Thursday, March 13, 2014

Eddie Yagin talks MMA, tattoo artistry, concussions, and returning to fighting

Eddie Yagin has been involved in MMA since 2000 and after an 11 year journey made it into the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Yagin actually has been a fighting enthusiast even before the inception of the UFC, watching bare-knuckled "No Holds Barred" videos from Asia with friends as a youngster. Yagin, a Filipino-American featherweight, last competed in April 2012 where he defeated Mark Hominick via decision. It was a fight which showcased Yagin's heavy hands, powerful ability to take a shot, and immense heart. The bout won Fight of the Night honors. Unfortunately Yagin's momentum from the solid victory was derailed after he sustained a concussion during sparring, which led to swelling around his brain. This injury sidelined Yagin from competing against Dennis Siver in late 2012. Yagin was cleared to fight in mid 2013 and now is awaiting getting another shot at a top ranked featherweight in the UFC. In the meantime, Yagin continues to train at Fasi Sports in Las Vegas working with the likes of Muay Thai instructor Master Chan and BJJ standout Michael Ceijas-Raid. On the side Yagin moonlights as a carpenter and tattoo artist.

Ideally, when would you want to fight?
Right now, I'm ready to go.

You were scheduled to fight Dennis Siver in the past, is he an opponent you might be interested in fighting when you return?
Yes, of course, I just want the best. I want the top ten.

Your last fight was an incredible one against Mark Hominick. Was winning that fight your most proud moment in MMA?
Yes, because it was hard-earned, with a good fighter, and it was the best feeling of my life.

You had a serious injury with the swelling around your brain. What was that recovery process like?
It was just bed rest and nothing too crazy. I'm a real active guy and I move around a lot, all day I'm up and out and moving around. It's hard for me to just sit down for an hour.

So that was the tough part of it?
Yes, because I had to just chill and rest.

Was it just years of sparring and fighting that caused that injury?
I don't think it's years of, I think it's just a concussion that I didn't know I had and it just got worse. Because I was getting ready for Siver from the beginning of the year and then UFC 151 got cancelled, so after that they moved it down to December. So I was sparring hard all year before that fight. When you get ready for a fight, it's different. Right after a fight most the time you're not really going to spar, if you're in the middle of training, you don't want to spar hard; it looks hard but it's not hard hard. And then when you're getting ready for a fight, most of the time we're trying to take each others heads off. Whoever you're sparring with, he's probably getting ready for his fight too, and he wants to see where he's at too. It's kind of like a confidence slash pride thing.

And did you suffer a concussion during training?
Yes that's when I got injured, and it was right after sparring.

How did you realize you had a concussion? Did you get hit and then dropped and then....
No, I went home and I started feeling headaches.

Some people say they feel a depression after concussion, did you feel the same way?
Of course. I think you get depressed with any injury. Even if you broke a finger nail and it hurts so damn much you couldn't train, you get depressed because you can't be in the gym because you don't want your finger nail to get infected and then all of a sudden you can't train for months because you got gangrene or some crap. (laughs)

You did say the UFC was good to you because they paid all your medical bills, right?
Yes, they took care of me. I love the UFC. To be honest I can't see myself fighting in any other event but UFC, that was life dream.

What other jobs do you do besides fighting?
I'm actually a journeyman carpenter and a tattoo artist. Right now I'm just a trainer, helping people out and teaching some classes.

What's the best and worst tattoo in MMA?
(laughs) Worst tattoo, I don't know, because when I'm watching fights on TV or I go to fights live, I'm so focused on who's a good fighter and who I think is the best fighter and how someone fights. And to be completely honest, every single event that I've ever been to, single or not, I've never really hooked up with a girl or anything (laughs)...because I've been so dialed in. I don't even notice the ring girls because I'm so dialed in, it's weird.

Does MMA have a lot of groupies or you don't even notice that this going on because you're so focused?
(laughs) No I know there is. And my lady knows that there's a lot of groupies too. She gets a taste of it too. (laughs)

Now did you consider retiring after your injury because it would naturally bring about some fear in an athlete; did you consider retiring?
No. (laughs) Because I want to run the tires until the wheels fall off and my wheels didn't fall off yet. I feel like I hit harder than before; if you watch me hit, man, I hit harder than before. I don't know what's wrong with me man, I'm like an alien or something.

You're known to be able to take a lot of punishment, do you want to change your style now?
I did actually. I'm working a lot on defense. A lot of times it's built habit throughout the years and that's what was wrong with me—a built habit of not proper defense structure. I have good offensive structure, but my defensive structure was horrible. So I went back to the drawing board and realise the things I'm not doing. Even a simple small tiny jab, if he's throwing the jab from the first round all the way to the third round, by the third I have a broken nose. Like Hominick did to me, he broke my nose with all those jabs. He jabbed the s*#t out of my nose and he shattered it because I wasn't properly defending. I couldn't breathe from my nose and I couldn't breathe from my mouth because the blood was pouring into my mouth. And I didn't want to spit because I didn't want to disrespect the UFC. I know I worry about stupid things at the wrong time, but that's just the way I think.

Initially you were upset with Joe Rogan's commentary of that fight, but then you guys were cool. What in particular didn't you like about the commentary during that fight?
You know what it was? It was everybody else that fed me. (laughs) Because I didn't even listen to it. And everybody was calling me up, "Did you hear Joe Rogan..." And it was hyping me up, "What did he say, what did he say!?" And before I even watched the fight again, I got interviewed a few days after and I was fired up from everyone calling me up. When someone called me for an interview, I just hung up with someone that was yapping about it. And then I got this interview and then they started talking about it and then all of a sudden this whole Joe Rogan thing pops up. Then next thing you know I turn on Sherdog or whatever and then front page and I'm like, (laughs) "Oh, hell no!". And that's what made me realize interviews can be deadly, real deadly. I've never had an interview that could have been that devastating to anyone's outlook of me.

Do you want to say something crazy right now or no?
(Eddie laughs)

Do you have any advice to younger fighters and trainers to prevent an injury like you sustained?
Sometimes when a fighter is getting ready for a fight he needs rest. Some people train seven days a week and they don't even rest. On their days off they're out running. You need full recovery, it builds up. If you're going to beat up your body your whole career it's going to be hard, by the time you hit 30 it's going to be a different story, trust me, I've been there. (laughs) When I was 20 it was so much easier, I didn't even need to stretch. And because of my natural athletic ability I was this work horse, like on the mats open to close. And I just got turned off and I over-trained, I didn't spread it out. 6-8 hours a day, it was crazy.

Anything you'd like to say to fans?
I'm not dead. I'm still alive. And I know a lot of fighters post a lot of pictures of them at the gym, but for some reason every time I go to the gym I don't have my phone on me. (laughs) I don't take pictures when I'm at the gym! But I'm trying to start taking pictures. I think they (fans) think I'm just sitting at home eating ice cream and doing nothing.

You haven't used Twitter in a while. Did you lose interest in that? You haven't posted in a while.
(laughs) You know what? I'm so blunt and honestly it will save me more if I just stay away from Twitter. Sometimes I respond before I even think about what I say. I'm not so much into the whole multimedia thing, I'm a little more old school and a little more reserved. I like to be on the DL, stay close to my family, and I don't like to be in the spotlight too much.

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