This week’s interview is with Al’s training partner and friend Marcel Robin. Marcel is a great guy and I consider it a privilege to call him a good friend of mine as well. Marcel, who graduated from East Meadow high school in 2005 has been training with Al for the past six years. He has an interesting perspective not only being a teammate of Al’s but also one of his best friends. I appreciate him taking some time to do this interview and all his great insights.
You’ve known Al for a long time, but the way you guys originally met is a funny story. Can you tell us about that?
We had a mutual friend who thought Al and I were the toughest guys from our respected towns. They thought we should fist fight to see who was the toughest. We both agreed and even talked on AIM(AOL Instant Messenger) to set it up. There were no hard feelings, we even said we would hang out after. No one had any ill intent. Time passed and the fight never happened.
Not to long after Al hit me up asking me about MMA and I invited him down to the gym(Thaisport) to roll around. He rolled around with one of the toughest guys and did really well. We started training together after that and have been very close ever since.
You’ve trained with Al from his kickboxing days, to the Miletich Gym, to today with Serra Longo. Can you tell us about the progression you’ve seen in him over the years as a fighter?
The progression has been phenomenal. He came in as a wrestler with decent hands from having done some boxing at Titans. He absorbs everything very quickly, and has a really high learning curve. You’ll almost never see him get frustrated in training. If he learns something new he’ll practice it all night until he can do it right. Al always trains with a chip on his shoulder. It’s not fun sparing with him anymore.
What made you make the switch with Al from the Miletich Gym to Serra Longo?
I hadn’t been training for awhile and I wanted to come back. Al, Trevor, and Abatelli had been training here so I knew training with Serra Longo would be a great move. It’s also been great because I’ve gotten to be with Al every step of the way. Training, in the locker room before fights, and in his corner. It means a lot to be able to help one of my best friends that way.
Tell us about the great training experience with Matt Sera, Ray Longo, and Eric Hyer. Is it not a coincidence that so many guys from the gym are doing so well?
It’s no coincidence. Training here you really get the best of everything. You get the best standup training with Ray and Eric, and the best ground work with Matt and Nick Serra. To be the best you have to train with the best, and you get that here with the great teammates and training partners. It’s not just about making weight and getting a win, all the coaches here genuinely care about you as a person. That definitely makes you want to work hard for them.
What do you think is the most important part of Al’s game?
Wrestling will always be the most important part of Al’s game. It’s not just the physical toughness he’s gained from it but the mental toughness as well. While his opponent starts to get tired, his mind is only thinking one thing, go go go. With that being said I think his heart is actually the best part of his game.
What’s it like training with Al? How high is the intensity level? Mr Iaquinta talked about your late night training sessions. Does that happen often?
Training with Al the intensity is always high and is heart is always into it. He really knows how to push everyone around him to work hard. After training with Al you feel better but your body feels worse. I wouldn’t trade it for anything though.
A lot of times leading up to one of Al’s fights I’ll go to his garage late at night and work with him. He likes to check his cardio and make sure his weight is on. He knows he can always call me and I’m glad he takes advantage of that. Sometimes Al’s dad gets involved, and being a coach himself he really knows how to push him.
Just to make it to the UFC you have to be tough, dedicated, and driven. To stay in the UFC you have to be a step above that, and to be a champion you have to be on an even higher level above that. I think Al has those attributes. He has a mental toughness that can’t be taught, it can’t even be explained you have to experience it yourself.
What were your thoughts on Al’s first two fights against Jon Tuck as well as Myles Jury?
I thought he fought the Tuck fight very smart. His submission defense was great. He worked hard with Matt(Serra), I knew he wasn’t going to get caught again like he did against Audinwood. He fought smart and composed.
As far as the Jury fight everyone knows the second and third round belong to Al. The break(in between the second and third round) was bullshit. If that extended break doesn’t happen Al most likely finishes Jury in the beginning of the third round. He pushed the pace and fought his fight. You saw how important Al’s heart and cardio is to his game.
Have you gotten use to to seeing Al on TV every week yet? Do you think this experience will change him at all?
I like seeing him on TV, but it’s tough because I miss my friend. It’s nice to see his hard work paying off. It’s tough not being with him during a fight, in the warm up room or in his corner. I’ve been right there to support him since day one, and in every fight he had in the Ring of Combat. I’m not use to not being there. With TUFLive I find myself being one of those crazy people yelling at the TV.
It’s impossible to not change slightly from all this. Change is inevitable, but it isn’t a bad thing. He won’t come back cocky or anything like that, it isn’t in his nature.
Did you offer Al any advise or words of wisdom before he left to be on the show?
I think I’m one of the few people Al actually asks for advise from time to time. I didn’t really have much that I had to say. I told him to work hard, enjoy himself, and stay out of the liquor cabinet. Al is always himself. He isn’t going to go out of his way to get attention or be funny, and he isn’t going to kiss anyones ass.
Talk a little bit about Al not only as a teammate and training partner, but as a friend.
I feel lucky that I get to see Al as a teammate and a friend. In the gym it’s always professional and hard work. We both come in and get down to business. Out of the gym he’s my boy we have “normal” twenty something year old experiences. He’s a great friend who never oversteps his boundaries. He may not give a lot of advice, but when he does have something to say, or advice to give it’s always important. He’s a different person in and out of the gym, but they’re both great people.
You know the drill for the last question. Quarter finals are up next, what are your thoughts on Al’s chances from here out?
Granted I might be a little biased but I see Al winning the entire show. I’ve broken down and paid close attention to all the fighters on the show, and I feel there’s no one Al can’t beat. I don’t think anyone there is as mentally strong as Al. He’s going to work his way through. God knows we’ll be rooting for him.
Interview by- Matt Pellicane