On March 4, I spent Lundi Gras (the day before Mardi Gras) talking to Elliot Paul Hebert, a fighter from Gladiator’s Academy of Lafayette. Lafayette, Louisiana, aside from being home to the ULL Ragin’ Cajuns, is an utter hotbed for mixed martial arts along the Gulf Coast. UFC legend and current Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is from Lafayette, and he won three Louisiana state championships in wrestling at Northside High School. Number three ranked Dustin Poirier, who’s fighting Max Holloway for the Interim UFC Lightweight Championship on April 13, 2019 at UFC 236, also hails from “The Heart of Acadiana,” and also wrestled at Northside. So, I thought it would be a great opportunity to speak with Hebert, an up-and-coming amateur fighter from Lafayette, to learn more about him, and the city that spawns so much mixed martial arts talent.
Every superhero has an origin story. What’s yours? Where do you come from? What got you into fighting?
So, I’m from a town called Scott. It’s right outside of Lafayette. My dad was my superhero role model. He raised three boys and two girls. He started a youth wrestling program when I was just a kid, and he developed hundreds of young men into athletes. He’s coached a few different sports. So, I’ve got to give all of my beginnings to my dad and my mom. They were the super heroes to make sure that we had everything that we needed to compete. Everything that we needed, from equipment, to making sure that we had the best opportunities to display our gifts. I’ve been blessed with talents and opportunities, and I credit a lot of that to my parents.
So your parents are the ones who got you into fighting?
Well, Travis Tabor (my manger) and I were drinking beers one night and playing UFC on Playstation, and he wanted to watch me shadowbox. So, I shadowboxed for him, for I don’t know, thirty seconds, and he was like “Dude, you’ve got some potential. You need to look into training.” In my head, I was already ready to fight Khabib, but when I started training, I found out pretty quickly that that wasn’t the case. But, Travis was the one that really got me into it. From there, it was a belief that I had in myself, and from then, I started to gather gear, and build my own gym in my apartment. I put some wrestling mats down on the floor and started training. I trained for my first fight for about a month, and I was able to kind of take it slow, go at my own pace. My first fight was a 71 second knockout win against Chris Jean Batiste.
What’s a typical week like for you? How often are you training and what do you typically train and when?
So, for this last fight (February 23), I was going to Gladiators Academy between two and three times a day. I felt like I was going too much, but there was just so much that I felt like I needed to do, to be where I needed to be. But, for an average week, usually I do strength training on Mondays, heavy weights in the morning, throw in some cardio, then at night I like to go to MMA 201 at Gladiators. Then, on Tuesdays I either do a bike ride in the morning or some other cardio like swimming. I like to do some recovery type of things in the morning. Then, at night we have MMA elite classes at Gladiators, and we do some pretty heavy sparring, so that’s our big day there.
On Wednesdays, I’ll do some stretching classes like yoga in the morning, and I get to stretch out the soreness from Tuesday. Then at night we have kickboxing 201. Thursdays, I like to ride my bike, and we have a hard wrestling practice with the MMA elite class at Gladiators. Fridays are rest days, but sometimes I’ll do some kickboxing and pad work. Saturdays are usually some type of grappling or sparring at Gladiators, and Sundays are my main days for rest.
So, I know that you are training out of Gladiator’s Academy of Lafayette with Tim Credeur. Are there any notable fighters training there that you’d like to shout-out?
Tyrek Malveaux is a phenomenal wrestler and fighter. He’s a local legend in high school wrestling. Also, AJ Fletcher is a phenomenal fighter. He’s a young talent, and he’s super strong with a ton of technical knowledge about fighting. He’s one of my training partners that helps me out the most. Just having him to train with, it’s unique. You don’t get that everywhere else. AJ tells me that he’s been to other gyms with a bunch of talent all throughout the country, and he tells me that Gladiators is right there with them.
What do you like most about fighting? What do you feel is your biggest strength?
I think that fighting is the purest form of expression for me, when it comes to being able to use my gifts in a unique way, and I get to do whatever I want as an art. I get to express myself, whatever limb I choose. Also, it’s very humbling, when you get an attack sprung on you, and how you deal with it. How you’re able to evade or protect, and the balance of the whole thing is unique. It’s not like any other sport. You can’t do this on a football field, or a baseball diamond. I think that the contact in MMA is something that I gravitate towards, because of my upbringing. I had two older brothers that, because of them, I had to learn either how to run or how to fight, and that’s what I did.
How about your biggest strength?
I think it’s my competitive nature. It’s me, looking across the cage and knowing that I have the ability to win the match at any time. It’s a great feeling. With the explosive power that I have from football and wrestling, I have the overall confidence that it brings. I get to train so that I can perform at my physical peak, and eliminate all of the things in my life that don’t matter. There’s just something about it that does something for you mentally and physically that you cant get in any other sport or in any other activity.
What was it like the first time that you stepped into the cage? What was going through your mind?
So, the first time I stepped into the cage, I jumped in. I didn’t even walk up the stairs, I just jumped right into the cage. I’m sure that the people there were looking at me like I was crazy. I knew that the guy that I was fighting was in big trouble. I didn’t know how I was going to finish the fight, but I knew it was going to end early. That’s what I was training for, for a knockout finish. A one punch knockout. I was completely confident. There wasn’t anybody that they could have put in there that weighed the same as me that wasn’t going to get finished. It was going to be the same result. As long as I put my hands on them, they were going to go to sleep.
What is your record? Are there any notable fights that you’d like to tell me about?
My record is 2-1, and I’m still fighting as an amateur. As far as a notable fight, I’d have to say my last fight, which I lost. I don’t consider it any kind of defeat, because I learned so much from it. Everything happens for a reason. Even though I feel like I won the fight, and that I did my best, and I had a great performance, there are still a lot of things that I learned and realized from that fight. Mostly, I learned that it’s going to be a long journey, and a lot of fun, down the path of becoming a mixed martial artist.
Obviously, your long-term goal is to become a world champion. What are your short-term goals? What are you doing to help you get there?
Ok, so my short-term goal is to become as efficient as possible as a martial artist, and to pursue areas of my game that are my weaknesses, but also maximize on my gifts, like my explosive power. I see people in the gym that are better than me, and I approach the gym as a student first. I try to build myself as the martial artist that I want to become. There’s so much to learn and there’s never enough time. Im just trying to learn and grow as quickly as possible. It’s a never ending process.
Let’s say it’s fight day. How does it begin for you? What do you do leading up to the fight? What are you doing two hours before, what’s going through your mind? One hour before? Thirty minutes before?
The day of a fight, I kind of just try to stay in the mindset that this is just another day for me. I try not to get too excited, too pysched up or psyched out. I feel like a stable and balanced mind is critical for controlling emotions. So, I try not to get too crazy. I talk with those who I know are important to me, and who I know can help me in my mental preparation.
The day of the fight, I still have to eat healthy. We just made weight, but still we’ve got a fight that day. So I try to eat well and I try to be around important people, whether it’s my family or coaches. I don’t get nervous, I don’t get scared. Catching a punt in college football is much scarier than jumping in a cage. The day of the fight is like an appreciation day, we get to appreciate our gifts in front of other people. So what’s the point of worrying about it or being afraid?
What has been the highest point of your career thus far? Why? How about the lowest?
Let’s see, honestly, it’s the people that have contacted me about my message that I try to get across. I make posts on social media about taking care of yourself, eating healthy, and loving yourself. It’s been just an outreach from so many people, people from my childhood, people that I haven’t spoken with in years. And, every time I get something from people thanking me for my message, it validates that everything that I’m doing is working, it’s for a reason. Every time I get to use this platform for me to get to get my message across, it’s amazing.
And how about the lowest point?
So, I should say that it was laying on the mat after my last fight, or in the locker room afterwards. I was physically beat. I wasn’t questioning myself, but I was questioning the importance of that beating, or the importance of being injured from a fight. But, honestly the biggest lows that I feel are the times that I have to isolate myself while training for a fight. I’d rather be out there working with others, helping people, so whenever I have to isolate myself during training, focus on me, my training, my routines, not being able to be helping others, helping them to develop. When people are reaching out to me, and I cant get back to them as quickly as I’d like, those are my lowest points.
In 20 years when you’re looking back on your career, what would you have had to accomplish in order to think of it as a success? Why?
I want to be an ambassador for this sport, an ambassador for people with mental health issues, people who struggle with substance abuse. I want to create a family of my own someday. I want to be a mentor, coach, some type of leader for the youth in the community, especially when it comes to combat sports and healthy living. If I can be a mentor to people for things like diet, exercise, and discipline; these are things that are important. These are things that build character. So, that’s my goals, to start something that will allow people to maximize their gifts. I want to create a scholarship to allow people who don’t have the means to train, but they’ve got the skill and dedication, to be allowed to go to a gym like Gladiators. I’ve got a bunch of cousins who helped me in the beginning. It’s a great experience to be able to help people to learn about themselves.
Do you have anything that you’d like to plug? Do you have any upcoming fights? Would you like to shout-out your school/coaches?
Yes, absolutely! I’d like to shout-out Gladiators Academy and Tim Credeur. Also, I’d like to thank Gulf Coast Homes in New Iberia and Travis Tabor and Ashton Leblanc. Cody Wells, Mike Bruno, Deantre Plumbar, Tyson Labit, AJ Fletcher, Tyrek Malveaux, JD Domageaux, Renee Delhomme, these are my training partners, and they deserve a lot of credit. I’d like to thank my coach Christian Fulgium. They have helped me tremendously in learning about this sport.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank my family for all of the support; Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters, thanks for putting up with my craziness and embracing it.