New Thiago "Pitbull" Alves Interview 2007-11-12 Thiago Alves - Pitbull By Armando Alvarez A pit bull is known as one of the most ferocious dogs in the world. Some use them illegally for dog fighting, and the pit bull is banned in a lot of countries throughout the world, as well as in a few counties in the United States. One county that doesn’t have such a law is Broward County in Florida. In fact, there’s a pit bull training in Coconut Creek for an upcoming fight. The only thing is, this isn’t a dog we’re talking about, it’s the UFC’s Thiago Alves, nicknamed “Pit Bull”. Alves trains at the American Top Team gym in sunny South Florida, this time preparing for his matchup on Saturday, November 17th’s UFC 78: Validation card against Ultimate Fighter season four finalist Chris Lytle (34-14-4). At 5’9”, 170 lbs., and without a trace of body fat on his physique, Alves (18-4) resembles a pit bull, but it’s his ferocious style of fighting and not his physical appearance that earned him the nickname. “I kicked ass in my first fight,” the 24 year-old Alves recalls. “I fought two guys in one day and knocked both of them out cold. After the fight I was hungry, not only for more wins, but for food, so I ate a big meal. My trainer saw that and told me, ‘You fight like a pit bull and you eat like a pit bull’ and the name stuck. I try to always fight like a pit bull. I go for the kill and never give up.” It wasn’t a nickname that was well received at first in Fortaleza, Brazil, Alves’ hometown. “I didn’t like it at first. Being nicknamed pit bull, especially in Brazil, means that you’re cocky, which I’m not, so I wasn’t a fan of it at the beginning, but now I love it.” It was in Fortaleza watching Bruce Lee and Jean Claude Van Damme movies that Alves first decided he wanted to be a fighter. “I watched those guys fight in these movies and I became addicted,” Alves said. “I felt like it was meant for me to fight and become a world champion.” Alves started fighting in the discipline of Muay Thai, a sport known for its hand strikes, knees, and kicks, so it makes a whole lot of sense when “Pit Bull” tells you who his favorite mixed martial arts fighter is. “My idol is Wanderlei Silva,” Alves says with a smile. “I watched the Gracies growing up, but they fought Jiu Jitsu and I always thought those fighters were a little too cocky. Wanderlei is my inspiration. I try to fight just like him. He dominated his division in Pride and that made him an icon. He’s aggressive and always looks for the knockout. That’s the way I love to fight.” To follow his dream, Alves came to the United States with American Top Team teammate Marcus Aurelio. Alves was 19 years old with $50 dollars in his pocket. American Top Team took them in and gave them money, food and a place to stay. He was soon able to send money back to his mother, father, two brothers and his grandparents in Fortaleza. It was hard for him to leave his family, but he says it was for the best. “I was really attached to them,” Alves said. “I was never away from them for more than two weeks at a time. Coming here to the United States at a young age was a challenge, but it helped me become a man. I’ve worked hard and have been able to help my family out. They know I’m here following my dream and they’re proud.” Fighting isn’t the easiest way to make a living. It also can’t be easy for a mother to watch her middle son taking punishment no matter how much money he’s being paid to fight. Alves says mom has gotten over it. “She didn’t like it at first, but now she supports me so much. She follows the sport, looks up all the fighters in my division, and calls me to make sure I’m training, making the weight and not fooling around with too many girls. In Miami it’s not an easy thing to do with so many beautiful women, but mom keeps me in check.” He says his family gathers to watch his fights in Fortaleza along with many of the city’s 2.4 million inhabitants. Now when he goes back to visit, he is treated like a superstar. “It’s amazing how I’m treated when I go back home,” Alves said. “I never realized the superstar status one can have. I used to watch these superstars and now I’m the superstar. It’s great to make money in the sport, but there’s no greater satisfaction than getting love and respect from the fans, whether in Fortaleza, or the United States.” Alves loves to visit Fortaleza to see his family, but says he will never return to Brazil to live. The United States has offered him a great opportunity to accomplish his dream and he is grateful to the place where he now resides. “Life here is good. You can accomplish anything you want as long as you work hard for it. In Brazil you can have a family of five living on $150 a month. That’s no way to live. Here, the government works. Yes, you have some people that critique it, but it works. It’s a fair country. I want to raise my kids here. You get what you work for, and I’m a hard worker.” One thing Alves is working hard towards is capturing the UFC welterweight championship, something he thinks will happen in the very near future. “I’m 24 right now, and I promised myself I will be world champion when I’m 25,” Alves said. “It’s only a matter of time.” Alves turned 24 on October 3rd, so how soon after October 3, 2008 does he plan on becoming champion? “By the beginning of 2009 I’ll be world champion,” Alves says. To reach that goal he says he still has some things to work on, such as his striking, his jiu jitsu and his conditioning. It’s a statement that’s hard to believe for those who have seen Alves fight, especially during his three fight winning streak that includes victories over John Alessio, Tony DeSouza, and Kuyinoshi Hiranaka. What he said next should send shockwaves to anyone who enters the Octagon to fight him. “I’m not even close to where I want to be,” Alves said. “Right now I’d say I’m fighting at 30 percent of what I’m capable of.” It’s scary to think what the “Pit Bull” will do when he reaches 100 percent. Maybe he’s saving it for 2009.