By Tony Reid
Tony Reid catches up with Arizona bantamweight Anthony ‘El Toro’ Birchak, a 31-year-old with four UFC bouts to his name who last appeared in April at Rizin FF 5: Sakura.
Question: If you could choose one fight from your career that every MMA fan should see, which fight would you choose and why?
Anthony Birchak: The 2013 MFC fight with Ryan Benoit (MFC 37 True Grit). That fight has it all. I threw up about three submission attempts per round. I think, in total, I had ten submission attempts. He attempted a few submissions. It was such an amazing back and forth fight. It personified the type of fighter I am. I am aggressive, I am always coming forward. I am always on the gas pedal. It showed because it got nominated as the AXS TV Fight of the Year. We were the only non-UFC guys alongside the Gil Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez fight and the Mark Hunt vs. Bigfoot. I thought it was pretty cool that our little fight made some big noise around the world.
Q: If you could fight anyone in any weight class, who would you choose to fight and why?
Birchak: If BJ Penn ever made it to 135 and I was at the peak of my career and he was at the peak of his career that would be an awesome scrap. I look up to BJ. He did a lot for the sport and the athletes in the sport. He was part of the next evolution of the sport. He was an aggressive, flexible fighter who has slick submissions and aggressive striking. He did it all at the time. I thought he was such a tremendous fighter at that time. I think a fight with BJ would be awesome.
Q: If you could fight anyone outside the world of MMA, who would you choose to pick a fight with and why?
Birchak: Someone like Kanye West or LeBron James. These people that forget that they need to be held accountable for what they do and what they say. I feel like so many people feel untouchable. It seems like so many people in this world forget that if you piss someone off on that level you can be held accountable. More Kanye than LeBron verbally, but, from an athletic standpoint, I would say LeBron. When, during the NBA Playoffs, LeBron hit his head on the camera courtside, someone put up a meme with fighters all cut up after a fight and it said “Oh, you got your head cut by a camera. That’s cute.” It’s like the adage that MMA fighters try to act like they aren’t hurt and NBA players try to act like they are hurt. That aspect of basketball turns me off. Those two would be the guys I would most like to fight outside of MMA.
Q: Who are the people that inspire you most, personally and professionally?
Birchak: My mom. She raised me as a single mother. She let me truly understand the definition and every sense of the meaning of dedication, perseverance and hard work. My mom is an inspiration to me in so many ways. My little brother as well. He plays college football. He is so mentally put together. He actually helps me out in a lot of ways, reminding me that I won a world championship, that I am the best in the world and that there is no reason why I can’t make a run at the UFC title. The ones that truly inspire me to get out of bed in the morning even when I’m bumped and bruised up are my kids. They need to know that dreams come true. It all depends on your willingness to get up early and stay up late if need be; work hard and stay in the gym. Dreams do come true but you have to be willing to work for them. Mike Goldberg said something very awesome recently that will stick with me forever. He said “Success is rented not owned and the rent is due every single day.”
Q: If you weren’t a professional mixed martial artist, what would you be doing for a living right now?
Birchak: I would probably be working for my uncle. My dad passed away when I was four years old and my uncle basically raised me. He stepped up and raised me. He showed me how to be a hardworking man. He owns two roofing corporations. I would probably be one of his foremen or running a truck for him.
We actually had a conversation about heel hooks and I said how I thought they should be illegal. They are dirty they need to be outlawed. I love what I’m doing right now. I said, “If you ruin my career and I have to go back to being a roofer, I will hurt you in a really bad way.”
Q: Who are your favorite fighters to watch and why? Conversely, who are your least favorite fighters to watch?
Birchak: Anderson Silva is one of those guys. BJ Penn is another one of those guys. I also like watching guys that I know who I am personally close with like Efrain Escudero, Jamie Varner and Drew Fickett, who has the record for most rear-naked chokes in the UFC. I still think he is one of the best ground fighters in MMA.
Q: I noticed that you have really been getting your suit game on. How would you describe your style?
Birchak: My own personal style would be the hip hop look. I am a big sneaker head. I am a big Nike Air Max head. I just went and spent a bunch of my fight money on shoes in Las Vegas. I love matching and I call it clash matching. I like putting very nice suits with some dope Air Max Nikes. It’s kind of a fresh look. I break it up a bit. I think that it’s important to look good. We have this saying: “Look good. Feel good. Feel good. Perform good.” I think once you step into a good suit your inner strength materializes with that suit. It’s a confidence builder, it’s powerful. You have to carry yourself as a professional athlete. We aren’t fighting on the regional circuit anymore. Looking good and having style is very important. Just look what it has done for a guy like Conor McGregor. I kick myself because I have been wearing nice suits to press conferences and weigh-ins since I was in the regional scene. Damn Conor for making it to the UFC before me. That was one of the biggest things I pride myself on. I want to dress professionally and carry myself as a professional.