Article by Anton Gurevich

This Saturday, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon “The Truth” Vera will go toe-to-toe in the main event of UFC on FOX 4, with sights on challenging the winner of UFC 151’s Jones vs. Hendo match-up for the undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight title.

Vera will be representing San Diego-based Alliance Mixed Martial Arts, alongside Phil Davis (vs. Wagner Prado) and Phil De Fries (vs. Oli Thompson). Undefeated veteran Travis “Hapa” Brown was originally scheduled to face Ben Rothwell as the fourth Alliance MMA fighter at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

Alliance MMA has long-established its status as one of the leading gyms in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Having three fighters LIVE on FOX is just a testimony to the quality of fighters in Chula Vista, and now also El Cajon, California. The troops are led by Eric Del Fierro, who has already one UFC Champion under his roof. But with Dominick Cruz currently recovering from his knee injury, Vera and co., will be looking to improve their positions in the UFC.

Speaking exclusively to, Eric Del Fierro shared his thoughts about going 3-0 on Saturday night, the evolution of Alliance MMA, and Dominick Cruz’s chances to reign supreme after recovering from knee injury. In addition, photographer Scott Hirano travelled to Chula Vista, California, to document Alliance MMA’s preparations for August 4th Octagon action.

Feel free to follow Scott Hirano on Twitter at @ScottHirano. Eric Del Fierro can be found at @EricDelFierro.

As a head coach at Alliance MMA, what can you tell about the team?
We are very tight nit group of fighters and coaches that are very blessed to get to do what we love everday!

What makes it special?
What makes us special… I would say the amount of talent on any given day that shows up to train. There are so many athletes with different strengths and they are all willing to help each other. Oh and the weather in San Diego is perfect year round!!!

Is there any type of special training to get 3 out of 3 this Saturday?
Well, all the guys are training hard and are looking forward to competing on FOX. Every fight poses different sytlistic challenges, so every guy has had very specific training in regards to their match-up.

Many fans don’t know much info about the coaching staff of their favorite fighters. What is your martial arts background, and how did you find your way into Alliance MMA?
I have been involved with MMA for about 15 years. I started in Kenpo Karate, and progressed to Boxing, Kickboxing and grappling. When the UFC introduced MMA to the world, I started mixing my training and progressed from there. I have been coaching professionaly for over 10 years.

What in your opinion is the biggest difference between being a fighter and being a coach?
The biggest difference is exactly that, one is a fighter and his focus is self improvment and competition. Fighters have to have 100% dedication in improving their overall skill level and getting ready for fights. Whereas a coach is focused on helping the fighter improve, identifiying weaknesses, correcting technique, preparing the athlete for competition.

You’ve met many talented fighters along the way. Who in your opinion made the biggest progress since he (or she) first stepped into your gym?
Its very hard to say, since we have so many guys on team. Phil Davis went 5-0 in UFC with one year of MMA training behind him, Dominick Cruz won his title WEC title in a very quick timeframe. Alexander Gustaffson has made leaps and bounds in his wrestling and takedown defense. There are just so many guys that I can discuss.

Dominick Cruz is currently recovering from his knee injury. What can you tell about his determination to fight again?
Injuries are part of the sport an even a severe injury like ACL, is just that an injury. Dominick knows that he is going to heal and going to fight again, he just has to be patient and heal correctly . He is very motivated athlete and knows that rehab is part of the training process to prepare him to come back to fighting.

There’s a talk in MMA community that Dominick Cruz’s incredible footwork and movement will not be the same after such injury. Would you agree?
No I disagree, I think ACL repair now is state of the art. Meaning you have athletes in every sport from Football to Baseball, Sprinting, return to their sport and compete at the same level they were when they got injured , I dont expect this to hinder his movement at all. I have a fighter in my camp, Myles Jury, who had the same ACL injury repair and is back to fighting and performing better now than before injury. His skill level is higher now than pre-injury. So no, I dont expect it to hinder anything Dominick does in his fights. Dominick strengths are reactive to his opponent, he fights more on instinct than on any specific movement.

How many champions you are planning to have under your roof in 2013?
Wish I had all the weightclasses (laughs). No speficic plans per say we take one fight at a time and if it leads to title fights well thats great! Right now every fight is tough and every fight is treated as the biggest fight of your career, so we just keep moving forward and see what future has for us..

Who in your opinion will be the first to join Cruz as a champion in the UFC?
I dont look past any opponents, I set short term goals , I train all our guys with the intentions of getting them to Title fights someday.

What would be your first advise to a teenager who wants to go pro as an MMA fighter?
Start training now, we have programs in place to get teen and beginners moving up the ranks with proper instruction in BJJ, wrestling, boxing and kickboxing. We have beginner, intermediate and advanced classes at our gym for all levels. So my advise would be take a class and have fun training, your coaches will tell you when its time to move you to pro level.

Are you welcoming beginners at your gym?
Yes, absolutely.

Thanks a lot! Would you like to mention any sponsors or/and share any additional info about Alliance MMA?
Yes, thank you. Please visit Special Thanks to our sponsors Monster Energy, Toyo Tires, Badboy Brand, Triumph United and Lexani.