Interview with Dave Cryer
February 6, 2009
The Dave Cryer story is one we all know well – to never judge a book by
its cover. It’s one that many fans find to be the truth about MMA fighters –
that despite tattoos, shaved heads, threatening muscles, and the habit of
looking you right in the eye, most fighters are easygoing, approachable,
unassuming, friendly guys (and girls).
He’s the fat kid who didn’t like sports, but ended up training to be an MMA
fighter. He has no arrest record, but looks like many guys who do. And
despite standing at a meaty six-foot even and sporting more ink than a
Sharpie factory (including where his eyebrows used to be), Dave Cryer is
jovial and self-effacing, almost to a fault. In this interview, we discussed
male role models, the meaning of team loyalty, and life as “the tattooed
JT: Tell us about where you’re from and how you got
into mixed martial arts.
DC: I’m from all over Southern California. I was born in Anaheim, but
I’ve lived everywhere. I went to high school in Orange County, and then on
weekends I hung out in Norwalk. But I’ve been all over the place. I’ve been
to 30 different schools, just from my mom moving all over the place.
JT: Did you have brothers and sisters or anything?
DC: Yeah, it was me, my mom, and my sister. And my stepdad came around
when I was about ten. That’s when we settled into the one home.
My stepdad showed me a lot of good worth ethic. I’ve been working with him
since I was 10 years old as a diesel mechanic. Then I stopped working for
him when I went into the military for awhile. I was in the Marine Corps for
four years. Then I came back and worked for him. He was definitely a father
JT: Did you go overseas or anything? What was that
like for you?
DC: September 11th happened, and everyone got motivated after the Twin
Towers. I figured “hey, there’s a reason to go into the military now.” And I
went in on December 11th, hoping to go to war, but it never actually
happened. I just did my time and that was pretty much it. I can’t say it was
the best experience but it was an experience. I put it on the line. I just
didn’t get to go over there.
JT: Tell me about your martial arts training. Did
you do anything either in the military or high school?
DC: I was a big fat loser in high school. I played football for two
years and then I decided I didn’t like sports. I remember the wrestling
coach was like “hey, you wanna wrestle?” I was like “nah that looks like
it’s a lot of work.”
Then there was this old fighter from King of the Cage, Dave Step. He fought
on a very early King of the Cage, he was at 145 pounds. We were working on
the same construction site together. Someone told me that he was a cage
fighter. And I didn’t really know much about it. I said “hey, you’re a cage
fighter.” He said “yeah.” I said “there’s no way you’ll kick my ass. I’ll
whip your ass.”
And thank God he didn’t kick my ass on the job site. He says “hey, come over
to my house.” And he and his old man beat the shit out of me. And I remember
going “wow, you’ve gotta be kidding me. Can you teach me some of this
I trained with him for five or six times and then I went in the military.
The military martial arts are garbage. You gotta teach thousands of people,
and you can’t really teach them too much. It doesn’t matter when you have a
I did some Muay Thai down in San Diego, and then I met John Munoz at Team
USA, now Team Pinnacle. I came to him and said “hey, I want to fight.” He
goes “You should learn first. We’ll wait until you get blue belt [in
jiu-jitsu], then fight. Do a lot of tournaments.”
And I just started competing. And I got tired of getting my ass whooped.
Then I started winning. I won Grappler’s Quest. Got third in the Pan-Ams,
got second the next year, made it to the semis at the World’s, won the Copa-Pacific
Open. Before my first [MMA] fight, I think I competed in like 40 different
jiu-jitsu tournaments. I had never wrestled, so that really helped me out
with the ability to compete in front of everybody. I really thank John for
Then John started to teach me some striking. He called Terry [Trebilcock]
and I did my first fight with Uber [Gallegos]. I had so much support, it was
amazing. I think I sold like 250 tickets my first fight. I was so damn
nervous; I don’t remember any of it. I think that was my first time in a
cage, but it went good for me. That guy was pretty tough.
JT: Talk about the guys you train with.
DC: I’ve been fortunate. Now I train at Millennia [MMA]. John Munoz
still manages me. I’ve got “Concrete” Chad Davis. He took me under his wing
and put me through the ringer. I’ve got Ryan Munday, he wrestles. Then I’ve
got Romie [Arum], Betiss [Mansouri], Will [Sriyapai], Reggie Orr. All those
guys help me out a lot. I still train once in awhile over a Pinnacle. Those
guys helped me out a lot to get me a good solid base, and they still support
me and they’re still solid friends of mine. It’s all about team. I know it’s
an individual sport, but man, without a team, you’re crap.
JT: Neil Cooke (also a Pinnacle MMA fighter)
recently said the same thing. Even though you’re the one guy that steps into
the cage and performs, it’s all about the support network you have around
you to get to that point.
DC: That’s exactly it. I’ve had so many people help me out, that, if
someone didn’t show up, I [had] a big hole in my game. Because if you’re not
getting pushed by your teammates, then you’re gonna lose. You can’t do this
sport on your own. Some of the guys that are training, they don’t get
nothing out of it sometimes. They just work their ass off every day, for
you. And then you’re the one getting all the money and the glory. I feel
kinda bad for them in that way, but it’s a special breed of person.
JT: You spoke about it a bit just now, but how
would you describe your approach or your philosophy behind your training?
DC: A lot of people say I abuse my body
and overtrain. I think, just annihilate yourself in the gym, and it comes
back to you when you fight. Because a lot of times, when you’re fighting,
you can’t think. It just comes out of reaction. And if you just murder
yourself in the gym, I think it benefits a lot.
I’m a big fan of wrestling. I never wrestled in high school, but I’m a big
fan of Dan Gable, and all those guys just murder themselves in the gym, and
they become Olympic champions. That’s my philosophy. Not everyone agrees
with me. I don’t think it’s necessarily the right way or wrong way. It’s
just kinda . . . that’s how I train. But I still think there’s more levels I
JT: What’s the toughest part for you? Is it the
training? The mental?
DC: The hardest fight is all the time away from my family. I got two
kids and an old lady. I wake up in the morning, I train, I got to work
fulltime, I come home, and I train. So my day starts about six and its ends
around eleven o’clock at night. Sometimes, when I’m leaving, my kids cry
because they want to hang out. And I’m just hoping that it picks up to where
I don’t have to work and I can just fight full-time. But that’s probably the
hardest part, being away from all them. It kinda sucks.
JT: Tell us about your family life.
DC: I have an 18-month old and a two and a half-month old. Both boys. I
can’t handle having no girls. My old lady has five sisters or something like
that. It’s insane! But my old lady is so supportive, I couldn’t ask for
anything more than that. She’s real responsible, loyal, and good-looking.
Maybe I’ll have three or four more [kids]. I’m pretty good at it, so I might
as well stick with it.
JT: When did you first watching MMA, as a fan?
DC: Didn’t watch it very much. I remember the first UFC happened. I
didn’t see it. One of my stepdad’s friends brought over a tape and I saw 30
seconds of some guy getting elbowed in the head. I went “oh my gosh, are you
kidding me?” I was young. Then I just put it to the back burner, never saw
fighting again. I met Dave, still didn’t watch fighting. Started training
jiu-jitsu, still didn’t watch fighting much until about six months before I
JT: So you’ve only been watching it on TV for about
two years or so.
DC: Yeah. Like when you start talking about the old shows, there’s
people that I don’t really know. Everyone’s bringing people’s names up and I
had no idea who they were. Now I gotta pay close attention because I might
be fighting some people some day.
JT: Let’s switch
gears here and talk about your artwork.
DC: I do plan on covering myself. No more on the face, because it really
hurts the kind of job you can have. Almost all my work is Celtic and Viking
work. The one on my eyebrows: “Valhalla Bound.” Valhalla is this belief
where the Vikings, when they would die in battle, they would go to Odin’s
Valhalla. And there’s a symbol on each side – one stands for life, one
stands for death.
A good friend of mine, Jeremy Huckabee, died in a car accident, and that was
his saying. And I have it tattooed on my face. A good friend of mine, Mark,
had it tattooed on the back of his head, and Jeremy’s wife has it tattooed
on the back of her arms. I think I got it a week after he died.
I got “Hooligan” tattooed across my throat. Before I had my kid, I was kinda
a knucklehead. Everything else is pretty much all Celtic and Viking. I’m not
a big fan of tribal style. But I wanted to get something meaningful. Like
the big one on my chest is a Thor’s hammer. And the ones on my shoulders is
for Odin the Viking God. I have Vikings on my arm and Viking boats and
Tattoos don’t make you tough. Sure, there’s a lot of guys covered in tattoos
who’ll stab you, but tattoos don’t make you tough like people think. I don’t
have tattoos because I want people to think I’m tough. And most people who
are covered in tattoos don’t know how to fight. They get tattoos because
they don’t want to get in fights, and sometimes it intimidates people away.
But if you watch the heavily-tattooed people specifically, most of the time,
they’re the ones getting their ass beat.
JT: I’m always curious to hear from fighters why
they got into the sport. Do you ever look back and contemplate how far
you’ve come and what drove you to fighting?
DC: When I was a kid, I was always going to punk rock shows, and I
really thought I was tough. But really, I was just big, fat, and dumb. I had
no idea. And maybe being dumb helped me think I would be tougher, but ever
since I really started training, I haven’t been in a street fight. Which has
been about four years. I haven’t thrown fists with anybody on the street for
that long. And now I never go out anyhow. Because every drunk guy wants to
fight the guy with tattoos. And I’m not that small of a guy, so everybody
wants to fight me. So I don’t really go out much for that.
But I do look back and I say “man, I’m lucky I never really got hurt too
bad.” Because I did not know how to fight. And I still have a long way to go
now, but back then, I REALLY didn’t know how to fight. I look back and say
“wow, I was an idiot. I got lucky. Thank God I never came across anybody who
knew what the hell they were doing. ”
JT: What would you say is your best and worst
memory of your career so far?
DC: The first fight is the most emotional fight ever. Luckily, I won. I
had people coming up to me, taking my picture, and shaking my hand for the
next hour. That was insane. I’m so happy I never have to do my first fight
again, because I was so nervous. I just wanted to get it over with. There
was just so much emotion in that.
My worst one was when I fought the guy from Holland [Noufel Amellouk] from
last December. He punched the hell out of me. Busted my nose in the first
round, and I got gassed. And that is the worst feeling in the world, to get
gassed. I think it had something to do with all the blood going down my
throat [after the nose was broken]. We went all the way to a decision, and I
ended up winning, but that was one of my tougher fights.
JT: What’s your downtime like?
DC: There’s not much of it. I work six days a week. We (the family) just
hang out; take the kids to the park. My oldest one is walking and somewhat
talking. He’s happy as long as he’s outside and someone’s playing with him.
We’re trying to buy a house, so a lot of times, we’re shopping for a house.
Once in awhile, I go out and see my buddy’s band, Brassic, play. But really,
I have a good time just hanging out with the family. I don’t need to go to
the bars. I don’t drink.
JT: Did you never drink, or did you give it up for
family or fighting?
DC: I drank a lot when I was a kid, up until I turned 21. And since I’ve
been training a lot, I’ve had a lot of good influences. John [Munoz] said
“hey man, there’s no point in doing that.” He was kinda a big role model for
me, and John still gives me a lot of good advice. I look up to him and this
old man Jeff, and my buddy Matt. They gave me a lot of good advice.
Now, I probably drink once a year. I’m getting older now. I’ve never done a
drug in my entire life, and I’ve never been arrested, contrary to what
everybody thinks. I know I look like a convict-tweeker-dopehead, but I’ve
never done any of them.
JT: How do you deal with that dichotomy? With all
the tattoos, you throw a certain image that everyone stereotypes when they
see you walking down the street. But you’ve got this otherwise clean family
life. You’ve [gotten tattoos] voluntarily, so did you just accept that this
is the price you’ve paid for it? Or is there anything more to it?
DC: Well, the cops love me. Man, they’ll pull me over. Luckily, it
hasn’t happened with my family in the car, because that’s real embarrassing.
Once, they pulled me over and had me half-naked, taking pictures of all my
And I know a lot of people decide “man, this guy looks just like some prison
white supremacy prick.” I know some people think that and I’m like “whoa,
that’s not how it is. I just have a bunch of tattoos.” I’ve got a Mexican
manager; I’ve got an Afghan trainer. I just ended up being covered with
tattoos. And once people get to meet me, they’re like “oh, shit, this guys
pretty funny. Not just funny-looking, he’s actually funny.”
That’s why a lot of people support me. People are really nice to me, but I
do get the “man, this guy looks like a dickhead. He thinks he’s a badass.”
No, I don’t think I’m badass. There’s a lot of people out there I know who
would kick my ass, but I’m working on getting better [laughs].
JT: Tell us about your sponsors. Who are they and
why should the fans know them?
DC: I was just picked up by Toe-To-Toe clothing. My good friend Jeremy
from Focus Victory hooked me up. Jeremy’s been with me since my very first
fight. Focus Victory has helped me out with tournaments and everything. 309
helps me out. Shameless Ink out of Riverside – they help me out a lot. C&D
Pumping, JTS Insurance. There’s so many; Nutrishop Norco, Sub Q tattoo, my
family, everyone at Pinnacle Jiu-Jitsu - Matt Curl, Jeff Stiller, Ken Knapp,
Ryan Mundy, Chad Davis, John Munoz, and the Millennia Fight Team.
I also want to thank San Manuel for letting me fight, because they almost
cancelled my fight last time. They got me confused with Melvin Costa.
[Editor’s Note: At a King of the Cage event on October, 7th, 2007, at Soboba
Casino, Dave Cryer lost to Roch Worthy. After the match, fans that were
mistakenly identified as Dave Cryer’s fans racially harassed Worthy as he
walked backstage. They were later identified as fans of Melvin Costa, who
was scheduled immediately after the Cryer-Worthy fight.] When I went to San
Manuel, I explained the situation [that Dave’s ringside seat fans got in a
bar fight the night before and missed the event altogether]. She said “well,
if any of your fans say anything racial, we’re gonna pull the fight.” I said
“yeah, that’s not a problem.”
But I understand where they’re coming from, because you don’t want a bunch
of fights [in the crowd]. Then nobody’s gonna show back up. You don’t want a
rough crowd. The sport’s evolved for that too much anyway. At least they
weren’t there to see me get knocked out [laughs].
JT: What are your long-term goals, with fighting or
DC: I think I’ve got about 10 to 12 years left. I love fighting, as much
as I can. I’ve got a good manager, a good team. John takes care of me. If
I’m ever doing something wrong, he’ll let me know. Same with my team. If I
start getting 35 and I’m getting my ass kicked all the time, they’re going
to let me know “this is a good time to retire.”
My main dream is that I’d love to fight in a King of the Cage event in
Japan. I wish someday King of the Cage would go to Japan, and I’d love to
fight over there. The Japanese are the greatest fans. They love martial
arts, and I think they’d get a kick out of me.
Terry’s helped me out. He’s been loyal to me
and I’m not going anywhere. King of the Cage is my home.
Dave Cryer steps in the cage against Lucas
Taber at King of the Cage: Immortal, on February 26th, at the San Manuel
Indian Bingo & Casino in Highlands, CA.
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