Photograph Credit: THEFIGHTVOICE
Our one-on-one interview with San Diego mixed martial artist, instructor and business owner Andy “The Tooth Fairy” Murad as he prepares for his fight at Bellator 131 in San Diego on November 15.
San Diego has at times, been referred to as a “transplant town,” in which people from all over the country desire to leave behind cold weather and limited opportunities in an attempt to “make it,”, or in some cases, just enjoy the simple things life has to offer, such as sun, sand and the west coast lifestyle.
But what about the people who established roots in San Diego long before herds of east-coasters packed their cars and headed for the “other” coast? The men and women who raised families here, built businesses that generate money for the community and will always be the real backbone of a city that continues to be a landing ground for so many people from somewhere else.
If you traveled to Manhattan and saw a man in an expensive suit sipping martinis at noon in a fancy restaurant, it wouldn’t surprise you. If you visited a golf course in Boca Raton and noticed an elderly couple loading golf clubs into their Buick, you would be hesitant to stop and ask yourself what was wrong with that picture. And if you entered an MMA gym in San Diego, one that had walls lined in fight posters from local events, a cage full of fighters sparring and a musk in the air, you would know that you were in the right place.
Upon entering Undisputed El Cajon to meet local fighter, instructor and business owner Andy “The Tooth Fairy” Murad, I was under the impression that Murad would appear from an office in the back to meet with me. Instead, like a true student of the game, Murad appeared from the cage, sweaty, tired and focused, a sign that this man still has a ton of fight in him. At that point, I was certain that our time together would be authentic, candid and paramount to learning what the fight game means to the city of San Diego.
A novice San Diego fight fan may not know Andy “The Tooth Fairy” Murad (8-2). For the individuals who can be traced back to the original days of City Boxing and the local fight scene, however, Andy Murad is well-known, respected and after 20 years of fighting, someone who still likes to get after it in the cage if given the chance.
Murad will get that chance on November 15 at Bellator 131: Tito Ortiz v Stephan Bonnar, as he takes on Bubba Pugh (3-2) in a welterweight feature fight on the preliminary fight card live from the Valley View Casino Center.
“I am so stoked the fight is here in San Diego . . . my hometown. It is a big card for the local fighters and the fans here in San Diego . . . to be a part of it is very special,” Murad explains.
Andy Murad is a lifelong fighter. Murad was born in Detroit, Michigan and moved to San Diego at an early age. From wrestling in high school to his early days grappling under Dean Lister, Murad truly took to the martial arts. Spending most of his early days on the ground, whether it be wrestling or jiu-jitsu, Murad decided it was time to develop his striking game.
“When you start out with wrestling and jiu-jitsu, it is refreshing to take on something like kickboxing. I really enjoy it,” Murad explains as he elaborates on his journey through each discipline.
In addition to being a full-time fighter, Murad is also a business owner and instructor. Murad is the owner of Undisputed El Cajon, a gym located in the heart of El Cajon, where he is also a head instructor. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that the one thing Murad appreciates most about the sport is his role as an instructor.
“I love teaching,” Murad tells me. He continues, “I always thought that I would get a teaching degree when I was younger . . . it really is fulfilling.”
Murad, who has fought locally for several years has made appearances at Xplode Fight Series (XFS), WCK Muay Thai, Gladiator Challenge, Native Fighting Championship, King of the Cage and eventually landed a two-fight stint with Bellator in late 2013. After dropping two tough losses under Bellator, Murad decided to step back and reevaluate his training practices before getting back into the cage.
“I had two fights with Bellator and they didn’t go very well. One was close, but the other wasn’t . . . so I decided to take a step back from it,” Murad tells me. He continues, “I didn’t feel at that point that I was training the way I used to. I went back to the basics and started training hard again, working out with some old training partners like Ed “9MM” Ratcliff and I also started working with Chris “The Crippler” Leben, who has been a resource with a ton of knowledge.”
As I have been learning from my time covering the local fight scene in San Diego, there is a true bond among the fighters in the area and the gyms where they train. It is not uncommon to see fighters from various gyms, such as Alliance and Victory, engaging in intense workouts with each other. This fact speaks volumes about the importance of MMA in San Diego and further shows the depth of the MMA talent pool in “America’s Finest City.”
“It seems like there are just as many fight gyms as there are 7-11’s . . . it’s crazy how huge MMA is here,” Murad tells me. He continues, “It is nice to train at different gyms also. It helps your game and we are blessed to have those opportunities here in town.”
With training camp at full speed and Murad physically and mentally preparing himself for his bout at Belllator 131, there is an obvious buzz in the air that supports what Bellator as an organization is doing and what they plan to bring to San Diego on November 15.
“So many people are hyped for this fight. To see Tito [Ortiz] and [Stephan] Bonnar go at it is really cool. And what they are doing with this card is awesome,” Murad explains as we discuss the positive effect this fight card will have on the San Diego fight scene. He adds, “Bellator has been very good to me. I love the organization, the people there and I am here to stay.”
Murad will face a tough, battle-tested opponent in Bubba Pugh, who he is somewhat familiar with due to the fact that both men fought at XFS here in San Diego. “I’ve watched a little film on him. He actually had some tough fights of late, one being against Ty Holder, who I was able to beat at XFS. I really respect his Jiu-Jitsu and I know he is down to stay on his feet. He is a tough guy,” Murad explains.
In the end, on November 15, San Diego will have a unique opportunity to show fans across the country what local fight fans have known for years . . . that San Diego is and always will be a MMA hotbed and that the fighters who train here, whether they were born here or not, will continue to excel in the sport if given the opportunity.
“If I didn’t live in San Diego and I was going to put my heart into MMA and had to pick a place to train I would pick San Diego. I can’t imagine training anywhere else than San Diego,” Murad explains.
The stage has been set for Bellator 131 live from the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. Full details can be found here: http://www.bellator.com/articles/bellator-131-full-card-finalized-from-san-diego-valley-view-casino-center
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