On January 28th, two up-and-coming Philly fighters will duke it out for the USKA Cruiserweight Title. Michael Rakay, fighting out of Stay Fly Muay Thai under the tutelage of Justin Greskiewicz, and Joshua Ford, fighting out of Rami Elite under the tutelage of Rami Ibrahim, will face off in what is assured to be a technical barn-burner. Adding a layer of excitement, Josh and Mike have trained together in the past. Mike is coming off of a huge knockout at Warrior’s Cup 32 and Josh a great showing at the most recent Lion Fight in Connecticut. Today Combatreel sits down with these top level amateurs to learn a little more about their philosophies, training camps, and mentalities going into the fight.
January 28th, USKA Pro and Ammy Card, 400 Pine Street, Hamburg, PA. Doors at 7.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with Combatreel.com. Let’s get right to it. How’s training camp been and how does it feel to be the main event of the amateur undercard?
JF – Thanks for giving me the time. I appreciate it. This camp has been great, and it feels a lot longer than it probably has been, mainly because I haven’t stopped training since my last fight on Lion fight 33 which also was the amateur main event. After that fight, I was back in the gym the very next morning getting ready for the next one.
MR – Training camp has been going great. I fought in October and again in November. I really haven’t stopped training; I’m always ready to fight. I’m excited for the opportunity to be in the amateur main event fighting for my first title.
What got you into Muay Thai? A background in martial arts? A movie or actor? When did you make the jump from simply training to fighting?
JF – I got into Muay Thai during my time training MMA. I started doing traditional martial arts (kyokushin karate) at a young age. Eventually I got into boxing and competed in junior boxing tournaments. While in college I was boxing often but started to train and focus on MMA. That all led to me competing in the cage, but I always felt like I had an affinity to the striking arts. That was really where Muay Thai came in. It’s the most violent of the three in my opinion, and in some ways that fact has drawn me to it the most.
MR – I first became interested in Muay Thai probably about a decade ago after seeing the episode of True Life following Kit Cope as a he prepared for a fight in Thailand. At the time I was extremely out of shape, about 285 lbs and a heavy smoker. About 7 years ago I started to get my health together and took my first Muay Thai class and was hooked. I started cross training Muay Thai, BJJ, and wrestling and competed in my first amateur MMA fight 4 years ago. Every time I fought MMA I was trying to keep it standing because I loved striking. About a year and half ago I began focusing solely on Muay Thai and had my first Muay Thai fight last year.
You and your opponent have trained together in the past, do you think that will affect the fight?
JF – I really don’t believe our history will affect the fight. Having trained together in the past, it may give us some idea of what to expect which will alleviate some of the prefight anxiety that comes from “the unknown” aspect of fighting.
MR – I don’t think it will affect the fight; we only trained together for a couple of months. Josh is one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve met in fighting, but come the 28th it’s going to be all business, and I’m comin’ for that Samurai man-bun.
As an amateur Muay Thai fighter there’s obviously no fight purse. There’s little recognition, and most Americans have yet to learn of the beautiful sport that we dedicate a large chunk of our life to. What drives you? What keeps you going?
JF – I think quite frankly I like to fight, and this is a perfect outlet for that. I do have hesitations because, yes, there isn’t much money or fame attached to this and just like every other fighter I have to sacrifice a lot and miss out on so much. However, I would rather be destitute, out on the streets, and without my right mind, than living comfortably and asking myself ‘What if?’ for the rest of my life. That is what drives me.
MR – I love to fight and I love the competition. I really love seeing Muay Thai start to grow in the US with promotions like Lion Fight getting national TV time and it’s exciting to be a part of that community. I’m really drawn to Muay Thai because striking seems simple but there’s so many intricacies to it and there’s always room for improvement.
How’s the fight going to turn out? Both of you will be fighting for a title for the first time. Does that add any weight to the match?
MR – Any title adds weight to the match, especially for a well-respected promotion like USKA. This year I plan on coming after any title in my weight class. I’ve been training hard for years and really want to show that I’m one of the best amateur Muay Thai fighters in my division.
You’ve competed in other fight sports. What were they? Is there a difference between them and Muay Thai?
JF – Yeah, I’ve also competed in boxing and MMA. Boxing I just have so much passion for and definitely look forward to doing it again and often. The footwork, angles, balance, which guard to use in what range–there are so many technical and tactical differences between all combat sports. We could spend an entire separate interview talking about them.
What else would you like to tell the folks of Combatreel.com.
JF – I’m grateful to the people at USKA for the opportunity. And I really want to thank everyone at Rami Elite for the support and help in preparation. I’m so thankful to Rami and Ahmad Ibrahim for everything they have done for me.
MR – I want to thank Irv at USKA for giving me the opportunity to showcase my skills for my first title.
As a fighter what is your biggest strength?
JF – I think my vision and focus while in the fight is my biggest strength. It really has helped me in fights with guys who have more ring experience than myself.
MR – I feel that my biggest strength comes from not being a naturally athletic person, I have to work twice as hard. I trained for a few years with Rigel Balsamico at Cool Hearts Muay Thai and my time there has instilled a certain work ethic and toughness you can’t get anywhere else.
Do you have any idols in the Muay Thai World? Any fighters that you really respect or attempt to emulate?
JF – I absolutely love Giorgio Petrosyan. I want to be him. Can I be him? I also really respect and try to emulate Fabio Pinca. I love that he in some ways is so very basic, nothing flashy, but it works time and time again.
MR – I don’t try to emulate any 1 fighter, I try to emulate certain aspects of many fighters; knee like Dieselnoi, kick like Yodsanklai, etc… I changed camps 6-7 months and starting training at Stay Fly Muay Thai with Justin Greskiewicz, I really respect what he’s done for Muay Thai in America and it’s been a great opportunity to get to train with him on a regular basis. I feel that my game has really stepped up since I’ve had him as my trainer.
Post-fight, you’re wearing the strap. What’s your dream meal? What do you miss most during the fight camp diet?
JF – I am a weirdo and I don’t really consider myself a foodie. Unlike most fighters I know “cough cough”…
MR – Pizza. The day after I fight is always my wife’s favorite day because we get to out and eat our way through the neighborhood.
Interview by George Pitsakis