So I am really looking forward to my second MMA fight.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Casino card dealer Randy Hedderick is making his pro debut against you on the under card of Bobby Lashley vs. Bob Sapp on June 27 in Biloxi, Mississippi. What advice would you give the rookie since you just recently made yours?
Tom Atencio: (Laughs) I don’t think I want to give him any advice. Maybe if I was a little more experienced. But it is only my second fight so I am still relatively new to all of this. He will get to learn what fighting is all about first hand.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Your opponent has said he is brawler who lives for ‘Fight of the Night’ and he is going to be looking for a knockout. Do you prepare any differently when that is the mentality of your opponent?
Tom Atencio: I will prepare for him no different than I prepare for anyone else. I’m not taking this guy lightly but I have some of the best trainers in the world and have sparred with some of the best fighters in the world, so I am not too concerned in that sense. He won’t be better than anyone I have worked with. Like I said, I won’t take the guy lightly but I don’t think he is going to bring anything that I won’t be able to handle.
I have worked on all aspects of my game, both stand up and ground. I believe I have turned myself into a well rounded fighter. I will go into this fight looking to do what I feel comfortable doing and that is what he is going to get. I don’t think there is one thing that I excel at. I am well rounded and feel comfortable letting the fight go where it needs to.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): You had a Muay Thai amateur fight and came out of it with a broken rib and nose. I am sure your employees around the Affliction office were looking at you like you were off the set of Fight Club?
Tom Atencio: (Laughs) Everyone here pretty much knows who I am and what I do. So it is not a surprise to anyone anymore.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): I have to ask you about calling out Dana White. What is the full story behind that and would you really step into a cage with him?
Tom Atencio: I would definitely step into the cage with him. He will never let it happen though. I have a lot of respect for him in terms of what he has done for the industry. But he tries to come across as this bad ass and I really don’t think he is. I am not saying I am some sort of bad ass but I don’t walk around like I think I am one either. That is really what it comes down to.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): You are 42 years old. You have said this could be your last fight depending on how you feel afterwards. We have all seen fighters get that itch to keep going past the point they should. How will you know when it is time to quit beating your body up?
Tom Atencio: You have to look at everything: Your heart, your mind and your spirit. A lot of fighters might feel like they are giving up when they walk away and that can make it hard. But there just comes a time when you have to say enough is enough. I think I could continue to train and move forward. We will see how I feel after the fight and listen to what my coaches tell me.
A lot will be based on how I perform in the fight. It will be a collaborative effort and I will trust in their opinion. I don’t want to pretend like I am better than I am. There are times when I am training and my trainer makes me keep going and I tell him I hate him and want to stop. But that is why he is such a good trainer. He pushes and he pushes hard. And when it is time to stop pushing so hard, he will let me know that too.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): What intrigues you most about mixed martial arts?
Tom Atencio: With MMA it is doesn’t ring more true than when two guys step into the ring fully prepared to fight each other. It is not a bar room brawl or a fight on the street. It’s two guys that go in there prepared and the better man wins, sometimes the better man that night. It doesn’t get any more honest than that. And after it’s done, you have a lot of respect for the person that was willing stand there in the ring with you. I don’t think you can have any more respect for someone. So for me that is what MMA is about -- the honesty, the discipline and the commitment.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): It looks like were winding down here. Time for shout-outs.
Tom Atencio: I appreciate everyone who supports me and supports our brand. I definitely owe them all my success.
Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Thanks for your time Tom. We look forward to seeing you back in the ring on June 27.
Tom Atencio: Thank you. I look forward to it.