Most mixed martial arts trainers in Brazil have roots in jiu-jitsu or muay Thai, but Josuel Distak comes from the boxing world. There, he was recognized for his work under the head coach of the Brazilian national team.
In MMA, Distak rose to prominence as the boxing coach for fighters like UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Paulo Filho, Demian Maia and Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante. Known for his ability to encourage and motivate fighters and his success in joining jiu-jitsu, wrestling and boxing together in the same exercises, Distak created his own brand of MMA training. Judging by the success his fighters have enjoyed, he must be doing something right.
Just weeks after Silva’s successful title defense against Thales Leites at UFC 97, Distak welcomed Sherdog.com to his gym in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He discussed Souza’s preparation for his Dream middleweight title bout against Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Silva’s much-maligned performance against Leites and the Brazilian’s UFC 101 showdown with Forrest Griffin.
Sherdog.com: How do you respond to Anderson Silva’s critics after his fight at UFC 97?
Distak: Actually, we did everything alright. We trained Anderson to fight on impulse, action-reaction, but Thales didn’t give him much action, so the reaction was proportional. I believe Anderson did a nice job. He controlled the fight at all times, and he was never in danger. That fight’s over, and we’re thinking about the next one. The criticism we get is always a positive, because it makes us stronger. I think the criticism inspired [UFC President] Dana White to set us up with an opponent, Forrest Griffin, who will bring the fight. The boss wants excitement, and we’ll give him excitement. It’s a good fight for Anderson and a terrible fight for Forrest Griffin.
Sherdog.com: Why do you believe this is a bad fight for Griffin? Do you think Silva will show his normal aggression against him?
Distak: I have no doubt about that because Forrest is a guy who loves to fight, so he will give Anderson everything he needs to answer. If you watch his fights against opponents who attacked him -- like Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson and James Irvin -- he beat them all because they pressed him from the beginning. Forrest Griffin has the same tendency. I believe he will be another one we beat because he’ll give us the motivation Anderson needs.
Distak: I analyze statistics. When Anderson faced Dan Henderson, he was already training with us; that fight had a lot of aggression and ended in a submission. Against James Irvin, there was a knock out. The last two fights, he was less aggressive because he had fought too much. He had a lot riding on that fight with Thales, not only to keep the title but to break the record of consecutive wins and [tie the record of consecutive] title defenses. Plus, there was the possibility of it going five rounds. People have to understand that it’s more difficult to keep a title than it is to win it. All that pressure can get to a fighter. Did you see the fight between Fedor [Emelianenko] and [Andrei] Arlovski? I didn’t see the Fedor I’m used to seeing in that fight, but he landed a nice punch at the right moment, knocked out Andrei and made the fans happy. Even so, he was not the Fedor we saw fighting against [Mirko] “Cro Cop” [Filipovic] and [Antonio Rodrigo] “Minotauro” [Nogueira], probably because he was overwhelmed by the hype. He won, and I’m sure he’ll return much better next time. I see the same thing happening with Anderson.
Sherdog.com: Why do you believe fans can expect to see the old Silva against Forrest Griffin?
Distak: Anderson needed a fight where he didn’t have the responsibility of defending the belt. It’s going to be a much better fight for him.
Sherdog.com: He’s coming in off of a five-round fight with all this pressure, and the UFC did not give him any time to rest. Plus, he has to fight one of the top guys in a heavier weight class. Is this good for him?
Distak: I think it’s very good for him because he has no pressure in a heavier weight class. The title is not in play. It’s three five-minute rounds. This fight will wake him up, and the fans will see the amazing Anderson Silva again.
Sherdog.com: Recently, Wanderlei Silva declared war on Anderson Silva. How do you see a potential fight between them?
Distak: That would be a great fight. Both come from aggressive schools, so I believe the man who’s best prepared and most skilled would win; that’s Anderson. If it’s for the belt, he would win however he had to, but if the UFC decided to promote it without the title on the line, I believe Anderson would knock out Wanderlei.
Sherdog.com: How do you see Wanderlei’s UFC 99 bout with Rich Franklin playing out?
Distak: I don’t think their games match up well. I believe Wanderlei will knock out Franklin with knees using the clinch.