Dean Lister Interview

I want to bring up something Royler Gracie said in the latest Grappling Magazine (Feb/04) where he said ” It isn`t necessarily easier to attack legs than arms, strictly speaking, but it is a lot harder for someone to defend a foot locks and ankle locks without the gi.SP: I want to bring up something Royler Gracie said in the latest Grappling Magazine (Feb/04) where he said ” It isn`t necessarily easier to attack legs than arms, strictly speaking, but it is a lot harder for someone to defend a foot locks and ankle locks without the gi. That`s one of the reasons that Dean Lister did so well in the Abu Dhabi tournament. He`s a jiu-jitsu guy who trains mainly without the gi and uses a lot of ankle and foot lock. With a gi he`d have a much tougher time against those same jiu-jitsu fighters that he beat.” What do you think? Do you think you would have a problem with them?

DL: Well first this is coming from a guy that is also very proficient with leg locks. It is true with what he is saying about the gi makes it easier to defend against leg locks lets put it that way. That is true. You want to use the right tool for the right occasion. My uncle in Texas is a hunter, when he goes hunting quail he uses a shotgun, when he goes hunting Elk he uses a rifle. The right tools for the right time, so in the combat that I do, without a gi, foot locks are more prevalent they a hard to escape and they slip on and off a lot easier without a gi. It`s a tool I have found that works for me. With a gi on, my foot locks would be effective but yes easier to defend. One thing interesting about this comment is that most of my leg locks are illegal in Jiu Jitsu tournaments with the gi, twisting leg locks which I use a lot and have mastered are outlawed in the Jiu Jitsu community, so we never will find out if they’d work with a gi on in competition. Done correctly Foot locks are an important form of attack in submission wrestling. If you rely on grabbing an opponent`s gi to get out of foot lock, then good luck against an opponent who doesn’t have a jacket on. If you rely on a referee to help you out of a foot lock because it is illegal, then good luck when there isn’t a referee. Applying foot locks and learning effective ways to escape them is essential to anyone in the submission game.

Well lets put it this way, if I was just limited to training with a gi, and I was in a tournament with a gi, then a lot of these foot locks are illegal. One of my matches I won with a twisting foot lock. Which if used correctly is a very good submission, done very sloppy it wouldn`t work at all just like anything right? So I study how to do them correctly, so if I had a gi on that technique would be illegal. It would not be allowed in a gi tournament.. The second thing is I`m very inventive about a submission, that`s my game! I`m not a point guy, of course I go for positions, like when I went against Saulo (Ribeiro) that was a very long match but I mounted him and then from there I got to the half guard and I got a leg lock on him. So I do strive to get to a position and then fight for a submission. I do take some chances and go for them but I make sure I am not in danger too.

SP: I have seen you at a lot of tournaments, but it really surprised me when you went into the MMA scene. What made you do something like that?

DL: The first time I ever did and match was about three years ago, and well I don`t know. Kid Peligro just said hey I got a guy that runs King of the Cage and I think you two should meet and I thought it may be interesting and I never really thought about doing Mixed Martial Arts, well just one time maybe, cause I`m not really that type of guy that just loves to fight, I don’t want to see my opponent injured. I look at it as a challenge and it`s the ultimate sport. I think it`s the hardest sport in the world! If anyone can say something different I would like to hear what they have to say. Every sport can have something that is hard about it but I think MMA is overall the hardest sport out there. You know man versus man; you can`t hide in a group of guys and make a mistake. It`s because of that that I take it as a challenge. Its also functional as a self defense, I have found my whole life that I have to defend myself and being an outsider growing up in different parts of the world, I used to get picked on a lot being a smaller kid and that made me have to defend myself but it also taught me how to avoid problems. There were times that I had to defend my self and this kind of guided me that way.

SP: What drew you to Brazilian jiu-jitsu? You have been all over the place why this particular martial art?

DL: Well, first of all its kind of strange when I was little kid in Venezuela there was an article in the paper about Gracie Jiu Jitsu and no one had ever heard of them. I read this article about how they were really tough! Well fast-forward about 10 years in my life and I was wrestling and I hear about the Gracie`s again and the UFC. I go hey that`s funny I heard about these guys when I was down in Venezuela and because wrestling is a grappling sport it kind of came naturally and I wanted to learn how to make my sport, well blend it with my wrestling so I hadn`t wasted my time with wrestling. I never realized that wrestling was an effective way to defend yourself. Being able to take someone down and control them and then having your submissions and your positioning on the ground with your jiu-jitsu. So I got into jiu-jitsu because of my background primarily.

SP: Well people no about your fights and your submission tournaments and stuff like that but you are also known for your Sambo.

DL: My Sambo background, I`m not going to make it look to romantic ok. So the way Sambo is done out here in America its not as organized as it is in Russia. What it is here is a lot of wrestlers go around and they learn a straight leg lock, a straight foot lock and a straight heel hook. They combine that with their takedowns, what they do is they get their submissions off of throws. They don`t really earn their submissions off of positioning like they do in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. See you have a wrestler that can get a straight arm lock off of a takedown but it is more rare than seeing them get a straight foot lock off a takedown. That is why you see a lot of Sambo guys known for foot locks. There are three basic techniques and maybe a few others but primarily there are only three. You get pretty proficient doing those three submissions but you can`t really get them when you go to your knees. So jiu-jitsu is more complete of an art for me. For me, now that is because I didn`t take any of the original Russian Sambo. My coach in high school was Jerry Matsumoto, and he was a really good guy, and he would emphasize your throws and your takedowns and earn points and win matches and how to get submissions off your throws. Once again it`s a general statement but it is a bunch of wrestlers who can do three submissions and who can do those three submissions very well. I am proficient at that; I was a two time National Sambo Champion and a four time National Machado jiu-jitsu Champion. I have won a lot of tournaments in the states, but now I consider myself proficient with Muay Thai and Boxing because of my two coaches at my gym, City Boxing. Of course I need to get better at it in all regards just like in any sport. But I consider myself proficient in Sambo, Wrestling Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing and Kickboxing.

SP: Well now that we are on the subject of fighting lets touch on the “Horn-Lister” match that happened at the King of the Cage. I have not seen the fight, just pictures so can you walk me through it?

DL: Sure! That fight of course was well it was the only professional fight that night. There were other fights that night of all levels but ours was the only pro match up. So to start with I was the underdog but I think a lot of people thought I would win but I was the slight underdog. A lot of people thought that he was going to win by decision or I was going to submit him. Went out there, first round see it was a four round fight, so went out there in the first round and I don`t see how anyone can say that I lost that round! All I can say is watch the fight and you will see I am telling the truth. So in the first round I was in his guard and I was punching him, they weren`t hard punches but I was punching and I was taking my time! To be very honest this is where Jeremy has the advantage of having so many fights. I have only had 7 fights now so I when I get into this position I don`t really practice punching as much as I should, its more of passing and going for a submission. Well anyways I leave my arm out and I lean back to far and he lands a triangle on me from an awkward position, which I am not very vulnerable to triangles, and I am very resistant to triangles as well. He had a triangle on me and that was a good job on his part, so I`m in a triangle but I`m not panicking and I`m not trying to force my way out, but I am thinking about the choke and the arm lock but I am not trying to hurry and make a mistake. Then he lands this elbow on my forehead, it was a nasty cut! It was half way through the first round a bad time to get a cut! The cut was right at my hairline, and it was about an inch to an inch and a half long. I was bleeding all over the place it was on me, the mat everywhere. I don`t know how much blood I lost but it definitely affected my strength in the later rounds. It got in my eyes half the match I couldn`t see, it was rally hard to see, and when blood gets in your eyes it like looking through a greasy windshield. Not anything you can wipe away wither. Its kind of foggy, so we are in the second round and we are standing up and I can see my opponent and he moves and I`m like oh where`d he go, what`s he doing? I could see him but it did make it hard to see him and it did affect my strength later on. So I got cut in the first round but I kept going and going and I still don`t see how anyone can say that I lost the first round except for the cut if you watch the fight and you still think just because of the cut I lost the first round then good for you. Second round was real close but I still think I won that round. The third round I had a really bad round! I got really tired the blood loss was catching up to me so yeah I lost the third round, going into the forth we were close and he was taking the first part of the round and I came back and took the second part of the round. So it was a close fight, a real close fight. Its not like people think, the only influencing factor I feel was the blood! It did make me tired and he cut me, good job, it was extreme blood loss. I think he hit a vein in my forehead. I doubt he studies biology and knows where a vein in your head runs so he got lucky and cut through a vein. It didn`t really hurt and it was uncomfortable to have the blood in my eyes but I just kept fighting. I‘ll tell you what the fight was to everyone else…

SP: Ok so what do you think that it looked like outside the cage?

DL: He was more aggressive on his feet and landed more punches, I landed more powerful punches. He had one kick but I landed way more powerful kicks than him. On the ground he had more knees than I did. Nothing stunned me not even close. There wasn`t one time that I was even close to being finished by Jeremy Horn! To be honest I can loose by decision and that is fine but my opponents have never been close to submitting me. The blood loss is the deciding factor in the fight in peoples eye and it was still a split decision! With all due respect to Horn, because he is a great fighter with lots of experience, but if I had not go the cut or if I had gotten out of the triangle real fast, maybe thought different about the triangle, you know less about the arm lock and more about getting cut I would have gotten out faster. You can see it in the tape that after he cut me I got out fast. Maybe the fight would have been different if I had gotten out faster, cause now I have a cut to worry about and defend. I cannot let that cut get opened anymore or the ref will stop the fight! So I had to stop him from hitting that side of my face and I got tired from the blood loss! Well that was kind of a long answer but there it is. One of the other mistakes that I made was that they had put the new rules with the knees to the head which I didn`t practice at all so there was a couple of times where I was sprawled on Jeremy and I could have thrown knees to his head! Then he would have had to pull guard or try to escape but I would still be on top! So in the eyes of the judges when I would go for a guillotine is oh he`s on top going for a submission opps Dean`s on the bottom now oh well he missed the submission, see I should have thrown knees! Things like that as a submission fighter they can be very effective but to the judges they aren`t very impressive. Going for a guillotine and your opponent slips out, one you didn`t inflict and damage on him, two he got out and three you`re on bottom! Throw knees you do damage to your opponent and you get the advantage. Things like that just means I have to learn. Nothing wrong with that at all!

SP: No I agree learn from each fight you have win or lose and take it from there!

DL: Then I got an infection in the cut! I didn`t have one bruise or anything on my face and then three days later I get an infection from this dirty dirty cut that I had! I don`t know if it was the mat or Jeremy that was dirty! (Laughing) They almost admitted me to the hospital because of it. You get and infection in your face and that`s all bad! The third day my face swells up so much like a football! They put me on antibiotics and an IV and they took my blood! All kinds of things! They stuck me with a bunch of needles and that really pissed me off! I have heard funny things but the people that weren`t even there are saying funny things about that fight. To this day I still have people that were there coming up to me and they weren`t even talking to my face to make me feel better, so I have had people still say I won that fight! Maybe I lost that fight in the eyes of the judges but it was close, just not my night.

SP: That was your eighth fight and that makes you 6-2 and with that record rumor has it you are going to Pride!

DL: Yes I am going to Pride I will be fighting February 1st and it should be out on PPV on February 8th. I had a confirmed opponent or so I thought until he got injured and so now I don`t know who my opponent will be but yeah I am going to be fighting in Pride!

SP: Congratulations Dean! That`s great!

DL: Yeah, you know what excites me more is that they called my manager. I want to fight for people that want to see me fight. There are other organizations out there that I could have contacted but I wanted to wait and see who wanted me to fight for them!

SP: Ok so on to a touchy subject! When you went to Abu Dhabi you were on a pretty tough diet in which you gained some weight! (Me trying to put it delicately!)

DL: Just say it, I know what you are going to say so just say it. It`s no big deal I get it all the time!

SP: Ok so people question because you looked so ripped that you were on steroids!

DL: Oh yeah, yeah go ahead ask away man! My whole life I have heard this! Even in high school! I was 120 in the eighth grade and in tenth grade I was 160! So I had grown and there were rumors about that then too. I don`t care I take it as a complement and an insult that people would think that about me. Well it`s a complement cause the same people can`t believe my work ethics or see them you know what I mean! I try to look at things in a positive light! So to be honest a lot of guys in professional sports are juiced up you know. Its what I think. But if you look at Abu Dhabi man there are 20-minute matches and if you are above your natural body weight then it is hard for you to last in these 20-minute matches. Now here is the funny thing about me up until about 24, I`m 27 and believe it or not I was 178, the biggest thing was when I was in college I was very very poor! I have always been in shape but being in college and doing all that I could not afford to eat right, I was a full time student in college and I was working my ass off and had a full time job and I was training jiu-jitsu! You figure if you work hard and you pay your own tuition and paying your rent and buying your own food a lot of the time it`s your food that suffers! This is not an exaggeration, and this is why I was 178, I eat bread, milk, cereal and top ramen, that`s what my diet consisted of.

SP: Damn that`s worse than the whole beans and rice thing!

DL: That is what I lived on because it was cheap! It was a very poor diet, very poor. It wasn`t the kind of diet that helps you grown and helps your tendons get strong type of diet! So since I started to train more as a professional athlete and combine that with the fact that I eat better and I make more money and I have more free time to work out and eat better, yeah its an incredible difference! I have always worked out hard but now I work out harder and I eat right and I don`t go out and stay out late! That`s why I`m built the way I am now!

SP: What do you consider your greatest accomplishments!

DL: My greatest accomplishment to date is winning the Abu Dhabi Championship to be honest. That right there you have Olympic Wrestlers trying to get in there and you have world-class wrestlers trying to get in there! You even have guys that talk crap about it want to be in it. People talk trash about it but I think they would go! For me the first year I did it I lost and that was good trip and I got experience but I thought to myself I want to come back here and win the whole thing so I got to go back and I won. I consider that I have reached a lot of my goals that I have set for myself in submission wrestling and now with Pride I think I have gotten there too! You know it`s kind of like the Abu Dhabi of MMA and I want to see how far I can take that!

SP: Sounds like you`re on the right track. Lets talk about how you got back to Abu Dhabi!

DL: It was actually a bunch of almost not getting there! I go to a qualifier and I hear they don`t want the same old people in I, even though I had only been there once I heard that that might be enough to keep me out. I would like to go but I was kind of focused on MMA and the Kid Peligro goes you should enter the tournament and I was like well…OK! (Laughing) So I would like to do the tournament and it was in San Diego, well I won and I ended up getting the best grappler of the night award which you have 5 different divisions and 8 guys in each so there were a lot of guys so I was real happy about that. Well what happened was we had three matches and the first one I had Nathan Ducharme, great I get the rough guy first one up so there I am on his back and I am choking him and he tripods up and he spins the first thing that hits the mat is my knee but I didn`t let go and I finished him with the choke. Now I have an injury on my knee, a hematoma and it was growing it was swelling up right there! People thought I wouldn`t finish and so on my second match I could not put my knee on the ground and it was shooting knee! So I switch my stance up and I put on two kneepads and my opponent Jamal Paterson comes out and he tried to go for my knee and he tried to knee bar me on that side and it hurt bad! Well I get to his back and I choke him too and then I`m into the finals against Marc Laimon, Marc`s always been a rival of mine, even though we have never had anything to say face to face there was some controversy from our past matches so a lot of people wanted to see this match. The first match he beat me the second match I beat him of course he will tell you he won both matches but that`s wrong! (Laughing) We have a bit of a rivalry going and that`s good it makes everyone better you know! So the match is going and we are just going the whole time and in all honesty I had three takedowns but they were all out of bounds, that`s cause he always fights on the outside of the mat! One time I drew him in a bit and I shot and I knew what he was going to do so I put myself into an omoplata just so I would get my two points. In the end I won 1-0 because I jumped guard at one point and lost a point. It was a close but long match! 20 minutes long but then I was off to Abu Dhabi. Well I go to get on the plane and the lady says sorry you can`t get on the plane! You don`t have your visa stamped! I told her I had been to Brazil twice already and that it was stamped. She said no it wasn`t and that I couldn`t go! Took her fifteen minutes and I finally said lets call the Brazilian Consulate and luckily we got through. I have called a lot and never got through so this was lucky and they told her what to look for and she found it, it was a faded stamp so she was all oh you have been to brazil go ahead and get on the plane! So I get on the plane and get to Brazil and I tell ya I must have been off that day! I just did not feel on! My current teammate Brandon Vera back then wasn`t my teammate but he was in my corner. I went down there with no teammates and no corner! All of my opponents had their corner men and teammates cheering them on I had no one!

SP: Talk about feeling the love!

DL: Well I had “Margarida” in my corner and I know people either like him or they don`t and he was in my corner! I get in there and I did not do well that first day at all. I won my first match but I lost my second match 8-0! I could not explain it! That match was against Alexandre Ribeiro! I didn`t feel relaxed in any of my matches I was forcing all my submissions and techniques and I got gassed out tired! I was doing ok in the beginning of the match and then he just whooped up on me! I couldn`t figure it out, I was real disciplined for training and everything but I just didn`t feel right. Well before I left they said I should put my name in on the absolute division, but I thought they wouldn`t choose me but oh well I did it anyways. I went to the table wrote that I would like to be in the absolute thanks you very much and left the table. I went to my hotel and I was depressed and I got about 5 hours of sleep, I work up very rested for some reason that day and thinking I wouldn`t get in, I work up late and I eat a big breakfast, a crescent, a bowl of sugar corn flacks and milk and a brownie a junk food breakfast you know! I didn`t even have my stuff with me all I had was my HCK fight shorts and sweats over them and my tennis shoes and my t-shirt. I didn`t bring anything else, not my cup not my mouth piece nothing! So I`m sitting there with my friend eating acai and I hear Dean Lister please come to the booth, come to find out I was the forth and no one else wanted in so I was in. I don`t know why but I felt very relaxed and rested and I won the whole thing. I didn`t have one point scored on me and I had three submissions in four matches! Everything went right! All I can say is it was a good day of my life!

SP: Do you think that opened up some doors for you?

DL: Yeah I think so, but I don`t think it was luck it was just I was on that day! I had a bad first day but I know that I am capable of beating anyone of those guys on my day! If its my day then its not your day! That was my day! What I said in Grappling Magazine was that is what I like about this sport some things are like artistic achievements, like winning that day you really couldn`t foresee. Like why did I win? I don`t know why I won it was just my day! That`s what I like about this sport, anyone can have a good day and if you have a bad day then it makes you better makes you improve and go for more.

SP: Dean I appreciate you taking the time out to talk with me but for my last question of the night do you want a rematch with Jeremy Horn?

DL: Yeah I would like to have a rematch with him, however it`s not a, well I don`t think I have anything to prove anymore you know what I mean? I don`t feel like I lost, I mean yeah I lost a judges decision but that really isn`t a loss to me! That is just some guys` opinion I don`t care about that they can have their opinion! It was close enough match for me to get a split decision so… I do this sport for one reason and that is so I can improve myself! I`m not making that up that is the reason I do this sport, every fight I do is to become a better fighter, that is my mission! So yeah if Jeremy wants to do it again then great I would love to do it but it isn`t a priority on my list. I don`t have anything against him, I`m not angry you know he cut me gassed me out and it was still a close match so we will see what happens! Next time I will be better prepared and hopefully I wont get cut. Maybe I should wear a mask in there next time so I won`t get cut! (Laughing)

SP: I don`t know some of the masked men haven`t really done well in the Pride ring but who knows! (Laughing)

DL: Maybe one of those Luta Livre Mexican masks! (Laughing)

SP: That would be funny! So do you have anything else you would like to say before we go like to some sponsors or someone?

DL: Yeah sponsors and trainers I have Sycuan Casino has helped me out a lot and Bad Boy Japan! They have already done so much for me and I want to represent them well! The third one is Osiris shoes is another one you know the skate shoes and as far as my trainers I have four of them so my boxing trainer Robert Garcia, Mike Regnier my kickboxing instructor and then Brandon Vera who is my team mate and he helps me with my wrestling and Brent who helped me out with my jiu-jitsu and the owner of my gym Mark Dion and my manager Rob Bergum he has helped me out in the past! He helped me by paying for a knee surgery before he really knew who I was so he had faith in me back then! I would like to say thanks to all those guys! If there is one thing I am lucky at it`s surrounding myself with good people!

SP: If someone wants to get a hold of you for a seminar or training how do they do that?

DL: They can go to or go to they can get a hold of me either way with email or calling the gym. Oh I want to say thanks to my girlfriend also, her name is Flavia Mazoni, and I have never had a girl like this in my life! I never thought I would find a girl that would accept my fighter lifestyle and help me out with it so she is the first girl that I wanted first and then second of all she blends in with my lifestyle so she is also one of the most important people in my life!

SP: Dean thanks again man I look forward to seeing you fight in February!

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