Faith-based fighting: Q&A with IFL champ Matt Horwich
While much of the MMA world is focused on this weekend’s UFC middleweight title bout between Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson, there is another middleweight title on the line the night before. On Friday, IFL champ Matt Horwich makes his first title defense against Ryan McGivern.
Horwich is a unique personality in the sport. It’s difficult not to root for a guy who seems so at peace with the world and so thankful for everything he has. But, don’t be fooled by his unflappable sense of optimism. Inside the ring, Horwich takes care of business, and last year was a breakout year for the Team Quest fighter. He went 4-1 in IFL competition and defeated Benji Radach for the title in December.
I had the opportunity to speak to Horwich by phone on Monday. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
This weekend you’ve got a fight against Ryan McGivern and you’ll enter the fight as the IFL middleweight champ. How does that feel?
It feels [like] all things are possible to them who believe. And, I’ve been telling my street-kid friends for seven years ever since I was almost dead hanging out in Seattle [that] I’m going to bring them a middleweight belt. And, I was blessed enough to bring them back one finally.
I wore it around New Year’s and went to Seattle and went out to dinner and everything, so it’s just awesome. Thank God for everything.
Do you wear your belt around a lot?
Not a lot. I did that time. I usually keep it in my room. I brought it to church and everything, which was a way rad feeling to show everyone. Got to go up and talk about the awesome things God’s been doing in my life and that I’ve been blessed with. I’m thankful to get to do what I like doing, make a living, dieting good, and training hard, traveling around, competing against world-class athletes, and training with my heroes in the sport -- Matt Lindland, Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Eddie Bravo, Chris Riley, a whole bunch of awesome fighters I’ve had the chance to train with. It’s awesome.
It sounds like you’re really proud of the belt. Have you ever had a belt before or defended a belt before?
I had the SportFight belt at light heavyweight, which I’m really light for that weight class. And, I lost it to Glover Texeira from [John] Hackelman and Chuck Liddell’s school [by] unanimous decision. So, I think that was the only belt I had before.
I was fighting every other weekend for $1000 a fight and right now I’m blessed enough to be making -- if this fight goes as good as I’m hoping, I’ll make about 26 times that much. The last fight [against Benji Radach at the IFL middleweight Grand Prix Finals in December] I probably made like 17 times that much. So, I’m thankful to get to make a living doing something [inaudible] instead of having a job I don’t really find [inaudible]…
Hey Matt, you broke up about thirty seconds ago…
Let me go stand outside. I’m in Team Quest, in the gym and it does that sometimes. I could use some fresh air anyway.
[Horwich heads outside of the gym]
How’s the weather out there?
The weather was cloudy the last I was out of the gym. It appears to be still cloudy. I know that’s a big surprise in the Northwest but I like that there’s a lot of trees and everything and good oxygen as a result of it being cloudy and rainy. The summers are way beautiful and I like winter time as well. I like the different seasons. It’s always cool to see a change of scenery. It’d be boring if it stayed the same all the time I guess.
Definitely. I enjoy the season’s here in Baltimore too. So, about McGivern. You lost to him at the end of 2006 by unanimous decision. Why do you think he was able to beat you?
Well, I think that some things I could have done better in that fight was not let him pass my butterfly hooks, have more of a sense of urgency to get back up and get on top and throw more combos at stand up. I think there were some things I could have done better that fight. I thought I was pretty blessed that fight. I thought it was a good fight. I land some good knees from the necktie [but] lost the decision as a result of getting taken down and controlled. I didn’t really get hurt in the fight or anything.
So, this time I’m hoping to be more improved than ever. I trained super hard for the fight. And, I knew Tim Kennedy or Ryan McGivern -- whoever is the number one contender for the belt -- is going to be a really tough fight so I’ve done what I could to be as well-prepared as possible. And, that’s a good feeling to go into the ring with versus going into the ring thinking, “Man, maybe I should have trained a little harder or focused more.”
So, what have you changed in your strategy or your approach since that fight that you think will allow you to create a favorable outcome this time around?
Well, I’ve just been working on improving all the facets of my game since the last fight. Working on improving my kickboxing, training with Chris Riley, Rob Kaman’s student as well as our boxing coach, Chris Wilson, learning all the information I can about kickboxing. I watch K-1 and write down the combos that Masato, Buakaw [Por Pramuk], Ernesto Hoost, and [Mirko] Cro Cop are throwing and try to work them into my game and move like they do.
As well as the top wrestlers like Matt Lindland and Randy Couture and MMA fighters [like] BJ Penn. There’s so much information available about our sport now. What makes it so exciting is there’s so many different facets.
Since the last fight with McGivern, I’ve been working on improving my wrestling, stand up, Muay Thai, and Jiu-Jitsu and growing in faith and improving everything.
So, how do you like being in the IFL?
I love being in the IFL. They treat the fighters really well. I’m making, like I said, probably 17 times as much as I used to make fighting every other weekend last fight. And, then this one will be like 26 times as much, if it goes as well as I’m hoping.
And, the IFL staff are way cool. I always enjoy hanging out with them when I’m at the motel and everything, waiting to compete. So, it’s way awesome. I’m thankful to be blessed to be fighting for a great organization and have a great group of guys here at Team Quest to train with -- Matt Lindland and Ryan and all the good middleweights that we have -- Chael Sonnen, Ed Herman. So, it’s a blessing to have really good people to work with. Like Randy Couture says, “Iron sharpens iron” so one man sharpens another.
What’s your contract status with the IFL?
Matt Lindland explained it to me. The way it works, if I successfully defend the belt, I continue to get raises each fight. I couldn’t tell you the exact amount. I just looked over the contract and it’s a way awesome contract. So, if this fight goes as good as I’m hoping I’ll make 26 grand on it. Then the next one will be more.
OK, is that 13 [grand] to show and 13 [grand] to win?
12 [grand] to show and 14 [grand] to win.
How many fights do you have left on your contract with the IFL?
I get three more fights this year from what I understand, so a lot of it is based on how well my performance goes. Either way, it’s a really good contract so if it goes as good as I’m hoping hopefully I can put a down payment on a house and develop it and put so more rooms on, knock out some walls, expand the kitchen, and make the land value go up. Rent out some rooms and then eventually get a couple of properties going and get into real estate, make wise investments with the money. What I can, I’d like to donate to the International Children’s Care, which is a Seventh Day Adventist group that has orphanages all over the world, ones in Africa, Central America. They get cows and stuff and grow food to make the orphanages self-supporting and educate the orphans and everything. So, that’s a way rad organization. So, that’s a lot of what the money I make is going to.
It sounds like you have a lot of plans even beyond your fighting career already in place.
Well, it’s wise to invest the money as wisely as possible because no one can stay on top of the competition forever. So, I would like to get into real estate…as well as start another Team Quest school. And I’m hoping that I can get a farm and grow some organic food and have an organic food restaurant in the Team Quest school and coffee shop place. So, it’ll be that business as well. And, it’ll be doing something positive hopefully, getting people into the benefits of eating healthy, training hard, and making positive choices. So, that’s some of the stuff that I would like to do.
Do you have any aspirations to move over to the UFC or to any of the other leagues? Or, are you pretty content in the IFL?
I’m just taking it as it goes, kind of going with the flow. The IFL is a great organization. They’ve treated me really well so I’ve been really happy with them. And, I’m signed another year. And, then I got to look at who’s offering me the most money and what’s going to be the best contract to sign. I think the IFL will have a whole lot of success with their business because they’ve got a lot of great fighters and a lot of TV coverage. So, who knows what’s going to happen in the future. I’m a big fan of all the organizations -- the IFL, UFC, WEC. They’ve all got a lot of great fighters to learn from. All of them are awesome.
Who do you think is the best middleweight in the world?
In my opinion, the best middleweights in the world are Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland. One of my favorite fights ever to watch was Matt Lindland versus Quinton Jackson [in the WFA in July, 2006]. And, I like Quinton Jackson. He’s an awesome person -- he’s always way fun to hang out with. But, I thought Matt Lindland won that fight based on the fact that he had Quinton on the defensive most of the fight and scored takedowns, almost had a rear naked choke, was going for submissions. That was way awesome to see Matt Lindland do that well against a bigger, stronger opponent like Quinton.
The one with Dan Henderson and Quinton [at UFC 75] was way awesome as well. And, I’m looking forward to seeing him fight Anderson Silva. And, Anderson Silva’s up there as well. I’m a big fan of his stand up. There are so many great fighters out there now. I’m also a really big fan of BJ Penn. He’s one of my heroes…
It sounds like you think Henderson is going to beat Silva this weekend. Is that what you think?
Yeah, I think so. I’m a little biased because Henderson’s my teammate. I have no doubt Henderson can beat Anderson Silva. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Everyone knows Anderson Silva’s one of the best middleweights out there. A tough fight for anyone. But, I think Dan Henderson will beat him. No disrespect to Anderson Silva. He’s a nice guy. I went to one of his seminars but obviously I’m pulling for my teammate.
I know your faith is important to you. Was there a defining moment for you in your life that led you to be so spiritual?
Well, when I was a street kid in Seattle, a family at the drop-in for street kids invited me to dinner and ended up renting me a room and they were really nice people and had an awesome family an everything. So, I decided that I want what they want or what they have as Christians -- good faith, good family, good spirituality. So, I became a Christian then.
I tried to be a musician a while in Seattle and learn how to play. Then, me and my friend TJ started grappling after we’d have a couple of beers. I had learned a little bit from the Gracies when I saved up enough to train with them. And, I decided I want to be a professional fighter and heard about UFC making a comeback and Randy Couture being the heavyweight champion back then.
I signed up at Northwest Fighting Arts so I could find Team Quest because they weren’t listed. Then I eventually found Team Quest and Matt Lindland and I’ve been here pretty much ever since. I went to AMC awhile. Then, Matt Lindland adopted me back onto the team and picked me up at one of my fights. So, I’ve been here fighting for Matt Lindland ever since. It’s a blessing to have a great group of guys to train with here. That’s how I got spiritual and got to Team Quest.
Do you think there’s anything inherently contradictory between your deep faith and the fact that your job is to inflict damage on your opponent? Is that an issue for you at all or something you have to grapple with?
Not so much anymore. It says in Exodus 15:3, “God’s a warrior.” And, also in Psalms, David says, “God trains my hands for war, gives me strength for battle, makes me swift like a deer.” So, David’s war was a lot more intense than me going into the ring to compete against athletes. I think it’s really good for us, what we do in the sense that it’s got us into dieting good, training hard, making positive choices, keeping our bodies and minds as healthy as possible. So, I think it’s a good thing, competing in MMA and influencing people positively and giving all the glory where it’s due to God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. So, I’m thankful for that.
Also, there’s the parable in the Bible about the shrewd manager that when he’s fired from his job, he has people pay half of what they owe his debtors so he’s welcomed into their homes so he won’t have to beg or anything. And, the manager applauds his shrewdness and in the same way, we’re supposed to be shrewd with our blessings and wealth here to win people for God. So, I like to use my blessings in the ring to give the credit where it’s due, influence people positively, and it’s an honor for us as fighters to get to be role models to kids. It’s way awesome.
How does music relate to quantum physics?
Well, it’s all interconnected. According to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, energy equals mass as constant magnetic field squared times the speed of light squared. What that means is it’s all connected -- energy and mass’ constant magnetic field, which is gravity… and electromagnetism and String Theory possibly. So, everything’s interconnected. Time, gravity, speed of light, flowing on technique in the ring, or flowing on chords or notes on guitar or music, flowing on spirituality and it’s a beautiful universe. God is love and all things are possible to them who believe. We can all make our dreams come true and make a big difference and influence a lot of people positively and do awesome things. We all have a lot of awesome potential when we tap into God’s abundancy and blessings, use love as our motivation and fight the good fight. Thank God for everything and we’re going to rock ’n' roll these next couple of years.
Now, I understand you’re getting married the day after this upcoming fight. First of all, congratulations on that. Second, why not do what Ryan McGivern did last fall and skip the fight for your wedding?
The reason that I’m fighting is for the orphans and the International Children’s Care, to influence people positively. So, I’m thankful for the opportunity to do that. Whatever happens in the fight, by Jesus’ grace I can still have a good time at the wedding and get married. I’m thankful to have met a way awesome wife. Proverb says, “He who finds a wife, finds a treasure and wins favor in the eyes of the lord.” So, I’m going to do my job and try to be the best that I can be for the orphans, the churches, and God and Jesus and all my family and friends. Then, get married the next day and then we’re going to hang out in Las Vegas and have the honeymoon. And, I’m going to train a couple of hours a day with Mario Sperry and Randy Couture and see what kind of new information I can learn.
“By many wise advisements and counsel battles are won”, it teaches us in Proverbs so I always like learning all the new stuff I can. The good thing about our team at Team Quest is that we encourage keeping an open mind and learning new stuff to bring back to the team from people like Randy Couture, Mario Sperry, BJ Penn. So, yeah, I’m way thankful for all the opportunities.
(Matt Horwich photo courtesy of the IFL)