Paul Lazenby and Bringing the MMA to Vancouver
Canadian Mixed Martial Arts champion, undisputed Canadian Muay Thai champion, stuntman, actor, pro wrestler and broadcast journalist Paul Lazenby, gives the scoop on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and what they could mean to a city like Vancouver, soon to be in the spotlight of the world.
WD: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you're involved in at the moment.
PL: For the past nine years I've been a professional stuntman and actor in Vancouver. I'm currently working on The A-Team, and stunt doubling for former wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin on his movie. It's something I kind of fell over backward into after leaving a career in pro-wrestling and it's been a hell of a lot of fun. It's beat the hell out of me at times, but it's been a lot of fun.
WD: Could you tell us about your fighting background.
PL: I actually went into fighting with no intention whatsoever of being a fighter and I got into it extremely late. I originally wanted to be a professional wrestler.
When I was 23 I was a competitive power lifter and a strongman and I loved pro wrestling so I wanted to do that, so I kind of hammered away at that. I went to Calgary and learned how to be a pro wrestler at the Hart Brother's Pro Wrestling school and did that for a few years and got to travel around the world.
I always wanted to wrestle in Japan and a couple of times it almost happened but it fell through. Then I met an agent in Detroit in 1996 when I was wrestling on a show there and she said she wasn't booking wrestlers but she was booking real fighters.
I'd been watching bootlegs of mixed martial arts shows from Japan. MMA at the time was much more advanced over there than it was over here so I knew a lot of the names and faces and recognized the organization she was talking about. I lied to her and told her I was an experienced fighter and didn't really think much about it. I filled out the application form and thought that they'd look at it, laugh at it, and throw it in the garbage because they'd never accepted a Canadian before.
A month later I got a call from the same agent saying pack your bags you're going to Tokyo.
Without any prior experience in wrestling, martial arts or anything, at the age of 28 I had my very first fight in front of 10,000 people in Tokyo. And I guess I lost in an entertaining fashion because they immediately invited me back the next month to stay at their school in Yokohama for a six week training camp, contingent on me fighting the world champion four days after I got there. I kind of jumped in the deep end as a fighter.
WD: What was that experience like for you.
PL: I loved going to Japan. It was fantastic but at the same time it was frustrating because I developed physically a lot faster than I did mentally. I don't really have the same mind set as a lot of the other fighters. It takes a lot more for me to gear myself up mentally to go into a fight and I was fighting world class guys right out of the gate. As a result, I lost my first six fights in the process of learning how to be a fighter. I finally got into the right mind set just after moving to Vancouver from Ontario where I'm originally from. Then I got into kick boxing as a world mixed martial arts and started winning fights after that.
WD: How young were you when you first realized you wanted to be a wrestler.
PL: I was always a wrestling fan as a kid. I wasn't allowed to watch it so I'd sneak out of my parents' place to watch it. I always loved pro wrestling as a kid. I always say I had my mid-life crisis at an extremely early age because at 23 I remember I was working as an assistant manager in a department store and really hated my life. Aside from power lifting, from which you make no money, I didn't enjoy anything about what I was doing, and was thinking “I don't want to be here in ten years.”
Then I saw an ad for a pro wrestling school, The Hart Brothers' pro wrestling school, in the back of a wrestling magazine and a couple of very good friends of mine, Carlos Leal and Kristel Vines, actually lent me the money because I was completely flat broke. Carlos even drove me from Ontario to Calgary. That's how I got off the ground as a wrestler. That was all I wanted to do. I never wanted to fight for real.
WD: Can you describe some of the styles of fighting you do now.