Talk Story: Timmy Teves

Since his younger days, Timmy Teves has always been fighting. He’d say, though, it wasn’t always for good reasons back then. Even if he meant well, it was those situations that became a detriment to his life.

“(I was) doing all the wrong things as a young punk. I got into a bunch of fights,” Teves said. “I wanted to be in with the older boys, so I did things. Some dumb things. I got into some fights — fighting my friends’ battles for them.”

Growing older can bring experience and knowledge, however. While he still fights, now he does it legally in a ring. And this time, it’s for his benefit and his young son.

“If it wasn’t for fighting, I’d say I’d probably be in jail or something. From doing it on the streets or something,” he said. “MMA, for sure, saved my life. It’s keeping me out of trouble, keeping me healthy.”

Teves, of Kapahi, has a 7-2 amateur mixed martial arts record. He has another match coming up next month, and he intends to turn professional soon after.

Teves sat down with The Garden Island and talked about his rough upbringing, his start in MMA, and his hopes of a pro career.

The last time we talked, you were preparing for a jiu-jitsu competition (the Hawaii Star Jiu Jitsu Invitational earlier this month). I heard your match was a draw. How did it go?

It was a tough match, I would say. I almost had him in the beginning. I threw a flying armbar attempt. I got it in, but it was just too slippery. No gi, it’s kind of hard to submit somebody. Other than that, I would say I did alright. I went 20 minutes, and he’s been training jiu-jitsu for a while now.

Was it different, having to go for a submission rather than typically someone could win by points?

It was different. I actually didn’t want to attack with my takedowns. I didn’t really use more of my wrestling base because I tend to leave my neck open sometimes from shooting in for takedowns. … I was being more cautious.

Your last two MMA matches, you won by quick knockouts. How did you do it?

I don’t know. Everything just happened, everything just flowed, I guess. Before even I thought it was done, it was done. It was kind of hard to soak it in, you know?

How long were you training for that last fight?

I actually took it on short notice. My original opponent pulled out because he got hurt. They told me he canceled the match, so I just went on doing my thing — just spending time with my family. I took a little break. They called me like two weeks before the fight, saying, “Oh, you got to defend (the SEC 155-pound lightweight division championship belt) against his brother now.” It caught me off guard.

At first, I was like, “I’m not going to take the fight. You guys told me ‘No’ at first.” I felt like it wasn’t fair for me to accept defending my title with only two weeks’ notice. So, at first, I was over it. I didn’t want to fight. It was just bothering me because I was supposed to defend my title two times already. They really wanted me to defend my title. It was eating me up inside. I was like, “Forget it already. I’m just going to defend. End this now.”

It was my first title defense, and he claimed he was going to knock me out in his hometown. He was telling everybody I was going to his hometown, and he was going to knock me out and take my belt away from me. … It was in Hilo, and his hometown is Honokaa.

When you win a fight, which feels better — a quick knockout or a three-round brawl? Which is more satisfying?

To me, I feel like these fights were happening too quick. I wasn’t really satisfied with my performance, even if it was a quick victory. All the hard work I’ve been doing and putting in the time, I wanted to test myself, you know?

I wanted to test my endurance level, for busting my butt off. Even it was a short camp, I killed myself for two weeks. I had to kill myself because I was behind a few weeks after they canceled (the first fight). I fell off track, you know? So, especially for defending my title, I made sure I killed myself every day.

So take me to the beginning. What got you into fighting?

What got me into fighting, I’d have to say, I don’t know. Just growing up in Kapahi, all my friends were training in jiu-jitsu. We all trained. And UFC just started, too, at that age-group we were raised in. We were probably like 13 years old, UFC fighting each other in the yards and stuff.

My main reason, what got me into MMA, I would say is fighting on the streets — doing all the wrong things as a young punk. I got into a bunch of fights. Once I got into high school, I started cruising with the wrong crew. I wanted to be in with the older boys, so I did things. Some dumb things. I got into some fights — fighting my friends’ battles for them. I was just one of those protectors as a friend, I would say. Just one those guys, if I see my friend getting bullied from someone else, I would end up stepping in for them.

Other than that, I got into MMA after I got my son (4-year-old Titan). I told myself I couldn’t be getting into trouble.

So, you started when you were 13. How old are you now?

I’m 25 now. … I was actually into football in 10th grade. But I got hurt, and I got knee surgery. After that, I couldn’t play. I was out for a couple of seasons. I wanted to play my junior year, but the coach didn’t want to let me play. I guess they said there was too many people on the team. So that right there, I was like, I didn’t play football that summer and I started cruising around with a bad crew — getting into trouble and started smoking weed. That was when I started becoming a punk.

After I couldn’t play football, my whole life changed right there. I was always active. I was an athlete. When I didn’t have anything to do, I was around the wrong crew, again. … Also, I was raised by my grandparents. So, I kind of had a rough childhood, too. I wouldn’t communicate. I would keep my problems to myself. That was one of the things that built up inside of me to do bad things, which was fight and stuff.

It was rough with your grandparents?

I mean, they raised me old school. I got lickings. When I did something wrong, I got disciplined old school-style.

So was it your son that made you want to turn things for the better?

I didn’t have my dad growing up. So, I didn’t want that for my son. I wanted to be better. I wanted to give my son what I never had. So for sure, he changed my life. After that, I found myself wanting to fight in the ring — start doing it where it’s legal and I’m not going to get in trouble.

When was your first MMA fight?

My first MMA fight was when I was 21, back in 2012. I think it was Feb. 3, 2012. It was on Kauai. It was under Ainofea. … That was my first win. I won by decision. It was a three-round war.

Your first fight, and you got a win. How good did that one feel?

It was a real close fight, actually. I didn’t know which side it would go. But then again, at the end of the night, I knew I came out with the win a way. I had him in a triangle pretty much the whole fight. I just couldn’t pull it off because of a couple of details that I left out. But yeah, it was really exciting to win my first MMA fight.

My amateur record is 7-2. I’m going for 8-2 next month, on the 28th of January.

7-2 is a good record so far. How do you feel about your career so far?

I feel good. Some of the guys I’ve beat, they’ve been out there. They fought some known fighters. The guy that I fought for my SEC belt, he actually fought Max Holloway (interim UFC featherweight champion) years back. He just won the world title, the interim title.

So, I guess I’ve fought some tough contenders. I’ve lost to some real tough contenders. Matt Lascola, who’s 12-0 as an amateur, I lost to him. That was my first loss. He’s an undefeated amateur. He’s pro now. My second loss was to Koa Corpuz from Maui. He was 9-0 when I fought him. Now, he’s 10-0. He’s currently a pro now, too. So, it’s my time to turn pro, too.

So you got one more amateur fight. Where again?

It’s going to be at the Blaisdell Arena on Oahu. I’ll be fighting a brown belt jiu-jitsu fighter. His name is Michael Bright.

I don’t know anything about him. I just know he’s a brown belt in jiu-jitsu.

Have you already started training?

I’m currently in preparation right now. I train at the Boars Nest Kauai. It’s in Kilauea.

When you’re training for a fight (set up a camp), what are the things you do?

We break it down. Mondays is stand up and wrestling. Tuesdays is strength and conditioning. Wednesdays is spar days. Each day, we break it down to a standard we need to work on. It all depends on what we need to work on most, I’d say.

For this fight, what is something you really want to work on?

I’m more focused on my wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Going against a brown belt, that’s why. I’m focusing on everything, but I’m trying to capitalize on my jiu-jitsu more.

So that’s why you did the jiu-jitsu competition?

Yeah. To build me up for this next upcoming fight.

Then after this, now matter what, you’re turning pro?

Yeah. Win, lose, draw, I’m turning pro after this match.

When making the decision to turn pro, what are some things you think about before making the jump?

Well, what I think about most is making sure this is what I really want to do. That I’m keeping on my word, and getting myself prepared for these pros. After this fight, I’m going to take off, I’d say, a good six months and prepare myself for the pro level before I take the next fight. I can’t be an amateur going through five three-minute rounds, you know? The caliber is a lot higher. I want to make sure my body is ready for the pro level before actually turning pro. I can do it. I know I can do it. I’ve trained with a bunch of pros before.

There’s some expectations I want to reach, for sure, before taking a fight. My amateur years, I was just jumping on any fight I can have. I’d call up every promotion, and just be on back-to-back fights just to come up quick. And that’s how I came up quick. I was the only fighter taking back-to-back fights. That’s why I have four belts now.

So, you’ve trained with pros. Have you asked any of them for advice?

I didn’t really get to talk to any. I didn’t really ask. Some of the pros that I know, I see myself fighting them soon. Yeah, so I don’t really get to that.

So, you said you started when you were 13. Was there a fighter you idolized?

Not from when I was 13. But just being a fighter, I idolized a few fighters. The first one was Anderson Silva. Coming up, I really liked his style. Then it was Jon Jones next. He kind of looks like me. He has belts. I had a belt. I kind of wanted to be like him.

I don’t know. I have visions of becoming a fighter, following those visions and trying to chase them. These belts I have, I dreamed about winning them. Those visions that I have made me chase that. When I actually did pull it off, I was amazed. I was blown away. These vision I have are real. It makes me chase that.

How do you describe yourself as a fighter? Are you specialized in one thing, or do you try to be well-rounded?

I want to be well-rounded. You have to be well-rounded nowadays. You can’t just know one thing. The sport’s adapting a lot now. So, I’d look at myself as well-rounded. From standing up to the ground, I feel comfortable.

I first saw you when you fought in Koloa in July. What’s it like fighting on your home island?

Fighting in front of your hometown is really stressful sometimes, you know? There’s believers. There’s haters. There’s everything out there. But it all comes down to preparation. It’s up to you if you’re going to let that bother you when you’re out there.

It’s a nuts feeling. It’s kind of hard to explain. Fighting in front of your hometown, you don’t want to lose, obviously. I’d rather fight out of my hometown any day. But when I step out there, fighting in front of my hometown, I’m committing to (the fact that) anything can happen. I could get knocked out, humiliated in front of my family and friends.

Like I said, it’s something you got to have in you to do that and accept that.

When people talk to you about fighting, what do they say to you?

Just, “Good job. Keep up the hard work.” They see the determination. They know I work hard. Everyone sees me running on the side of the road killing myself. Six o’clock in the morning, I’m running on the streets of Kapahi. Everyone’s going to work in the morning. They’re like, “Ho, he’s running before work. Then he has to go to work after that. How does he do it?” I get positive stuff.

What’s your regular job?

At the time, I was working construction — Mason. Now, I install septic systems. All that kine stuff.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about you?

When I would take fights, sometimes the reason would be to pull me out of a struggle that I’m in. One year, I lost my family. I went through a hard time. I went through drugs and alcohol. I saw myself becoming weak, doing things I felt I shouldn’t have been doing.

As a fighter, people have expectations. There’s youth looking up to you, you know? I feel all those things. I see the youth stoked about me, wanting to be like me and stuff. Sometimes, I would take fights to take me out of my battles, I would say.

Whether it’s from just drinking with my friends and getting out of shape, it’s a normal lifestyle around here. A bunch of the boys out here, they go out on weekends drinking and partying their lives away. That’s not who I am when I do those things. If I want to be a fighter, I need to stay away from that.

So, you use it as a tool to get you out of bad situations?

Yeah, exactly. That was one of my tools. You got to have a strong mind to force yourself out of those things. You’d have to be really strong to force yourself out of bad situations you know you’re in and you want to pull yourself out of it, you know? That’s another reason I started fighting, too, I guess. After I pulled myself out, that’s what kept me going. That’s why I kept taking fights. I didn’t want to go back into those old ways.

If it wasn’t for fighting, I’d say I’d probably be in jail or something. From doing it on the streets or something. MMA, for sure, saved my life. It’s keeping me out of trouble, keeping me healthy.

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