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Global Training Report


Fighting Edge of the World 

Interview with

Bob Sapp

gChance and Necessity of Beast Phenomenonh

From Sports Graphic Number 569

Feb. 20, 2003

@Text by Shannon O Higgins

Translated by Yoko Kondo


"What is important is not a length of a career but its density. Ifve already had success in just one year, that ordinarily takes most athletes 20 or 30 years to accomplish."                  

                                     ----Bob Sapp


Bob: Ifm going to see sumo wrestling later today. I'm very excited.

Q: Is it your first time to watch sumo?

Bob: Yes, but I wonder if I'll be able to see it. Wherever I go, Ifm mobbed by autograph hunters. I like it, but sometimes the situation gets crazy. I might not have time to watch the sumo.


As he expected, when Sapp showed up in the Kokugikan, it was thrown into an uproar. Due to the spectators who tried to take a look at him, it got into a panic one moment, and the guards managed to get it under control. As for sumo wrestlers, they showed a bitter smile saying that everybody lost his/her head over Sapp, and nobody looked at sumo fights for a while.

Sapp sensation, which broke out last autumn, is increasing in its force. As of the end of January, he has seven contracts of CM [commercials]. He appears in many TV programs like a TV jack such as variety shows, dramas, and wideshows [a type of general talk oriented show], and draws viewers' attention by his actorfs spirit beyond professionals. Moreover, his versatile talents are shown in his work as a commentator of boxing world championships or Superball too. His CD debut has been decided. And his character goods, figure, and T-shirts seem to be as popular as they get short of stock. Sapp shows up in media without missing a single day.

His favorite Japanese word is gdaijoubuh [ = ok, no problem]. A word he doesn't like is gcanft doh. He smiled and said that no matter how positive he is, he couldnft imagine such a big success in Japan.

It is already well-known, but Sapp used to be in NFL.. He entered Chicago Bears at the third round of the draft as a super star of the world of College American Football. But he was far from success as a professional, and changed  teams one after another. After that he finished his three and half-year career due to the injury of his Achilles tendon.


Q: Even though your real ability was so good that you were selected to the all star team of All American Universities, your role in NFL was a substitute player. And you retired from it without many chances of playing. Is it so  difficult to do an active play in NFL?

Bob: Well, I was young for one reason. But in my case, the main reason is a big gap between my ideal and what the team expected me to do (laugh). Football is a game of technicians, so each player has his own role and performs it faithfully. As for me, I wanted to play offence guard (OG) by making use of my physical build. But I was speedy considering my physical build, so all the teams asked for me to keep the position of left tackle (LT). Both are the same in terms of the role which stops an opponent by tackle, but one big difference is that OG tackles, throws him away, and immediately gets covered over him to stop his movements completely. LT, on the other hand, blocks the man, and keeps on running. I am hot-blooded, so I couldnft be satisfied unless I put an opponent under my control completely. (laugh) Because of that nature, I disturbed the team play in a manner that I, as LT, thought was in a way of a player with a ball. Looking back on those day now, I should have pressed myself at the scenes where I should, and should have thrown an opponent down only when it was necessary. I was too aggressive.h

Q: After retiring from the NFL which is placed on the top of the sport world, you aimed at fighting in kakuto-world as your next career. It is understandable if you are from wrestling. But from American way of thinking, it is considered gMiyakoochih (retire into the country), isnft it? Did you like kakutogi from a long time ago?

Bob:  I am big, and more than anything else I have an image of a wild beast which is suitable to a villain part, donft I? I wanted to have a chance to make use of it effectively. That is probably the main reason. No, to tell the truth, I had no idea to go to pro wrestling after retiring from American Football. But in the second or third year of NFL, Jessy gthe bodyh Ventura (who used to be an active pro wrestler in WWF and others) said to me, ghyour arm is thickest in NFL. You are big and have an impact. I guess you can make more money in pro wrestling.h In fact, I was told the same thing in any team I played. Especially, I was told at the last year of my play, ghit must be more suitable for you to play a villain part in Hollywood or to play a role of a heel in pro wrestling than to stay in the team as a substitute player. You have a potential, so you could become a regular member in NFL someday. But taking accumulation of damage on you body into consideration, itfs not worth doing it, isnft it? Why donft you think about it?h So I decided to try pro wrestling when I got injured.

Q:  2 meters in height and weigh 170kg [374 lbs.]. Your body is an enormous lump of muscle. The big body was surely built up by American Football, but have you changed the way you train for kakutogi?

Bob: Of course. There is a big difference in training between NFL which requires technical performance and kakutogi which requires a total balance. Now Ifm focusing on building up the muscle with a good balance along with having power, not on training mainly strength and explosive power [shunpatsuryoku]. So adding to the basic training such as squat, push ups, and abs, power lifting for upper and lower body was included too. Thanks to the training, I have transformed myself into a physical build like a basketball player. (laugh) Speaking of a big body, there is a wrestler named Shin the Giant who is 20 or 30cm taller than me. His weight is the same as mine, in fact. I was very surprised to hear that too (laugh).h

After retiring from NFL, he entered WCW. But WCW went bust before he started his career as a pro wrestler. He had an offer from WWE which produced gThe Rockh or gTriple Hh, but the payment was only $750/week with no insurance, and the compensation for an absence from the ring due to a serious injury was $250. Sapp hesitated to accept it.

But his spot fight [??] in WCW caught the eye of then K-1 boss Master Ishii, and the situation around Sapp suddenly change completely. As everybody knows, he has been very active since then.

Q: You have been fighting in two worlds; K-1 and Pride as a real fight, and pro wrestling. These two are completely different in terms of a way of fighting, preparation for a physical condition before a fight, and mentality, but donft you have any difficulty with having a balance or distinguishing between them in yourself?

Bob: Regarding distinguishing between them, the fans might be more confused with it than I am. (laugh) In fact, when I came to Japan for the first time, I aimed at the ring of pro wrestling under the name of a bodyguard of Mr. Ishii. But none of groups  showed any interest in me (laugh). After all, I stepped into the world of a real fight in search of a place for my activity, and as a result it led me to a big success. However, it has brought about confusion. Originally when I got into kakutogi, I had studied and trained with the aim of pro wrestling, so whether I like it or not, pro wrestling-like movements come out even in a real fight. A rough fight on the ring in a fight with Nakasako (June) or a power bomb in a fight with Nogueira (August) is a typical case. Even now it is said that it must have been premeditated, but in fact it was nothing deliberated or planned at all. Regarding the rough fight, I just lost my temper against my will. As for the power bomb, it happened because I was an amateur without having many techniques desperately thinking about a way to survive. If I improve myself a little more, I think I can show a different type of fight in two worlds [pro wrestling and real fights] to some extent. But I donft think I can get rid of my pro wrestling side completely.

Q: Donft you think that taking two different ways, pro wrestling and real fights, at the same time results in shortening your career as a kakuto fighter because of an increase in risk in various respects?

Bob: It will bring about some risk for sure. Actually, if I do something great, I have to do something greater than that next time to satisfy the fans. For example, I took a hard blow on my liver one time before [from Ernesto Hoost], and I stood up immediately after falling down. Due to that, everybody expects me to stand up no matter how much I get beat up now. (laugh). As more fights I do, the higher the risk I take. Namely, I would strangle my own neck with my hands to satisfy the fans. But I experienced a short career in the NFL and WCW in the past, and even if I chose either one of them, there is no guarantee that I could have a long career. When I got in NFL, my life in NFL as a player was estimated 10 years at the minimum. In fact, I was aiming at it. (laugh) What is important is not a length of career, but its density. Fortunately, Ifve already got a success only in one year, which takes one 20 or 30 years in general. Besides, in terms of money, my success is more than what Ernesto Hoost could get by becoming a K-1 champion four times in the past 10 years. Thanks to the success, I can focus on how to meet the needs of the fans without worrying about the future so much now.


Regardless mixed martial arts or pro wrestling, a main event is already reserved for him in kakutogi entertainment in Japan. His high popularity in Japan is spreading to America, his home country, too. On the other hand, his reputation in kakuto media centering on web site is not high enough yet.

Q: Reading a kakuto forum on web site sent from America, there are more negative opinions about you than expected like, gSapp has fought with only lower rank of fighters. No appreciation.h

Bob: Thatfs right. That is a very interesting phenomenon. A non-official fan sites for Bob Sapp have been uploading in each country including England and Japan, but most of them are made outside America. Kakuto-related site in America started to report gSapp phenomenonh in Japan from last month, so people start to recognize me a little by little even in my country. But still there are opinions saying, gSapp has fought with only a lower rank of fighters. Or he has no technique at all.h Every time I read these comments, I burst out laughing. What is funny is that those amateur fake kakuto specialists forget about that I am a new fighter who experienced only eight fights and an amateur who is in the middle of learning kakutogi, they argue about me as if I were a veteran fighter. All the opponents I fought are professional fighters with more experience than me and good results. None of them is weak. Actually itfs rude to them. But those opinions are the proof that Sapp phenomenon is spreading to all over the world.

Q: I think you must be very happy to be in the center of gBeast phenomenonh now, but donft you feel the way that you are getting consumed?

Bob: Surely, various things are mixed up, so I feel tired a little bit. But if I didnft like it, I wouldnft do it. Most of fighters tend to feel the way that they deserve a lot of attention and money, because they are the strongest [they think]. But I donft have that feeling at all, and canft even understand it. I am an entertainer, whose pay is determined according to how much I could make the spectator happy. Even if it becomes a direct cause to shorten my career, I am satisfied. Ifm really happy to see everybody enjoying.

Q: What is a source of your vitality, so to speak, a source of power which motivates Bob Sapp?

Bob: May be I just canft stand still. (laugh) I am extra hyper by nature, and make a move before thinking. All the staffs and trainers around me would agree with that.. Sometimes they seem to be fed up with ga three year old kid in a  giant bodyh. But what motivates gthe Beasth now are the fans. Everybody brings me new ideas like, gwhy donft you try this one next time?h In response to it, I try to do it as much as possible using my imagination. Itfs also my pleasure to imaging them surprised to see it, or their happy faces. And also criticism raises my motivation.

The fact that criticism or made-up stories appear at this phase means that I am paid a lot of attention, doesnft it? As long as I keep my faith, any ridiculous criticism turns out to become an advantageous datum which spurs the Beast phenomenon.

Q:  Is there any kakuto fighter or wrestler whom you aim at?

Bob:  My aim might be too high, but I want to be a person who makes a success in life like gThe Rockh and is respected by people like Andre the Giant. Anyhow, I will aim at being a fighter who remains in memory of people.


The interview has finished. But I asked one more question to Sapp who started a preparation to move to the next place for interview.

Q:  How do you see yourself five years later in your eyes?

Sapp stopped and stared into the distance. gFive years latercc Nothing comes to my mind at all. If possible, I wish I could be involved in the entertainment world, K-1, pro wrestling, CM, movies, or whatevercc But honestly speaking, I am not sure if I could fight in the ring. I wonder if I could physically keep in a good condition for five more yearsc. Anyway, I focus on living gthis present timeh now. OK, work, work! Hahahaha!h He headed for the next work laughing loudly.



Brought to Kakutogi Fans around the World except Japan exclusively by Global Training Report  

(c)2000-2003, Yoko Kondo. All rights reserved.

Cover pic added August 5, 2016.