Danny Trejo is a man with a fierce reputation for playing equally fierce characters on the big screen, but it’s away from the bright lights of Hollywood blockbusters and on to its fight scene for his next venture.
The legendary film badass will find himself centre of the action tomorrow night (Jan 24) as Karate Combat rolls into Hollywood with a slew of elite martial artists from all over the world, including fighters from our very own United Kingdom, who are going head to head in a series of full contact bouts at the Avalon.
Danny is going to be the man with the mic as ring announcer, and spoke exclusively to UNILAD about his own fighting past, as well as why he thinks the full contact league offered by Karate Combat has the potential to rival mainstream MMA and boxing.
I'll tell you something honest.
It feels good to be a karateka.
Where are all the karate fighters in the world?
Are you a karateka?
Comment where you're from and what color your karate belt is!
Karate Combat wants to know!
Hashtag with #IAmKarateka pic.twitter.com/S5Ur5C6RsD
— Karate Combat (@Karate_Combat) September 21, 2018
The concept is similar to that of MMA in that strikes can be landed with both the hands and feet (with devastating effect), but unlike MMA it restricts the use of the clinch, and there’s no grappling.
As Karate Combat proudly states on its website, the sport’s full contact league has been designed to encourage continuous action, and prevent fighters idling or cancelling each other out with wrestling.
Check it out:
Ahead of his debut as ring announcer, Trejo told UNILAD:
I love Karate. I think Karate is a great tool, a better tool than boxing or MMA for younger people. It has a lot to do with meditation and inner strength.
MMA is a fight, that’s all there is to it, I don’t care what you say. There’s nothing religious to it. Karate is, I don’t want to get corny, but it’s almost a spiritual learning.
The physical part of Karate is just a part of it, it’s not all of it. It’s a defence not an offence. I love that that’s how it is taught.
Unless you are attacked, then the shit comes down and it becomes an offence.
The 74-year-old thinks that is where Karate Combat has the advantage of drawing fans. Away from the sideshow antics that claimed boxing, and as the tide turns on the WWE-esque melodrama a handful of MMA fighters have embraced to the point of exhaustion, Karate remains at its core a form of combat built on respect.
This respect is on full display at Karate Combat events.
🥋From the dojo to the pit to the very last hit – it's all about respect.
Karate teaches us many things, but courtesy is in the beginning and the end.
Watch every fight for free in full at the Karate Combat YouTube channel.
Go here: https://t.co/Kff2luWL8c pic.twitter.com/SXcKmwCOKa
— Karate Combat (@Karate_Combat) October 20, 2018
Fight fans can tune in, watch athletes respectfully try to beat seven shades of shit out of one another, but leave the fight in the pit. Trejo believes these value-driven foundations provide a stronger position for full contact Karate to propel itself.
In a boxing match you touch gloves. In MMA you touch gloves if you want. In Karate you bow. There’s mutual respect for what you’re doing and that’s what I think people will love about it. We love the combat, but it’s a positive build up to it.
Danny isn’t just there just to add star appeal. His fighting history is entirely authentic, and precisely why his opinion on how combat sports are presented to kids matters.
He learned how to box at a young age, although he likened the experience of training with his uncle to volunteering in the role of punchbag.
I started boxing when I was nine or 10 years old. I had an uncle who was Golden Gloves, they said I was his sparring partner but really I was his punching bag, and so I had to learn how to get my head beat in.
What I like is when I see six or seven-year-old kids doing Karate and they’re not getting bashed in the head. They develop discipline first, then later on in full contact Karate you’re then strong enough to absorb what you’ve got to absorb.
I would teach my kids Karate before I would teach them boxing.
Trejo’s boxing ability was sharpened behind bars, the actor and businessmen had stints inside some of California’s most notorious facilities, including San Quentin. Boxing was an outlet inside the confines of the penitentiary which made Danny a champion.
The status he forged inside the prison ring, and his unmistakeable appearance, would eventually ignite his cinema career. Once Trejo had overcome the clutches of addiction he wound up on a film set in 1985 to help a recovering addict whom he was mentoring to resist copious amounts of cocaine available on set.
It was the set of Runaway Train, and as Danny has previously explained, his reputation preceded him.
He told The Guardian in 2012:
I was asked if I could act like a convict. When I took my shirt off, this guy comes storming across the set.
He said: ‘You’re Danny Trejo!’ He recognised my tattoos. He’d seen me box in San Quentin, so they hired me to train Eric Roberts how to box.
I learned how not to behave on a movie set from Eric Roberts. He was very demanding.
Bruce and Michael Buffer may have cornered the market for a good while now, but Trejo is ready to make his own mark as an announcer, but he’s keeping his cards close to his chest for now.
He jokingly told us:
I once played a part in a movie where I was a boxing referee, I think I was the first to say ‘Are you ready to rumble?!’.
We’ve got a couple of them [soundbites] ready for Thursday.
The latter of the two, Brown, is facing Egypt’s Abdalla Ibrahim in the co-main event of the night.
2019 promises to be a big year for Karate Combat. It’s only the promotion’s second year, but it’s already going truly global with events slated to take place in 10 locations across four continents during the coming months.
These include: Kyoto, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, Miami, Paris, Italy and Latvia.
Michael DePietro, CEO of Karate Combat has said of the expansion plans:
We’re excited to expand Karate Combat in its second season with a more defined and expansive structure.
Our mix of intense, full contact action and respect for traditional martial arts virtues is resonating far and wide.
Karate Combat Hollywood will be live and available for free at Karate.com at 9:30 EST/6:30 PST in the US, while repeats will be available all weekend for viewers in the UK.
An NCTJ Journalist with an MA in Sports Journalism, Kieron is an experienced social media journalist who has worked in the industry since 2015. His experience includes work with ITN, the MEN, WISH/WIRE/TOWER FM, and 8:50 Sports Digest… not forgetting his time at ASDA.