Luiz Tosta interview

(Image credit: Unknown)

What’s your martial arts background?

I started training judo when I was five years old, growing up in São Paulo, Brazil. When I was 19 I switched to Brazilian jiu jitsu, and I’ve done that ever since. I moved to the UK in 2003 when I was 23, and I had my first MMA fight about six months later. I ended up fighting four times in 2004, winning two and losing two, although my decision loss to Mark Chen was a total robbery. I took him down eight times and dominated him throughout.

You took a seven-year break from MMA between 2005 and 2011. Why the long layoff?

I started a few businesses – I run the Chez Maime café, the Troy 22 club and the Sevilla Mia bar in London – which meant I was working a lot of late nights. It was really affecting my training, so I decided to focus on BJJ instead. I competed at a lot of BJJ competitions during those years – I was the European featherweight champion twice as a brown belt and I came third at the worlds – and eventually I got my black belt from Mário Reis, who is very well known in the BJJ community. I was still training MMA and helping my team-mates at London Shootfighters prepare for fights, but I was only going to compete in MMA again when I had the time to train properly for it.

What does a typical week of training involve now?

About six months ago I stopped teaching at London Shootfighters to focus solely on my own training, which has made a big difference. Now I can train between 20 and 25 hours a week.

Do you do much strength and conditioning work?

Yes, I go to Oxford Shootfighters every Friday to do specific strength and conditioning sessions. The aim is always to improve my MMA game though rather than just to get better at lifting weights. Being able to lift 20kg more in the gym is no good if it makes me slower in MMA sparring sessions. It’s all about balance, and everything has to be relevant to fighting.

What’s your favourite strength and conditioning workout?

I like doing circuits featuring big compound lifts mixed with bodyweight exercises. One of my favourite circuits is five or six barbell squats, followed by six to eight pull-ups and ten to 12 press-ups, repeated three or four times with two minutes’ rest between moves.

What’s the toughest thing about being an MMA fighter?

It’s not easy giving up a ‘normal’ life. I enjoy eating junk food, drinking and partying like everybody else but if you want to be an athlete, you have to avoid these things. To perform as best you can, you have to eat properly and sleep well. Sleep is so important for recovery – I always try to get eight hours a night. I can manage on seven, but if I get six or less I’m in a bad mood all day!

You’re fighting Veselin Ivanov at UCMMA 42. What threats does he pose?

He’s a lot more experienced – he’s had nearly twice as many fights as me. I’ve been studying his fights on YouTube and he’s a really good striker, a strong guy with good fitness who can go three rounds at a fast pace without slowing down. He’s got a sambo background, so he can grapple too. It’s going to be a tough fight.

Since returning to MMA you’ve beaten all five of your opponents via submission – with only one making it out of the first round – and won a title in one of the UK’s leading promotions. Where does your career go from here?

My goal is to be the best fighter I can and the best person I can. I have my businesses, but I see fighting as my main profession and I want to take it as far as possible. It’s important to not put too much pressure on yourself or to get carried away with your dreams, or you’ll just get frustrated if things don’t work out. But I think I’m a pretty good fighter – I competed in 11 BJJ and MMA events last year and won ten – and I want to be recognised for all the sacrifices I’ve made to compete in this kind of sport.

Luiz Tosta fights Veselin Ivanov at UCMMA 42 on Saturday 7th February at The Troxy in London. Buy tickets here.