By Patrick Lujan
When it comes to the mixed martial arts industry, no one from Guam has made it further than Richard Chou. The 1997 graduate from St. John’s Episcopal School was one of the main masterminds of the Strikeforce promotion as the match maker before it was bought out by the UFC in 2011.
He is now still very much involved in the MMA industry, doing business in both Hawaii and California. The 1997 high school MVP in both basketball and volleyball was back home on vacation recently and took some time out to talk a bit with GSPN.
GSPN: Tell us about Strikeforce: how it was and the experience you gained.
Chou: I got the Strikeforce job because I was a part of Elite XC and Strikeforce bought a lot of the Elite assets – TV contracts and fighter contracts and that’s when Strikeforce went from a regional promotion to a national promotion. Fortunately, I was a part of that and the last event (was last weekend, Jan 12th).
GSPN: What did you learn while working for Strikeforce?
Chou: I learned a lot from Scott Coker, the Strikeforce CEO. He brought me in and groomed me to one day be in a position that he was in. I just learned a lot about the entire (MMA) business. In the past, I was just focusing mostly on talent and match-making, but at Strikeforce, I learned about every single aspect – the production, the marketing – and I really have to thank Scott Coker for that opportunity to learn about the entire MMA industry as a whole and not just the fighters.
GSPN: We were talking about you playing basketball and volleyball at St. John’s. Did you ever think you would get into a MMA industry-type career?
Chou: Not at all. I still laugh and joke about it with my friends who just know me from basketball and volleyball. I guess life works in mysterious ways. I never would’ve imagined but I’m very happy that things have turned out the way they have.
GSPN: So what have you been doing since Strikeforce?
Chou: I’m currently the V.P. of Operations for ProElite and I do a lot of consulting work on the side with various companies who want to penetrate the MMA market whether it is clothing – I’m working with a beverage company right now. It was an interesting year (2012) for ProElite. We weren’t very active as the company was being restructured. It’s a public company so things move a lot slower than a private company. We have a new CEO and a new board and we’re very optimistic and excited for 2013.
GSPN: Everyone sees you around B.J. Penn. What’s the relationship with him and how’s that going?
Chou: B.J. and his brother J.D. gave me my start in the MMA industry several years ago with Rumble on the Rock so we’ve remained friends and we’ve been very close for several years now. I was with his fight camp in this last project (against Rory McDonald in UFC on Fox 5). The end result was not what we wanted but that’s the fight game – you win some, you lose some.
GSPN: Is he going to retire?
Chou: He’s going to take some time off and think about it. He has a lot of opportunities in the business world. He’s got two kids now and he’s been around for 12 years. There’s a lot to think about, but at this point, he hasn’t made a final decision quite yet.
GSPN: You mentioned that there’s big things coming up for you this year. Any connection with Guam?
Chou: I’m always looking to make connections with my projects to Guam and this could be the year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
GSPN: You go back and forth from Hawaii and California. How often do you come back home?
Chou: I feel really bad. I should be coming back more often. (It’s been two years since Chou has been back home) My family is still here and a lot of my closest friends. I got to make it a point to come back at least once a year. Every time I come back it’s such an amazing time.
GSPN: What do you miss most about Guam when you’re away – other than family and friends.
Chou: The food! It’s so unique here and one of the things that I miss, but there’s so many little things that makes Guam what it is. It’s so special and unique from every other part of the planet.
GSPN: So what’s so interesting about what you do?
Chou: I’ve been able to travel the world and meet some amazing and talented people. I think that’s what really kept me going and keeps me motivated. There’s never a dull moment. I’ve been to the top, I’ve hit rock bottom and everything in between.
GSPN: What do you think of PXC moving into Asia?
Chou: Great move. I actually communicate with Joey (Calvo), Eli (Monge) and EJ (Calvo) quite a bit and we’re just exchanging ideas and try and help each other as much as we can.
GSPN: How about athletes like (Jon) Tuck and now (Ryan) Bigler making it to TUF?
Chou: Oh man, I was very proud. It was a huge moment for Guam (when Tuck made it to the UFC). I’m telling everybody to watch out for the Guam boys, here’s the first wave coming.
GSPN: What is your take on the jiu-jitsu explosion on Guam?
Chou: I think we’re seeing a transition, not just on Guam, but all over the country where it’s growing again. What got us started was jiu-jitsu being the foundation for MMA here. Then we saw everyone jump and go to MMA. Now we’re seeing more people go back to jiu-jitsu. I think it’s because it’s more of a lifestyle: women, children and old people can train jiu-jitsu every day. I think MMA is so brutal and taxing on the body and a lot of people just don’t like getting hit, but jiu-jitsu is a gentle art. People are starting to realize that and I think that’s why it’s growing again.
NOTES: As a sophomore, Chou was part of the undefeated Knights team that won the high school boys championship in 1995 with the likes of Darrick Bollinger, Nate Denight and Deji Mabogunje; he said that BJ Penn always tells him to say hi to the Guam boys when he knows Chou is talking to someone from Guam.
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