Gulf Coast Interview

Lafayette’s Dark Knight – Chris JeanBatiste – Headkicks Martial Arts & Fitness

UFC Lightweight champion Dustin Poirier with Chris JeanBatiste.

There’s a once kept secret now sweeping the nation that Louisiana natives have been privy to for some time now – Lafayette is a special place. Named after Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer who fought alongside the colonists during the American Revolutionary war, the city of Lafayette maintains the fighting spirit and tradition of its namesake. Two current UFC champions hail from Lafayette – Heavyweight Daniel Cormier and Lightweight Dustin Poirier. To put that in perspective, a city with a population of 127,000 has spawned two current UFC world champions.

The Lafayette mixed martial arts scene is blossoming into one of the most promising patches of combat sports in the world. Young up-and comers from The Hub City such as A.J. Fletcher, Brandon Hebert, Abram Sellers and Elliot Hebert are all making their marks and are awaiting their opportunities to prove themselves on the national stage. Lafayette native and mixed martial artist Chris JeanBatiste is an integral part of a younger generation that is carrying the torch of combat sports in Southern Louisiana. JeanBatiste is 7-3 as an amateur, and he’s coming off of a title victory over Chris Crosby at Bayou Fighting Championship 38 on June 15th. JeanBatiste is a prototypical martial artist, focused on the balance of his mind, body and spirit. We caught up with JeanBatiste and talked about his last fight and his origins and path in mixed martial arts.

You had a big fight recently, tell us about it!

“It was actually a rematch! We originally fought in March, and I had the flu, but I still fought. My coach thought about pulling me out of the fight, my mom did, but it never crossed my mind. A normal person would not have taken the fight. I still took it, and pulled out a split (decision). So, we had a rematch, which is kind of rare in the amateur realm, but it got set up. My opponent fought twice since March, and got two first-round submissions. And, he obviously had revenge on his mind. I hadn’t fought since our last fight, but I dominated the fight and got the unanimous decision and got a belt for it.”

“In the beginning, I didn’t have any intentions to fight at all, I just wanted to train.”

How’d you get into fighting?

“Before I was into fighting, before I started training, I was just a fan. I used to watch the UFC and the other organizations like Strikeforce and Elite FC. Before that, I was actually into boxing for a while, then MMA kind of came along. But, at the time the UFC didn’t have Fight Nights and stuff. The only way to watch was to buy the pay-per-view, and I wasn’t always able to, but the UFC was growing. I had been watching it and was a fan for years, and I used to fantasize about being a fighter, but it wasn’t something I was trying to pursue seriously. However, the opportunity came along years later. A guy I went to school with was a fighter, and he was into karate and all since he was a kid. I ran into him at the gym one time, and he offered me the chance to train with him. In the beginning, I didn’t have any intentions to fight at all, I just wanted to train. But, after training for so long, they offered me the opportunity, and I thought I might as well give this a shot and see where it goes. I thought ‘if I get whipped, I’ll probably never do it again.’ Well, I took the chance!

Can I tell you where I got the nickname The Dark Knight?”

Sure, go ahead!

“My first fight, I wore a cut off hoodie, and it had a Batman logo on it, and I’m known for dressing in black all the time. Before the fight, my coach looked at me and asked, ‘what are you, The Dark Knight?’ At first, it was just something he said, and after a while he started calling me The Dark Knight all the time, but I hadn’t embraced it yet because my favorite super hero was Spider Man. But, it grew on me, and now I embrace it, and I’ve been going by it ever since. Everybody knows me as The Dark Knight.”

“My body has completely changed – my mind and spirit has evolved, and it all translates into fighting. Yoga benefits me in every way imaginable.”

We noticed that you’re into Yoga as well. How long have you been practicing, and what do you think it adds to your arsenal?

“I’ve been doing Yoga since January of last year, so a little over a year. My body has completely changed – my mind and spirit has evolved, and it all translates into fighting. Yoga benefits me in every way imaginable. I know most of the guys aren’t doing Yoga, but it’s a whole different aspect that a lot of people aren’t even onto yet – mind, body and spirit, it’s deep. It’s so beneficial physically, spiritually, every way imaginable. I go into fights so calm and composed. I was already calm, but Yoga made it so much deeper for me.”

What do you like most about fighting?

“I like contact, I like the technical aspect of it. Basically, my skills versus my opponent’s, seeing who can impose theirs better. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s extreme, but it’s a beautiful thing. Also, I enjoy the attention. I’m not really an attention seeker or anything like that, but I do enjoy the fact that a lot of people are watching and they’re inspired by, and admire, what I do. Even training, I was in love with training before I ever got into fighting, hitting the pads, training, learning as much as I could. The one thing that I hate about everything is cutting weight. I think I speak for every fighter when I say cutting weight is not fun at all. I love training, I love fighting, I love it all, but I hate cutting weight.”

What weight do you fight at?

“I fight at 170. I fought at 160 twice, and that did not work out so well for me. Bad things happen to me when I fight at 160. I will probably never drop down that low again. So, I fought at 165 a few times, and that’s not too bad. I’m hoping in the future that could become an official weight class. But, the majority of my fights have been at 170, and I’m undefeated there. They were all one-sided victories, so I feel like until they open a 165 pound division, 170 is most likely where I belong. It’s where I’m the sharpest, the healthiest, and it’s where I don’t feel that I might die from cutting weight.”

“I don’t get emotionally invested in the event, or emotionally invested in the opponent. I have faith in my fighting abilities, and I go out there and let it play out how it’s meant to be played out.”

What do you usually walk around at?

“180, it might go up a little higher, but I always stay in that range.”

What do you feel is your biggest strength?

“I think my fight IQ is pretty sharp. Obviously it could always be sharper, but I feel like I’m very smart and aware in different situations in a fight. Also, I think the fact that I’m so composed gives me an advantage over my opponents. So, I think that my composure and my fight IQ, my smartness, to be able to just react and be technically intelligent in a fight, those are my strengths.”

What was it like the first time you stepped into the cage?

“I didn’t have any emotions at all. A lot of people were asking me if I was nervous, or if I was going to be nervous, and I wasn’t sure. But, I was just so zoned in, and so ready to take this challenge on. I didn’t really have any emotions, to be honest, and that’s how it is for the majority of my fights. There was one fight earlier this year in January. We were supposed to have 5-6 of our guys on the card, but some of them got injured or had some other things come up. I ended up being the only one of our guys on the card, and I remember being a little nervous for that one, because I was feeling like I was the only one representing our gym and our coach. But as soon as I walked out, I felt refreshed and comfortable. For the majority of them, I don’t get emotionally invested in the event, or emotionally invested in the opponent. I have faith in my fighting abilities, and I go out there and let it play out how it’s meant to be played out.”

“In 6 months, I see myself being a professional, and ready to dominate whoever comes my way, whoever gets put in front of me, and becoming the best fighter that I can possibly become – a force to be reckoned with.”

Who or what has been your biggest challenge thus far?

“I strongly believe that I’m a better fighter than everybody I fought. My first loss was my first fight. At the time, I didn’t have a take down defense at all. That’s why I lost that one. I was winning on the feet, but the guy kept taking me down, and that’s how he won. My second loss, I was winning until I got poked in the eye in the second round, and the referee didn’t stop the fight until I got swarmed with punches. But, I was winning that fight clearly until the eye poke. I wanted a rematch, but after some time passed, I let it go.

My last loss was in November, and I got knocked out in the first round. I feel that it was because of my weight cut. The fight was at 160, and I cut 20 lbs in one week, and I hadn’t re-hydrated properly. I was much slower and so dehydrated, that when the shot landed I went out. But, I feel like I’m a better fighter than anyone I faced, hands down. I know I need to step it up, because I’m going to be a pro next year, and I’m going to be facing better fighters, and I need to become better myself. It’s a challenge every day. These battles with myself and my brain – always constantly trying to improve and get better. I take every fight so seriously, to the point where I am hard on myself, very critical of myself.

One of the biggest challenges is the balance between everything. I have a full-time job, and balancing that with training and everything else I do, it’s a challenge every day. A lot of times, my body breaks down, and I get tired. And it’s the same monotonous routine every day, and that’s a challenge in and of itself. It’s a fight every day, a back-and-forth fight with myself every day.”

What are your short-term goals?

“The short term goal is always to win the next fight, and improve in every way that I can, every single day – constantly grinding, constantly improving, staying consistent, never getting complacent, every day improving, and winning the next fight – to take one fight at a time, and win every last one of them. I fight, and I train and I work hard to win every last one of them. In 6 months, I see myself being a professional, and ready to dominate whoever comes my way, whoever gets put in front of me, and becoming the best fighter that I can possibly become – a force to be reckoned with. “

“I definitely plan on being a martial artist and training for the rest of my life. I want to leave a legacy and leave my mark on the MMA world.”

What’s been the highest point of your career thus far?

“The fight that just happened. There was a lot going into it, I lost a friend that I loved like a sister in November of last year. I really had a hard time coming back from that. I fought 3 times since she passed, and I won all 3, but it’s something that I deal with every day. I think I’m a better fighter and a better me because of her. It was unfortunate, but it changed me as a fighter. Moving forward, I’m always constantly improving, and at the same time, keeping her on my mind. She was a fighter as well, and it was a life changing thing. That was the first person that I lost that was close to me since my dad passed. I lost him when I was 10, he was 37. I’m 26 now, and I’m on a path to something bigger and better than where I am.

My last fight was my first rematch, so there were questions like how do I win more convincingly than I did the first time. I had it on my mind, that I wasn’t going to underestimate this guy, but if he couldn’t beat me with the flu, there was no way he could beat me at 100%. Going into that fight, I was confident, because I trained extremely hard for that fight. I fought to get a convincing win, and I proved how dominate I am. I proved how I can handle fighting a guy again in a rematch. The first time we fought, he thought he won. This time, there was no doubt who won. It was a massive accomplishment, being my 10th fight, and winning a belt for the first time. But, this is only the beginning. There’s so much more to do, and so much more to accomplish. I want to continue rising.”

When you hang the gloves up, what will you have had to accomplish in order to think of your career as a success?

“I want to make my mark and leave a legacy. I know for a fact that I won’t be fighting until I’m 40. I’m 26 now, and I don’t plan on fighting until I’m 40. But, we will see what happens. It really depends on how life pans out. I don’t have any children, I’m not married, and I’m completely focused on what I’m doing. Right now, it’s still the beginning, but, I’m not going to have this 20 year career. I feel like other doors are going to open and I’m going to walk through those doors. But, I definitely plan on being a martial artist and training for the rest of my life. I want to leave a legacy and leave my mark on the MMA world.”

Well, that about wraps it up. Any shout-outs or upcoming news?

“I’m so appreciative of my coach Aaron Phillips, all of my training partners, everybody that supports me. This is just the beginning. I’m looking forward to everything that’s going to happen next. I feel like the best is yet to come. I’m going to stay hell-bent on improvement – continue to improve, continue to inspire and be the best that I can possibly be. As of now, I’m not 100% sure when I’m going to fight again. I may wait until November, because I’ve been fighting consistently for almost the past 2 years, and I feel like I deserve a break from cutting weight and everything. I’m open to options, and I’m going to fight at least 1 more time this year. I may take another, but at least 1 more. And, I’ll turn pro in 2020. I appreciate all of the promoters and all of the supporters for everything that they do, and for believing in me, and everything that comes with it. I’m appreciative and grateful for all of it.”

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