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MMA For Real Exclusive Interview with Local Fighter Dustin "The Villain" Chovanic

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Dustin "The Villain" Chovanic has been turning some heads recently on the regional scene. The 31-year-old Franklin, North Carolina resident has quickly compiled a professional record of 5-0. He has impressed several MMA promoters and is currently in negotiation to sign with a well known manager in the industry. This welterweight fighter was an accomplished kickboxer before transitioning into MMA. I recently caught up with Dustin to find out more about his background and to get his thoughts on the sport of MMA:

Rich Wyatt: Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into MMA?

Dustin Chovanic: I've been into studying the martial arts since I was four years old. I began with Kempo. I originally started started out in Orlando under Walter Somerville. I initially competed in the world of sport karate and became a junior national champion. I ended up becoming a 6 time state champion in Florida. I later got into kickboxing and even got some sponsorships. I was on the US karate team as a super lightweight. I was running a school in Orlando by the age of 15. When I became 20 I opened up two schools here in North Carolina: One in Highlands and one in Franklin. I'm currently a 5th degree black belt in Kempo. I started training specifically MMA about 4 years ago at the Knuckle Up facilities in Georgia. I started taking Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Steve Headden and began working with their guys and training. At that point I got scouted by the WCL and fought for the New York Clash.

Rich Wyatt: What was it like competing in the WCL? Did that experience help prepare you for the pressures of fighting MMA professionally?

Dustin Chovanic: Absolutely. WCL was a great experience for me. I only lost one fight with them and for that one I had to lose 18 pounds in a day in a half. Normally I fight at 170 but our 164 pound guy was hurt so I had to cut 18 pounds and almost killed myself to get there. It was a fantastic experience overall. I was born in Chicago but raised in New York so it was cool to be able to compete there. Definitely it was a great experience and helped me transition into pro MMA really well.  My amateur career was brief. The guys in Georgia wanted me to go pro early and the Georgia commission made me turn pro after just two fights because of my extensive kickboxing background.

Rich Wyatt: You just fought on Saturday night. How did that fight go and how are you feeling now?

Dustin Chovanic: I thought the fight went well. My opponent really tried to force the fight to the ground. We did end up on the mat and I made it back to my feet. I caught him with a punch and finished it with some hammerfists on the ground in the first round. I didn't have as much preparation as I'd like but I thought it was a very good fight. Fortunately I didn't sustain any injuries and I'm feeling fine.

Rich Wyatt: Ideally, when would you like to be back in action again?

Dustin Chovanic: I'd say in another six to eight weeks. I sustained no injuries. I'm constantly training anyway, three or four times a day, and at this point I'd like to take it as far as I can. You can't stay on the shelf. I fought the last few shows down at Wild Bill's in Atlanta. I figure I'll take breaks when I make it to a big show like UFC or Strikeforce but until then I'd like to push the pace.

Rich Wyatt: Where do you do most of your training and what does a typical workout consist of?

Dustin Chovanic: I train here at Legacy Fight Club in Franklin, NC and also at Knuckle Up in Georgia, where there's a lot of pro MMA fighters, boxers and jiu-jitsu guys. I usually wake up and run five miles every morning, six days a week. We then go back three hours later for 45 minutes of full body conditiong (pull-ups, dips, squats, etc...) We roll and strike in the evening and work a few other things. I try to also stay to a strict diet, watch my protein intake. Having been in the sport of fighting for so long I'm not like a kid coming out of college.  I've got a routine down already to keep myself in good condition.

Rich Wyatt: The sport has seen a slight increase in world class MMA fighters emerging from a strong background in Karate. What are your thoughts on this? What do you see as the strengths of the discipline and how do you feel that it translates into MMA competition?

Dustin Chovanic: Yeah, a lot of champions like Machida and St. Pierre have karate backgrounds. I think that Karate helps develop the discipline to carry yourself properly and helps you with the preparation that this sport takes. The biggest benefit, to me, is the mental preparedness that it offers and the ability to stay focused. That's what fighters lack the most nowadays: the ability to avoid being distracted, to stay composed during the fight. A lot of these guys come out from high school and realize they have the physical benefits but they don't always have the mental discipline to stay focused when fighting someone stronger than they are. Some of them rush the maturation process with only a year or less of amateur experience before preparing for a successful pro career. If you're not coming from a fighting background already, that amateur experience is invaluable for developing as a fighter. Everybody wants to get to the UFC so badly that they think they're learning just from being around and watching the sport. A true martial artist is a guy that's always looking to improve. After my last fight I was examining my performance to try and point out things that I need to work on. So, Karate really helped me with the mental aspect of the game. I think you see that with Machida and St. Pierre, as well. The truth, though, is that there are a lot of effective styles out there. You just have to know your strengths as a fighter and incorporate a strong gameplan. I think of Demian Maia trying to lead with a roundhouse kick against Marquardt. That's not really his game and sometimes guys get away from what they do best and play right into their opponent's hands. But there are lots of effective disciplines that guys can come from and have success in this sport. Karate is one. Boxing offers great mental toughness and conditioning. Wrestling and jiu-jitsu also.

Rich Wyatt: Who do you like in the upcoming world championship fight between Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua in October?

Dustin Chovanic: Obviously I'm a fan of Machida. He's at such a high level right now. Most Americans don't know Shogun's background. I don't think Shogun's ever gotten the respect he reserves because of the Forrest fight, which is unfortunate because he wasn't in great shape for that fight and had ACL problems leading up to it. He's been a top pound for pound guy for a long time. Whoever makes the least amount of mistakes on that night will come out on top. I'd lean toward Shogun but it could truly go either way.


MMA For Real would like to thank Dustin Chovanic for taking the time to talk with us and we wish him the best in his upcoming fights.