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Enrique Barzola details experience living at American Top Team ahead of UFC Chile: ‘It’s the only way to get better’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Enrique Barzola trains, eats and sleeps all in one place.

The featherweight fighter has found a second home almost 3,000 miles away from where he lives in Lima, Peru. Since winning the second season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America in late 2015, Barzola has been doing his training camps at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. “El Fuerte” has not only been sharpening the skills that currently have him unbeaten in his last three fights, but he has also been living in the dorms of ATT.

Built inside the actual ATT gym, the dorms give many international fighters an opportunity to leave home, temporarily reside abroad and get world-class training all in one package.

This deal has been instrumental to Barzola’s success in the UFC.

The 29-year-old fighter is currently 4-1 in the UFC with his lone loss being a controversial split decision to Kyle Bochniak back at UFC on FOX 21. The Peruvian is on a solid streak that’s composed of back-to-back-to-back wins over Chris Avila, Gabriel Benitez, and Matt Bessette.

Today, Barzola is on the verge of extending his streak to four in a row. The ATT product will be fighting close to home at the UFC’s debut event in Chile on Saturday night. He will fight Contender Series alumnus Brandon Davis.

Leading up to Saturday night, MMA Fighting caught up with Barzola (in an interview conducted in Spanish) to get a personal glimpse of what is like to live in at ATT.


Danny Segura: You’re living at ATT, what’s that like?

Enrique Barzola: Yeah, right now I’m living at American Top Team. I’m staying in the lodgings, in the rooms here in the gym. They’re very good and they’re very cozy and comfortable. They have everything: kitchen, a living room with a TV, sofas, air conditioning, everything is really good.

DS: Why did you decide to do your training camps and live at ATT?

EB: It’s the only way to get better. It’s the only way to get out of your comfort zone so you can just keep training. This is a difficult profession, and you need to be focused, you need to be improving in all qualities and learning in all areas that you’re lacking. So that’s how it goes, you’re here with fighters that have that same mentality, so you advance at a strong pace and diligently.

And I obviously like my country very much, but the truth is that I have too many things to do that distract me and keep me from concentrating. There is always something back home that always interrupts my trainings.

DS: Like what?

EB: It’s the comforts. In Peru and in our countries there are always places to eat, your friends, routine things like going to visit the family, my siblings and aunts and uncles, and this and that, traveling and all that.

Here you get more complete training because here you only live with athletes who only think about fighting, on improving. All of their worlds revolve around MMA. And in Peru there are a lot of distractions as I mentioned.

DS: What does your training camp schedule look like?

EB: When I first arrived, I was training three to four times a day, an hour or an hour and a half sessions. Obviously, in the morning it’s the hard training and the other trainings are more on the technical work. So early it’s difficult because I would have wrestling in the morning and strength and conditioning in the afternoon, and then after that, everything is just techniques and drills.

And when the fight is close, I just do two trainings a day. A hard one in the morning and at night just technique. And that’s how I’ve managed to have a very strong camp. I feel full of energy, almost as if I haven’t been doing any training. My body feels great, I physically feel good.

DS: So what happens on Sundays?

EB: I train Monday through Saturday, so Sundays I rest. I sometimes go to the beach to relax the body, I go grocery shopping, I cook the food for the week, you know.

DS: Do you have any hobbies or anything you do outside of training?

EB: My pastimes are just going to the beach, hanging out with my friends. Sometimes we get together with my Peruvian and Latino friends, we go to someone’s house and we fire up the grill, make some food, watch some fights if it’s a Saturday and just hang out.

DS: Who are you living with?

EB: There are several fighters, some are on the come up, so they’re not in the UFC yet. There is a Titan FC champion, [Jose] “Shorty” Torres, he’s been here for like three months. There is Marc Diakiese, he fights at 155. There is also an American football player (Greg Hardy) that’s going to fight on the Contender Series, he’s there doing his camp and he’s staying in the rooms. There is also Kyoji Horiguchi and other fighters who at the moment I don’t recall their names. Oh, and there’s also the Russians, there is Rashid Magomedov, he’s there training with his team.

DS: What’s it like to live with a bunch of fighters from all over the world?

EB: Of course at the beginning we’re just a bunch of strangers but over time we start to get to know each other and we respect each other. We obviously see each other again in training, so we also share some things there, you know, there is a training partner relationship there. So it’s all good, everyone has their own customs and objectives, but we’re all advancing and focused. There are people from Japan, some are from the UK, some are Russian and we all come here to focus and train. And back to what you asked me regarding training here, it’s not there is nothing in our countries, we have enough to train, but the customs and the comforts makes it harder to train. If you’re outside your country, all you have to do is to advance, advance and advance in your game.

DS: And how’s your English coming along?

EB: The English, I’m still working on it with my friends. I have a friend named Mark and a friend named Robert, he also speaks English, so we practice a bit. I’m improving, I can’t tell you I’m good, but I understand a lot and speak little.

DS: Is it hard to go through training without being able to fully speak English?

EB: At the begging yeah, but once you’ve gotten through the same sessions, you already know what to do and you get used to it. Your body and your mind adapt to those classes and you just have to do it, you can just look around and see what your training partners are doing and you just repeat it. Or you can ask someone, if you didn’t understand, you can ask a Brazilian, which there are many of them here, and you can just ask them, “What’s going on, what do we have to do?”

DS: Many thought you would get a top-15 opponent next, how do you feel about Brandon Davis?

EB: The truth is that I’m very calm. Every fighter has a different style and skill set and no fighter in the UFC is an easy fight. I prepare to not get knocked out, to not get submitted, to not lose a decision, always. So any fighter that I get, I’m always going to prepare hard, so I can keep winning. I’m happy with the fighter that was given to me. Like I said, I still have to do my job and I think that after UFC Chile I’m going to get a top-15 or top-10 [opponent]. I’m not bothered on that end, I’m calm and I’m very focused on getting the victory.