2016 HalfKorean.com Meet

The 2016 HalfKorean.com Meet will be held on Saturday, July 9, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA.

2015 HalfKorean.com Annual Meet 2015 HalfKorean.com Annual Meet

Date: Saturday, July 9, 2016
2016 HalfKorean.com Meet
Time: 2PM-4:30PM (Please arrive/check-in at 1:45PM)
Place: Rotex Hotel & Condo
3411 W. Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90019

We welcome everyone to come and make new friends, network and socialize. Both adults and children are welcome to attend the meet and dinner! There will be a $15 charge per person to cover the rental of the banquet room and refreshments and light snacks included.

2016 HalfKorean.com Meet – Dinner
Time: 5:30PM-8PM
Place: Ddong Ggo Pocha (똥꼬 포차)
528 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90020

Dinner will follow at Ddong Ggo Pocha (똥꼬 포차) at 5:30PM. Please note that if you plan to drink alcohol at dinner, make sure to drink responsibly and/or have a designated driver.

Please RSVP as soon as possible for us to be sure of the headcount. If you are a member of the HalfKorean.com Facebook Group, you can RSVP here: 2016 HalfKorean.com Meet. Non-Facebook users can RSVP to: David Lee Sanders.

The general theme to our meets:
“Our meets are for anyone whom is mixed Korean. It doesn’t matter what the percentage, mix, age, and/or where you were born and raised. We want to bring together EVERYONE to celebrate our Korean culture and our diverse mixed backgrounds. Non-mixed Koreans are welcome to attend as well as long as they have a sincere interest in people of mixed Korean descent (such as significant others, friends, etc.).”

Past annual meet info:
2015 HalfKorean.com Meet
2014 HalfKorean.com Meet
2013 HalfKorean.com Meet
2012 HalfKorean.com Meet
2011 HalfKorean.com Meet
2010 HalfKorean.com Meet
2009 HalfKorean.com Meet

For additional questions contact: David Lee Sanders.

Catharina Choi Nunes

Model

Catharina Choi Nunes (최송이) is a model and beauty pageant titleholder who won the title of Miss Earth Korea 2013 and also Miss Brazil World 2015.

Links:

Facebook
Instagram
Wikipedia

Updated: 5/25/2016

Back to Prominent People

Catharina Choi Nunes
Korean/Brazilian
 
(Picture courtesy of Official Facebook)

David Michaels

Professional Basketball Player

David Michaels (박승리) has played three seasons (2013-14 thru 2015-16) in the Korean Basketball League (KBL) for the Seoul SK Knights.

He played collegiate basketball at Whitman College (graduated 2012).

He has also played professionally for Aris Leeuwarden (Holland) in 2013.

Links:
HalfKorean.com Interview – 11/14/2016
KBL Profile
Seoul SK Knights Profile
Twitter
Instagram

Updated: 11/14/2016

Back to Prominent People

David Michaels
Korean/African American
 
(Picture courtesy of Seoul SK Knights)

Interview with Scott Coker

Since taking over as President of Bellator MMA in mid-2014, Scott Coker has applied his vast martial arts and fight promotion expertise and created an increasing buzz for the mixed martial arts company.

While general MMA fans may only be familiar with Dana White and UFC, knowledgeable fans know how important the founder of Strikeforce has been in the innovation and evolution of MMA as a sport.

Strikeforce was founded in 1985 originally as a kickboxing organization and eventually evolved into becoming the number two MMA organization. It has now been 10 years since Strikeforce’s first MMA event and five years since Zuffa (UFC’s parent company) bought Strikeforce. Strikeforce’s legacy continues to this day with many of their fighters going on and becoming UFC champions including Ronda Rousey, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, Robbie Lawler and Miesha Tate.

Scott has been a lifelong martial arts practitioner, both as student and teacher, who lives and breathes martial arts and applies the concepts and principles to his career. His devotion to martial arts shows in the fight world as he is admired throughout the industry, including by rival promoters.

Last November, we were able to sit down with Scott at the Bellator offices in San Jose, California and discussed his personal upbringing, martial arts background, fight promotion and the world of professional mixed martial arts.

Please note that HalfKorean.com comments/questions are in BOLD.

Background: The Basics on Scott

When and where were you born?
I was born in Seoul in 1962. I lived there for about nine years, but then my family relocated to the United States and ended up settling in San Jose, California in 1973.

How did your parents meet?
Originally, my father arrived in Korea right after the Korean War and that’s when he met my mother. My dad was just a good old Southern boy from Tennessee and he met my mom when she was singing in the USO club. My mom was extremely beautiful and I think my dad made a good move because he wasn’t going to do any better than her. They were married in December 1959. After his military service, he worked for an import/export company for about 16 years in Korea. My dad travelled a great deal and one of the accounts he had was with the PX’s throughout Southeast Asia. So he spent a good amount of time in Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam. My dad found a way to stay in Asia because he really must have loved it.

I still have fond memories of living in Itaewon – I had this great view of the city where we lived. It seemed like there was always lots of people around with my family, like my aunts, grandmother and my cousins since they lived with us as well.

Did your dad serve in the Korean War?
My grandfather had cancer, so my father had to stay home in order to take care of him. But when he passed away, my father did serve in Korea.

Do you have any siblings?
I have two brothers and I’m the middle child. My older brother is a year older than me and my other brother is four years younger.

How well do you speak and understand Korean?
When I was living in Korea we went to Seoul foreign school and it was based in the English language. We did speak Korean at the house a lot. But when we moved to America – outside of my mom — there was nobody to speak it to. Over the last 40 years I’m sad to say I’ve forgotten. I still remember all the good food and I still am able to decipher when I’m getting yelled at, I know all the foul words.

What is your favorite Korean food?
On a cold day, I love duk manduguk (떡만두국) or galbi tang (갈비탕). In the summer I enjoy dalkgogi (닭고기), bulgogi (불고기), galbi (갈비). You know the Korean beef is unlike anything else on the planet. I enjoy all of the kimchi, kongnamul (bean sprouts), and condiments that come along with meal. I just love it. My mom and I would go all the time, like twice a month. We still tried to go before she passed away.

Did you grow up with any other mixed Koreans?
When we moved to America my family had a couple friends that my father knew from Korea. One was my uncle Len and his daughter Junie. They lived in San Francisco. He was American and his wife was Korean. There was another couple that my father used to know in Korea as well so it was nice because when we came here there was already a family that was here that he knew and worked with.

But other than my family, when I went to junior high and Gunderson high school I didn’t see that many mixed families in San Jose. I would say the ratio was probably 90% white at that time. I was a member of the first graduating class at the high school and there was probably 1% black and only 2-3% Asians and that was only because there was the influx of Vietnamese that had come to the area after the Vietnam war.

Did you ever experience any identity issues while growing up?
Never and I’ll tell you why. As I mentioned before, I practically grew up in a martial arts school. Afterwards I would go to practice my craft every day and I loved it. When you’re engrossed in that lifestyle, it doesn’t matter what race or color you are because you’re a team and that’s what really kind of sheltered me away from that stuff. I mean, as you age you’re aware of it. I was just thinking about this topic recently, and growing up in that school really developed a lot of my confidence early and encouraged the feeling of being able to accomplish whatever I set my mind to do.

You know, my brothers didn’t really have any issues either. They are both doing extremely well and have great families. We’ve been able to live an American life while being half Asian. Whether it was teaching martial arts, owning martial arts schools, owning a piece of a gear company, or being in the fight business, I always remained professional in the martial arts world because that was where I thought I could make the biggest impact.

With the success I’ve had with MMA, 25 years before that, I was already running martial arts promotions. I did my first show in 1985 here in San Jose and had an ESPN contract when I was only 22. I just always stayed in the fight business and remained close to martial arts. Then I had the chance to work for a Japanese company called K-1 and ran their operations as well. My mom wanted me to be a doctor or engineer but I didn’t want to do that. Growing up it was tough because my older brother was valedictorian in high school, got a full ride to USC, had a master’s degree at 22 and was a Fulbright Music Scholar. He is a genius. I was the “Karate” guy. You could imagine my mom freaking out and telling me to go to school like my brother. I made a choice when I was in college that I was wasting my time and I already knew what I wanted to do. My father was really supportive but had a lot of peer pressure from my mom who thought I wasn’t going to make any money and would need to be supported by them forever. But things worked out for all of us. My younger brother ended up becoming one of the early employees of Cisco and then went on to Google and is now working for Apple in Austin, Texas. We all had a healthy upbringing and lived the American life and had a lot of American friends.

I tell people all the time that it only took me 25 years to be an overnight success.

When was the last time you have been back to Korea?
It’s embarrassing but I haven’t been back since around 2000. I was in Japan for K-1 and then briefly flew over there. I saw my aunt and uncle who still are local. My other uncle was still working as an independent contractor on the army base. So, going back, we drive on base and the first thing you see is a big 18-hole golf course right in the middle of the base. I went to the movie theater that I grew up watching movies at and when I was a kid it seemed so big but now it looked so tiny. Everything seemed so small to me. It was so funny because everything about the infrastructure was pretty much the same. They had built a new hotel there and some newer buildings but the original buildings that I remembered while growing up were still there. I was doing a lot of reminiscing.

There is a club called, Seoul Foreign Club, that my father and my mom would go to in the 1970s. My recollection was that it was on top of the Westin Hotel. We were sitting in the club and looking over the skyline of Seoul and over the mountain range and I asked my aunt how far it was to the DMZ. She told me that it was only 20 miles awayYou just think how crazy it is that it’s so close. They could be in the airspace in a matter of seconds and I thought no wonder this place is always on red alert. That was my take when I left Korea.

I do need to go back because my aunts and uncles are getting older and once they pass away, that’s the last generation in Korea because the rest of my family is Stateside now.

So is most of your Korean family here in America now?
I had one aunt that stayed in Korea but the other aunts and cousins all came over here.

What do people think your ethnicity is?
I don’t even know. Sometimes I get asked if I’m from Hawaii. But very few have ever asked.

Taekwondo/Mixed-Martial Arts/Fight Promoter

At what age did you start Taekwondo?
In Seoul Foreign School, PE class was soccer, baseball or Taekwondo. I wanted to do martial arts and that was where it all began. We moved here in 1971 and for three years I didn’t do anything as we were living in South San Francisco and we were just getting re-organized, nor was there a good school close by. But when we moved to San Jose, I told my mom that I wanted to go back and take martial arts, so we found Dan Choi’s school in San Jose and I started going there in 1975.

When did you become a protege of Ernie Reyes?
There was a group of eight of us that were his first graduating class of black belts and that was back in the late 1970s.

Did you compete in tournaments?
I competed in them and they were a lot of fun but it wasn’t like competing in MMA. I went to every major Karate tournament in the country. We had a demonstration team with Ernie Reyes and we would perform with forms and weapons. Almost like the Beijing Wushu team but with an American style to it.

When you owned your own martial arts studios were you also an instructor?
Yes. I started teaching when I was around 18-19 years old. I was teaching adults, doctors and lawyers. They really had no knowledge of martial arts and I had been doing it for at least eight years by that time. Having a school and teaching martial arts was one of the best times for me in my adult life. When you teach a children’s class you are really impacting their life. It’s not about kicking, punching and grappling. There are certain elements of self-defense involved, but it’s the life skills that martial arts really taught me that propel me through my journey when times are tough. So when I was teaching that, I could see that I was making impact. Some of these kids are now in their 30s/late 20s and were five to eight years old when I was teaching them. We still communicate and I get messages from a lot of them thanking me for the time and effort in instructing them. It was like a magical time in my life that I really really look back on and am proud of because like I said, you’re giving back. In the fight game, sometimes you are taking a lot. You are dealing with a lot of fighters and everybody has their needs and it’s just a crazy business. But with teaching traditional martial arts you are in the giving business and giving of yourself every day and sending a message that I could feel was making a difference in the community. In the fight business, the mindset is different. You always have someone pulling at you. It’s a fight every day. You have to have a certain mindset to do this business. You have to be crazy to do this.

Did you do any other sports growing up?
I played some basketball and wrestled in junior high but once I got to high school, it was all martial arts then. I remember getting a bad report card once and my parents told me I wasn’t going to Karate any more. It took me about six weeks to turn my grades around because if I can’t go to Karate I have to start studying. It had a lot of pull over me when I was younger.

How did you get into fight promotion?
It started with kickboxing in 1985. It was called PKA, Professional Karate Assocation, and was televised on ESPN as a series. My shows were being filmed for ESPN but it wasn’t my deal with ESPN, it was someone else’s. So they would come to our show and record.

How supportive were your parents?
My mom was like a very traditional Korean mom who wanted me to go to school. I would receive all the guilt trips. My father always told me to do what I love to do. I’m sure they were probably worried. I mean they had one son who was doing things the traditional way and I’m going completely the other way. They thought they were going to have to support me forever. But, I had made the decision in my mind. My mission statement was that this was going to be my life, for richer or poorer, and I am going to dedicate my life to being in the martial arts business. Like I said, it only took 25 years to be an overnight success. It’s not like I didn’t love it along the way. I tell my staff all the time now that you are in the fight game, what is there to complain about? You are in the fight business and get to wake up every day in the promotion business. You don’t have to wake up and go work somewhere that you don’t want to be. If you don’t want to do this then you shouldn’t be here. We have so many staff members that just love it and love to come to work every day and love being in the fight game. As far as full-time fight companies, there is UFC and Bellator – before there was Strikeforce — but that’s it. There are no others.

Did your mom ever come around?
Yes, but much later. The schools martial arts schools I owned were successful and I bought a house here in San Jose at an early age. I always made a decent living and when she saw the growth of my fight league, it was then that she felt like I was going to be okay.

It’s funny because I think about my first school. This is the school I had bought from my uncle, which was a hapkido school that I remodeled. You might get this, so in the Korean community they have the kye-dan (계단). That was how I did it. So she was like we are starting this next month and you need to come in and this is how it works. So she went and got me the money and it was like $30000 or whatever to open my first school. Basically my mom arranged the financing through the Korean community. I was actually able to pay them all back in a month or so. That was whom I opened my first school with.

So were your schools in San Jose?
Yes, they were in San Jose. They are still there and are called “West Coast Martial Arts.” I sold them to instructors who I grew up with.

How was your experience working for K-1?
There is a very famous Korean master named Mas Oyama who started Kyokushin which is a style of Japanese martial arts. He was actually Korean and he’s the one you see holding up a baby elephant and breaking the river rocks. He was just a big guy. So, the person I was working for, Mr. Ishii, who owned and ran K-1, was a student of Mas Oyama; who was a Korean guy living in Japan doing martial arts and who had created his own system. So his lineage of martial arts tradition goes back centuries. They could identify probably for the last 400 years who was the teacher for this guy or that guy. It is pretty amazing! So when I started working with K-1, I got it. This was right in my wheelhouse. Growing up in Asia and with an Asian company we got along really well. They eventually stopped operating after a 20 year run and that was when I started Strikeforce. That was in 2006. So, in 2005, I get a call from the California State Athletic Commission that governs the state for all combat sports and they said that they were going to do MMA. Before that it had been illegal. It got postponed to 2006 and we did the first show. I had a license in California for over 22 years so I told them they had to give it to me because I’ve been here and paid my dues, so they gave it to me and things really took off from there.

So tell us about how Strikeforce originally come about?
Strikeforce was the TV company side and there was the live event side. I owned the live event side and I eventually took over the TV company side as well.

The very first MMA show we did, we did a million dollar gate and packed the arena with 18000 people. It was pretty crazy. We had Frank Shamrock vs Cesar Gracie and didn’t have any idea how successful it was going to be. We originally set up for 7-8000 people. The fights were not that great actually but that was the beginning of it all. I think the one thing we are really good at over the last 30 years is that we are good at star identification and finding the next guy and turning them into a star. Frank Shamrock was already a star when he came here, but we had fighters that we found from ground zero. Let’s say a fighter like Daniel Cormier who currently is the light heavyweight champion in UFC. Luke Rockhold who is the middleweight champion, Ronda Rousey; who was just starting when we had her. Gina Carano fought for us. Tyron Woodley, Nick Diaz was a member of Strikeforce when we sold the company. Robbie Lawler the welterweight champion, who was with UFC before but left and we rebuilt his career in Strikeforce. Cain Velasquez started in Strikeforce, the former Heavyweight champ. We are very good star builders and that’s what we do now at Bellator. It is the same formula but different company. We have a roster of about 200 athletes. We buy some new free agents every now and then, but for the most part we try to build from the ground up.

How did the Zuffa/UFC buy-out happen? Did they approach you or vice versa?
Dana White called me. We don’t interact all the time but we know each other, it’s the same thing with Lorenzo Fertitta. They wanted to buy Strikeforce because they saw the talent and started to see our brand grow, so they wanted to buy the company. That’s why they did it. Let me rewind so it makes sense.

In 2006, I was the sole owner of Strikeforce. In 2008 I took a partner in, the owners of the San Jose Sharks, who owned a company called SVSE (Silicon Valley Sports Entertainment). They injected millions of dollars into Strikeforce and we started growing exponentially. We signed fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, “Bigfoot” Silva. All the guys you see today fighting in UFC were fighting for Strikeforce originally. When UFC came knocking, I took them the offer. The offer was really low and we actually just left the meeting. But eventually it got to a point where my guys were like, ‘hey we should really do this deal.’ My guys were just in the tech business and were used to flipping and buying companies. I told them we should wait a year. So, I had a choice. Either I was going to have a disgruntled partner, which is never good. Or we were going to sell the company. So I made the choice to go ahead and sell Strikeforce. With that sale there was three years where I was actually employed by UFC. I didn’t do much. I might have seen them like twice a year. I just played golf a lot and basically was a retired promoter. That’s how I looked at it. Honestly, when I went back and look at it now, I go, three years from now what is the MMA landscape going to be like? Is there room for another player? I didn’t know. I just said I was going to let go. I went from really running 200 mph to honestly like 2 mph. Just put the brakes on everything. It was a weird feeling. I traveled a lot. I went to more places than I ever thought I would ever go, and probably went twice. When they needed me I was there. They were always respectful of the relationship and were always nice to me and professional. And then the three years was over and a month later I was heading a different direction to do my own thing again and that was when Spike TV President Kevin Kay called me. I met with him and really liked him. I thought about it, and he already has the TV deal in place, he’s got some fighters, we could get there really quickly with these guys and so I said okay, jumped on board because he gets it and he would let me do my thing.

Viacom owns Spike TV so they already had the distribution. The league was kind of struggling and I made the decision to come in, help them and raise their awareness and drive this brand. I think in the last year we have done a really good job with ratings up 33% and paid attendance up 76%. But the most important thing is the respectability of this brand has changed now. We have accomplished some big goals and I’m excited for the future.

How difficult was it for you to sell Strikeforce?
It was really hard. But like I said, I had a choice to be in a very bad marriage or to sell the company. It’s really what it came down to. SVSE buy and sell companies all the time. That’s their mentality. People ask if I could do it all over again, what would I do differently? I say that I would really evaluate who your partners are. At the time, it seemed like a great deal for us. I didn’t think their exit strategy would be 18 months. They got involved with this company and 18 months later they made a ton of money. It was a good lesson for me for sure. But am I happy? No, I’m not. I love Strikeforce. So, to me, Bellator is just Strikeforce 2.0. The fights that we are doing, the promotion we are doing, the entertainment value we are providing and the type of matches that we are doing, it’s different than UFC. It’s different from anybody else. We are doing our own thing. I think it was USA Today that asked me to compare us to UFC and I told them you couldn’t compare us. We are an entertainment property. We are going to do fights that they would never do. Our production and whole fan experience is nothing like what they do. It’s like going to a different show. So I don’t think you can compare us. It’s still in a cage but it’s not the same. I don’t really worry about what they do; I worry about what we are going to do.

What did you take away from your three years with UFC? Did you have an official title or position with Zuffa/UFC?
I think I did but I can’t remember what it was. It was on my badge. Listen, they were so respectful to me and they were great guys. My UFC experience was great. The thing was that I think they thought, “What are we going to do with this guy? We don’t have a need for him here.” They already had someone running their company. I just told them to call me if they needed me.

How does it feel to see so many former Strikeforce fighters succeeding in UFC?
I’m like the proud dad! I still hang out with some of these guys like Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier, the Diaz brothers, and Robbie Lawler. Some of them we are just cordial friends, some of them we still golf together. I tell them I’m happy and proud of them and I want them to keep kicking a** over there, because really they are Strikeforce fighters. There’s a lot of great martial arts here in the Bay Area. Javier Mendez who owns AKA and Crazy Bob Cook who is his partner, they really helped me identify some of these guys. We had and still have a great team of scouts that are out there scouting. People forget, they think this fighter is going to be the greatest fighter of all time but they are only the greatest until the next fighter becomes the greatest fighter. I tell people all the time, there was Joe Montana and now there is Tom Brady. And, you know what, there will be someone greater than Tom Brady. Michael Jordan might be tough. Ali is going to be really tough. There are great champions but there will be another one. I promise you there will be someone else that comes along that has just as much or more than they do. That’s just how this business works. There is no shortage of great talent. It is just finding that one person that you feel like can be a star both outside of the cage and inside the cage.

Since you were also a former founder of an MMA company, did it feel weird coming to Bellator and replacing the founder?
I don’t know all the details and wasn’t sure how it would all work. Hopefully it was a good deal for him too. There was a reason UFC bought us. We were an important acquisition for them. With Bellator, they were just kind of struggling along. For whatever reason, I’m not sure. I just saw a great TV deal, some really talented fighters, a good financial partner, worldwide distribution and sponsorships; I could easily do this. That was how I made my mind up. It has been a real pleasure. I told Kevin it is probably a three year project and I think we have accomplished a lot in the last 18 months developing our own brand and now when people talk about Bellator, it is relevant. It is not like it was before. I had one of my fighters, “King Mo,” that went over to Bellator. He kept calling me and saying, “Coker, you need to come over here. We need help, you have to help us out.” I told him, “I don’t know, man. I like the retired life over here.” But now, I’m glad I did it. I look at the impact we are making in the MMA community and I am proud of our work. Our body of work speaks for itself. The ratings speak for itself, attendance speaks for itself. There are going to be some good events and bad events and it’ll give us some headaches. But look at the ratings we are accomplishing. Not so long ago, we beat UFC head to head when they were on Fox Sports 1 and we were on Spike. That is saying a lot, right? There were more people who purposely tuned into Bellator on that night than UFC. That is a strong statement.

What do you envision for Bellator?
In 2015 we did 12 monthly shows and four of the big arena shows. In 2016, we are going to do six arena shows. But eventually I would like to get to a point where we have the monthly show and are also doing a monthly “tentpole” event. The big shows have a lot of flair and over the top production and the smaller shows are about “who is the next guy or top talent.” Eventually we’d like to do 30 fights a year.

Do you see Bellator having a show in Korea in the future?
I would love to. How much fun would that be to go to downtown Seoul and do a fight and do a goodwill tour.

As a promoter, how difficult is it to balance and please everyone involved such as ownership, fighters, fans, etc.?
It is pretty tough. There are a lot of haters out there. That goes for any league. I think it takes a certain type of person to do this. You need to have thick skin and indomitable spirit, perseverance to keep going because if you don’t, this is the type of business that can really crush you. As far as Bellator, I don’t think I’ve ever had more support from the network and ownership group as I do now. We have a really good opportunity to make a big, big difference in the landscape and the future. Believe me, people want an alternative. If you are a fighter and only one buyer, think about that. You are not going to be happy because you want to have free agency and have people bid for your services. When I think about it from a fighter’s standpoint, that’s what I think about. We’ll do it differently and with our flair. That will be the difference between us and any other league is how our production looks and is presented.

Have you met any of the prominent mixed Korean MMA fighters?
BJ Penn used to train in San Jose at AKA when Shamrock was there. He came to our last show we had in San Jose. He’s a great guy and a good friend. He has done it all already and is a really nice kid. He’s got a great life in Hawaii. Our matchmaker and BJ are really great friends so I see him at a lot of different events. Denis Kang I’ve only met once.

We know you had some small cameo roles in films such as The Last Dragon and Surf Ninjas. How did those opportunities happen and what was the experience like?
Let me quantify this. The biggest movie project I worked on was The Last Dragon. But, to say I was an actor is a disservice to real actors. I never wanted to be an actor.

Here’s how it happened. My instructor is Ernie Reyes Sr.’s son and we were part of his stunt team. We would all go do demos together and when he started becoming famous in movies, we would get a call. That was my acting career. It was fun. Surf Ninjas had Rob Schneider, Leslie Nielsen and Kelly Hu, who was a young girl and I think Miss Hawaii at the time. You get to meet a lot of fun people. Same thing with The Last Dragon, Barry Gordy was on the set and Vanity was there. But, to say that I was an actor, that’s incorrect.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years we will probably end up doing 30 fights a year. Not just domestically, but we are going to expand internationally. Right now we are airing in over 140 countries in the world, including Korea. We’d like to grow those numbers a little bit. I would like to make this a worldwide brand. I feel that we have a really good shot with the ownership group and the backers of this product. That’s really the goal. I’m not so much concerned that we are going to be number one, but we are going to be number one at what we do. People used to dog Strikeforce because they would say that UFC has the best fighters in the world. Well, a lot of the UFC fighters are my old fighters so you can’t say that anymore. That theory has already been debunked. To me, fighters are fighters. To put a label on them as this league’s fighter or that league’s fighter is silly. It’s the athlete at the end of the day that is going to shine or not shine. It’s not because I play for the Dallas Cowboys or for the 49ers. You will be great, or you will not be great. I feel that Bellator will have some of the best fighters in the world and we will have some of the most entertaining fighters in the world. We’ll do fun fights that other people are not going to do and we are going to have a lot of fun doing it. We are owned by an entertainment property. So, it is not just a sports property but an entertainment property too.

Do you think when you say entertainment that some fans might think it is becoming too much like WWE?
Once the action starts in the cage it is real fighting. Pro wrestling is entertaining as well, but it is pro wrestling and not real. We just had one of the greatest fights in the history of this company and once the action starts these guys are fighting for real.

Random/Conclusion

What’s your current relationship status?
I would say pretty much married. We live together and have raised a child together. It’s the same thing; we just have never went and had the ceremony. She’s my soulmate and is very understanding. This is a very, very tough business. After three years of traveling, she asked me, “Don’t you have somewhere to go?”

Is your son interested in martial arts as well?
I tried but he doesn’t want to do it. He has his own journey and is a good kid. We go to the gym and lift weights every morning together. But he has his own thing. I cherish the time we spend together and it is really a lot of fun.

What do you do to relax outside of fight promotion?
I sleep. You know what, I enjoy watching sports. I still go to Golden St. Warriors games when I can. I like going to the 49ers games. I’m the guy that if I’m in LA, I’ll go to a Clippers game. If I am in Dallas, I’ll go to a Mavericks or Cowboys game. I just love sports so that is kind of like my getaway, I just kind of zone out for a few hours. I love watching the San Francisco Giants play. That is my escape, sports and then there is Homeland, the TV show. I love that show and I don’t know why. It’s about spies and espionage. If you look at my TiVo, it is fights, sports and then Homeland. Those are the things I watch. I do watch a lot of the Military Channel. I have read a lot of books on military, World War II, the Korean War, General Patton, and strategies on combat. To me, I find that interesting. If you came over to my house tonight, we’d probably be watching the Military Channel. I think it maybe just because I grew up in a military household. I mean my father was out of the military by the time I was born but I still went to the base. I remember playing G.I. Joe with my brothers and at Halloween I was a military guy with my gun. Hide and seek wasn’t just go hide, hide and seek was you get a helmet, you had your gun and are hiding in the bushes.

Anybody in particular you respect/look up to?
I have a lot of respect for my instructor and his instructor, Dan Choi. Or guys like Royce Gracie, who has done it all. He won UFC 1 and 2, and has chosen to continue to teach martial arts all over the world spreading the Gracie knowledge. When I look at him I think of a real martial artist, thick and through. It’s not just an act fighting in a uniform; this is just how he is. A lot of people don’t know this but he does a lot of work teaching the military and Special Forces and donates his time to help out. When I was in Israel, Royce was there. He asked me if I wanted to go to the military base and I said, “Hell yeah I want to go!” So I got to watch him train 30 of the Israeli Special Forces. It was so cool. He’s one of my friends who I really respect. My whole circle is pretty much revolved around martial arts people. As far as respecting and having role models, a lot of them are still involved, teaching, and training martial arts.

My father, who I lost a long time ago, worked so hard. If you mean learning work ethic, then it was my parents and my Martial Arts teacher Ernie Reyes Sr.

Are you able do martial arts training these days at all?
I have not recently. When I sold the company, the next two years, I trained every day. I was much thinner back then. I have to get Bellator to a certain place and then my focus will be creating a balance in my life. I think I need to do that. Right now we are in a growth curve. From the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed, Monday through Friday especially, there is one thing on my mind and that is running this company. It is not a 9 to 5 job. It’s a very fluid opportunity and a lot of moving parts, egos and people to deal with. This is no exaggeration; I wake up to probably 200 or so emails per day. It is a commitment. I don’t really look at it like work. It is something I love to do.

What did you think about HalfKorean.com when you first saw it?
I thought it was pretty cool when I first saw it. I thought, wow, look at all of these Amerasians all congregated into one place.

Any words that you would like to pass on to the mixed Korean community?
It would be fun to go to the annual meetup and hear everyone’s stories. I think we all have something in common because we all ended up here or we were from there. Having a multicultural background I think is a positive advantage. It’s such a win-win for me and I know my brothers feel the same way. To understand the Eastern philosophy and Western culture and to combine those two is the best of both worlds. Honestly. Not everyone can say that. When I was working for K-1, I understood the martial arts hierarchy. Having the ability to understand East and West is an advantage.

We want to thank Scott for spending his time with us for this interview and wish him much continued success with Bellator!

We want to also thank Carie and Jane from Bellator for their assistance with setting up and completing our interview with Scott!

Make sure to follow Scott on his official Twitter and check out Bellator for upcoming events.

Interview by: David Lee Sanders

Posted: 7/5/2016

Back to Interviews


Scott Coker
(Photo courtesy Scott Coker/Twitter)

 

Scott with Wanderlei Silva at Bellator 149
(Photo courtesy Bellator MMA)

 

Scott with Royce Gracie at Bellator 149
(Photo courtesy Bellator MMA)

 

Scott with former Bellator Featherweight Champion Patricio Pitbull
(Photo courtesy Bellator MMA)

 

Scott with Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Liam McGeary (middle) and Fedor Emelianenko (left) at Bellator 134
(Photo courtesy Bellator MMA)

 

Scott with Oktagon Kickboxing President Carlo Di Blasi
(Photo courtesy Bellator MMA)

 

Scott with Ernie Reyes Jr.
(Photo courtesy Scott Coker/Twitter)

 

Scott with BJ Penn and Ernie Reyes Sr.
(Photo courtesy BJPenn.com)

 

Scott with Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey prior to “Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey” in 2012
(Photo courtesy ESPN.com)

 

Scott with K-1 Founder Kazuyoshi Ishii and Oktagon President Carlo Di Blasi at Rizin Fighting World Grand-Prix 2015 (December 2015)
 


 


 

Scott at the Cleveland Clinic’s Professional Fighters Brain Health Study press conference with Senator McCain and boxing/MMA fighters (April 2016)
 

Scott with US Senator John McCain
 

Scott Coker – West Coast Taekwondo circa 1990
(Photo courtesy ikfkickboxing.com)

 

Scott with his parents and brothers
 

Scott with his mother
 

Scott’s father and mother (middle)
 

Scott’s mother
 


 


 

Scott and Darlene at Super Bowl 50
 

Bellator MMA: In Focus with Scott Coker
 

Interview with James Moontasri

James “Moonwalker” Moontasri is a mixed martial artist of Korean and Thai descent who has been fighting professionally since 2008.

Prior to becoming a professional fighter, James had a highly decorated Taekwondo career which included him being named 2007 USA Taekwondo Male Athlete of the Year.

Currently holding an overall pro record of 9-3 (2-2 in UFC), the Moonwalker has shown his versatility by moving weight classes (lightweight and welterweight) while also proudly incorporating his 5th dan black belt Taekwondo (태권도) skills in the cage.

We had the chance to catch up with James during his training this past October prior to his impressive first round TKO victory at UFC 193 on November 15, 2015 in Australia to discuss his MMA career and personal background and are pleased to present this interview.

Please note that HalfKorean.com comments/questions are in BOLD.

Background: The Basics on James

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1988. My dad was actually military at that time. I didn’t live in Germany very long as we moved to California and then I grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I moved back out to California when I was 18 and have lived here ever since.

Did you move to California by yourself?
By myself. I grew up doing Taekwondo and was on the National Team for USA Taekwondo and in 2007 I competed in the Pan-Am Games and was the 2007 USA Taekwondo Male Athlete of the Year.

When I didn’t make the USA Olympic team in 2008, that was when I made my transition into MMA.

How did your parents meet?
My parents are divorced. Me and my mother are very close. You know what, I don’t really know how they met.

Do you have any siblings?
I have a sister who is four years older than me. We both grew up like typical Koreans. We used to play piano and I played for 10 years. I used to play trumpet and would travel with symphonies and she used to play flute. My mom actually thought we would be musicians. My sister graduated from Columbia University and is a doctor. I was supposed to be the lawyer but I became a UFC fighter.

How well do you speak and/or understand Korean?
I’ve been to Korea like eight times and I would say that I can read and write but speaking fluently I would say about 40%. Let’s just say I can get us around Seoul and have some really good Korean BBQ and soju.

What is your favorite Korean food?
You know what is kind of crazy is that growing up and having the traditional Taekwondo background and competing against a lot of Latinos, my mom would feed me tomatoes, onions and jalapenos and burritos because she always thought that they were so fast. I used to be really picky with my food so when my mom sent me to Korea when I was 16 I trained at a high school for Taekwondo. Over there in Korea, Taekwondo they train like crazy. I went to that high school and stayed there for three months. I got hit and beat for eight hours a day. It was one of those experiences in life that you are so happy you did it but would never do it again. That whole experience really changed me and before that I never really liked Korean food. When I moved to California at 18 I realized that I had Korean food readily available. Now I spend like $100 a week on groceries. Of course I like the BBQ but I like the oxtail soups and samgyetang (삼계탕). My mom used to make me eat that with all the ginger to make me strong.

You mentioned soju earlier. Do you like soju?
I wouldn’t say that I necessarily like it but it is part of the culture. Doing Taekwondo for so long, I have had my fair share of soju.

What was it like for you growing up mixed Korean?
My mom kept me busy through high school. I knew I had a passion for martial arts. I would go to school and right after I would have piano lessons, trumpet lessons. After that I would have Taekwondo and after that I would do my homework. I really had no social life whatsoever in high school. I was very focused on my athletics. I never went to homecoming, never went to prom. You know how seniors get out one week before graduation? I didn’t even go to my graduation and during that week I went to California to prepare for a tournament. They just mailed me my diploma. My mom used to tell me when I used to compete in Taekwondo that I had to fight until I die. That whole thing stayed in my mind in whatever I do.

We had our friends from Taekwondo and all of them were forced to do music. It was a weird group of people.

Did you ever experience any identity issues while growing up?
Even now I kind of deal with that. I was born in Germany, half Korean, half Thai, USA citizen. You know what is actually funny is that my last fight against Kevin Lee, they put me as “Kevin Lee” thinking that guy with the last name “Lee” was me.

I’ve learned to embrace it and I don’t really look at is a negative thing especially now being in the UFC. There are not that many Korean fighters and to be one of the few is huge. I almost feel like a pioneer and can attribute that to people I look up to like Ben Henderson. His relationship with his mother is very similar to the relationship that I have with my mother. Everything that we do is for them. I actually met him at my first UFC victory in Colorado and he was the main event. It was good to meet him and I look at him like a role model.

When was the last time you have been to Korea?
I was there a couple months ago and I wanted to fight on the UFC Korea card but they were so overbooked and wanted to give preference to full Koreans. Luckily they offered me to fight in Australia on the Ronda Rousey card so if everything goes well maybe they can send me out to Korea for those fights. I would love to be there.

What do people who meet you think your ethnicity is?
When people look at me they think I’m straight from Seoul, Korea! Pretty much until they see my last name. Like the ajushi’s look at me like “ooh” when they hear my last name. As far as the culture I embrace the Korean culture and can’t really say that I know too much about the Thai culture. I think doing Taekwondo and martial arts I embraced the Korean culture much more.

We noticed your Korean tattoo on your chest. Is it your Korean name?
It is my mom’s name, Choi Young Soon (최영순).

Career: Taekwondo / MMA / UFC

Where did the “Moonwalker” nickname come from?
Actually it is from one of my friends who is from Nigeria. A lot of people have a hard time pronouncing my last name and so my friend would say that I’m the Moonwalker. It just kind of stuck. I always walk out to Michael Jackson and it just worked out and stuck. I think just as I signed to UFC was when I finally adopted a nickname.

At what age did you begin Taekwondo?
I started when I was 10 years old and I made the National Team when I was 16.

What made you decide to choose to learn Taekwondo? Was it you or your mom?
It was a little combination of both. I think once I saw the movie “Best of the Best.” That movie changed my entire life.

What degree Taekwondo black belt are you currently?
I’m a 5th dan black belt. I just got it. One of my Grand Masters got it for me from my last trip to Korea.

Were you into any other sports (non-martial arts) while growing up?
I tried to play basketball but I remember I was so bad that my mom told me, “I don’t think you will be 6’4” so I think you should stick with Taekwondo.” Pretty much it was only Taekwondo. My mom would say that whatever I do, be the best at it.

When did you decide to make fighting your profession and career?
It kind of happened on accident. After I won my first Nationals and I went to Pan Am Games and won a silver medal, both of those experiences got me so juiced. After I went to Nationals the next year I wasn’t as excited. Literally at the place where I was training Taekwondo, next door they had an MMA team training over there. And one time the coach asked me to try MMA. I told him that I didn’t know and then he asked me what I do and I told him Taekwondo. He then told me that I would be great at MMA. I literally took a two month crash course on MMA and went straight professional. I didn’t do any amateur fights and I figured if I get my butt kicked at least I am getting paid for it. I ended up knocking the guy out in the beginning of the second round. My first MMA fight I got $250 and I thought that was great money. I was like in my mind I will kick anybody’s ass right now, anytime anyplace. You know, competing in Taekwondo you are not getting paid so I thought it was great money. So that is where it kind of started.

How supportive have your family been with your fighting career?
Oh man. My mom, as any mother would, was strongly against it. She supported my Taekwondo career a lot. But now I think my family is starting to understand that this is obviously my passion. So whether they really like it or not they are letting me do it. Oftentimes my mom she’ll call me J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez) because she was a dancer/singer and was struggling and then how she became successful. So my mom will say go be like J-Lo with your fighting. This is like a daily battle, trust me. Like any mother would, who would want their son to fight, but she understands that this is my passion and is supporting it.

Your first pro fight was at Gladiator Challenge 83 in 2008 but you didn’t fight again until 2011. Was there a specific reason why?
There was a specific reason. I didn’t do any amateur fights and went straight to professional. Luckily I won my first fight but there was one point in the fight where the guy slammed me really hard and I thought if I am going to really good at this, I’m going to have to train a lot more. Once you go professional you cannot go back to amateur so I had to get really good at this.

You currently train at Blackhouse MMA, home of MMA greats such as Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. When did you start training with them?
My manager is Ed Soares and he takes care of me. He gives me the best opportunities that anybody can ever have. So originally when I first started at Blackhouse was when Wanderlei Silva was fighting Cung Le. They needed someone to emulate Cung Le’s style so for three months I literally got my ass kicked by Wanderlei Silva every single day. You know, being a fan of MMA I would have never have thought in my wildest dreams that I would be able to train with Lyoto and Anderson. I just saw Anderson yesterday and we are friends now. I’m very blessed and I understand the opportunity that has been given to me and I thank God every day that I am able to do what I love. That is what is most important.

Was one of your goals to fight in the UFC?
That was always the goal. I wouldn’t fight for anyone else but the UFC. The UFC is the most prestigious league. Honestly, having guys with traditional backgrounds like Lyoto Machida with his Karate background and Anderson Silva with his Muay-Thai. For me, those guys are my role models. If I were to ever get cut from UFC I would not fight anymore.

What has your experience in the UFC been like so far?
The experience has been a roller coaster. Mentally it tests you. You have to have crazy tenacity. I’ve always had that and every single day I look as a challenge. I can honestly say that the way I have performed in the UFC I couldn’t have been more disappointed in the way I have performed. That is why I am training very hard for this next fight. For me, I don’t want to be a contender if I’m not going to be the best. My record in UFC is 1-2 and for me that is embarrassing. I hold myself at a much higher standard and train every single day with the best fighters so there is no excuse. That is why this fight coming up I have a lot of fire and almost anger going this because I need to separate myself from being a contender, just being a normal guy, to a top fighter.

What are some things you have learned or taken away from the UFC fights?
Like I said it has been a roller coaster. This is a really hard sport. Emotionally and on your body and you have to really love it. For me, the passion is there regardless. I have to succeed because I have sacrificed my body and somewhat my relationship with my family. Being successful is not an option. You just wait until Australia.

What do you think of the challenge of moving up to welterweight at UFC 193 from lightweight?
Yes. That was always a big thing. Growing up in Taekwondo, I would had mixed results in featherweight and lightweight which is 147-158. I went up to welterweight which is 176 for Taekwondo and that was where I won Nationals twice and silver at Pan Am Games. For some reason my first four fights in MMA were at 170 and to cut down to 155 my life has been miserable. My last fight I made the weight but it took so much of my spirit that I didn’t even want to fight and obviously the result on top of that of losing that fight. When I decided to do my next fight I felt like I needed to do what made me happy and I’m going to fight at this weight. I feel like this is a good fight for me. I’m going into enemy territory fighting an Australian. I feel like sometimes you have to have your back against the wall to see what you are really all about.

To make 155 I would have to cut 45 pounds and it just killed me. I never felt like I could get better as a martial artist because my whole six to eight week training camp would be focused towards diet. And now it is kind of weird because I’m walking around lighter than when I was fighting at 155.

That’s why I’m so excited for this fight in Australia. You are going to see my true capabilities. I really have this fire inside of me that I need to let go and release some anger.

Did you want to try to get on the UFC Fight Night 79 in Korea card?
Yeah just through social media and interviews I would mention that I had some interest in fighting in Korea. But for the most part I leave that up to my manager because my job is to fight. Don’t get me wrong, if they were to ask me to go to Korea I would jump on that plane.

What do you think of the UFC/Reebok fight kits?
I stay pretty neutral about that stuff. It is what it is. For me, my job is to fight and sponsorships are just a bonus. First and foremost I get paid to fight. Getting sponsors is not the main reason I wanted to be in the UFC. I love what I do and to just be able to wake up and do what you love is something that a lot of people can’t say. I’m just blessed. It’s a good problem to have.

What other career goals have you set for yourself?
Short term would be to win this next fight. Long term is to stay healthy and do as well as I can in this business. My mom always told me that if you do your best you’ll always win. If I do my best and perform the way I know I can then I know I can compete with the top 10 guys in this division. But right now it is just one step at a time as I’m nowhere even close to that. But long term that is what I’m eyeing.

Do you see yourself staying at welterweight or will you keep lightweight open?
I’ll keep it open. You gotta pay the bills. Any weight, any time, any place. I kind of like that mentality.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
My true passion is teaching children martial arts. Not how to kill each other or fight but the traditional tenets of Taekwondo; courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit and making martial arts a way of life. I feel like that has helped me so much to get through so many dark points in my life. That’s something I love to teach children. So definitely opening up my own martial arts school along with a study center is my dream.

Are you still teaching when not training for a fight?
I used to teach a lot but right now as I prepare for fights I have a select few students that I do private lessons with. Not as much as I used to but more of on a private scale now.

Conclusion

What’s your current relationship status?
I do have a girlfriend and I’m a father of my lovely dog Mocha.

What do you do to relax?
I like to cook a lot and love watching the Food Network. I’m into these thing called “paint nights” where you go and learn how to paint. Now I feel like I’m a Picasso and paint. Haha! I’m horrible at painting.

You know what is weird? I don’t actually like watching fighting when I’m not fighting.

So do you watch film of opponents during training?
I don’t watch tapes of my opponents. I leave that up to my coaches because first of all I know how everybody is going to fight me. Nobody is going to stand with me so they are going to try to take me down. That is everybody’s strategy. There is no real need to watch them fight. I know that with my style, nobody is going to fight the same style as with the average other guy. I bring a completely different skill set than 95% of athletes in the UFC.

Anybody in particular that you respect?
Definitely my mother is a huge motivating factor in my life and is a main reason I’m doing this. So that she will not have to work anymore.

As far as athletes, being around Anderson Silva is kinda like being around Muhammad Ali in his prime. It’s just that whole entire experience of actually being able to call him a friend is something I would never dream of.

What did you think about HalfKorean.com when you first saw it?
You know I love that. I feel so close to the Korean community. I’m just so happy that there might be a kid out there who potentially may want to pursue fighting. So for me to kind of serve as a role model and to help pave the way is an honor. To be accepted is huge and very motivating.

Any final words that you would like to pass on to the mixed Korean community?
You just have to do what makes you happy. It doesn’t matter about the money, the prestige or if you are a doctor, lawyer, whatever. Do what makes you happy and success will come.

We want to thank James for spending his time with us for this interview and wish him much continued success in his MMA career! We can’t wait to see his next fight!

Make sure to follow James on his official Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.

Interview by: David Lee Sanders

Posted: 12/18/2015

Back to Interviews


James “Moonwalker” Moontasri (Photo courtesy UFC)
 

James Moontasri celebrates his first round win by TKO over Anton Zafir (not pictured) in their welterweight bout during the UFC 193 event at Etihad Stadium on November 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
 

James Moontasri connecting a spinning back kick in round one of his UFC 193 welterweight bout at Etihad Stadium on November 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
 

UFC 193 – 11/15/2015: James Moontasri moments away from taking the Octagon in front of a record setting crowd
(Photo courtesy UFC Facebook)

 

UFC 193: James Moontasri gets a stretch in backstage
(Photo courtesy UFC Facebook)

 

James Moontasri at UFC 193 weigh-in at Etihad Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
 

James Moontasri with Anderson Silva at Blackhouse MMA
(Photo courtesy James Moontasri/Facebook)

 

James Moontasri celebrates after defeating Cody Pfister in their lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event inside 1stBank Center on February 14, 2015 in Broomfield, Colorado. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
 

James Moontasri
(Photo by Eric Williams)

 

James Moontasri (right) competing at XV Pan Am Games in 2007
(Photo courtesy James Moontasri/Facebook)

 

James Moontasri at XV Pan Am Games in 2007
(Photo courtesy James Moontasri/Facebook)

 

James Moontasri – 2007 USA Taekwondo Male Athlete of the Year
(Photo courtesy James Moontasri/Facebook)

 

James with his mother and sister (Photo courtesy James Moontasri/Instagram)
 
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