Richie Vas is a Maroubra local, surfer and mixed martial artist. He has fought in prize bouts since 2007. He is making a surf film, Fighting Fear, with Mark Matthews. It is being filmed in Tasmania, West Australia, Hawaii. Ours. Massive waves. Pits. He once fought for the CFC World Bantam Weight Title but was beaten on points. He is a purple belt in Jiu Juitsu.
He is a small man, a nugget, fighting in the 62-65 kilo range. Right ear cauliflowered. He hopes it goes flat before his next fight. His hair is brown and close cropped. His nose looks punched on as does his left eye. Both eyes are kind.
He first got into fighting, like lots of the Bra Boys, a few years ago. They would watch Ultimate Fighting Championships and then fight, after surfs, in each other's backyards. Sometimes they would fight in the Maroubra Surf Club. He became serious about it and speaks here.
"It takes lots of commitment to become a fighter. A lot of MMA athletes come from a karate background. Or wrestling. They grew up with that discipline. I've just always been a surfer. That discipline doesn't exist. Discipline in surfing is going to the pub and having a few beers. I still consider myself a surfer. MMA has just come off the last three years. Ask me again in a couple more years though…Yeah, I'd like to fight overseas. Fight in bigger fights with bigger purses. Fight in Japan and America. People assume you have to do one or the other, surf or fight, but I reckon they compliment each other good. It's just a matter of finding the time to do both. To train, fight and surf. All my surfing mates are interested in MMA fights. There is quite a bit of cross-over, especially in Hawaii. We used to train at Koby's house. We'd make a ring out of legropes. We were only eighteen. Sometimes, if we were surfing and had a disagreement who got what in a heat we'd all go in to the surf club and settle it there. But there'd always be laughs after. You don't want to look like an idiot who bends all out of shape and hurts someone."
Richie trains hard. During the Jiu Juitsu session his trainer tells him, "Your take down is very nice but you rush for the head. Sit on the hips. Sit on the hips. Body is first. You are very strong for your weight. Rely on your position, your strength. Go for the hips. Sit on the hips"
During the kickboxing session his trainer doesn't say much. He is too busy absorbing straight kicks to the stomach.
It was a light day.
I fought Richie Vas in the ring once. He kicked me hard in the kidneys and it felt like a slow death. He punched my nose and stars lit up my horizon. Eventually my arm fell from its socket as I was trying to hit him back. It dangled while I got punched some more.
His film, Fighting Fear, enters theaters this Friday. He is a good man and a good fighter but someday I will pay him back.