Egan Inoue Interview
by Chris and Michael Onzuka

The Inoue brothers, Egan and Enson, are taking the NHB scene by storm. Coming from an unorthodox background as professional racquetball players (Egan was a two-time World Champion, Enson was ranked number one in Japan), both have made a smooth transition to full contact fighting. Enson, currently the Shooto Heavyweight Champion, has dethroned Randy Couture (former UFC champ) and Egan came close to winning the Lumax Cup Tournament of "J" in 1995, losing a close decision in the finals to Tsuyoshi "TK" Kosaka. Egan has been relatively quiet in the NHB scene, until now, and seemed to be concentrating on honing his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. He became the first non-Brazilian to become a World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion (Blue Belt Champ in 1996, Absolute Weight Purple Belt Champ in 1997). I caught up with Egan at his academy, Grappling Unlimited Hawaii in Halawa, Hawaii on April 7, 1999.

FCF: Tell me about your martial arts background.
Egan Inoue: I started off when I was 4 years old, fighting in Shotokan Karate. I fought kumite and the katas. I fought that for 3 or 4 years, got to brown belt and moved on to Wing Chun for 2 or 3 years. Then, I got my black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido. I trained also in Kendo. I did a little bit of boxing and Muay Thai, here and there. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I have been doing for 8 years now. I had a couple years I took off because I had another career going on. Now, just doing all the other different types of martial arts, anything I can get my hands on that will help my grappling.

FCF: Most people know you for your accomplishments in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but you have also fought some NHB matches for the Rings Network. How much professional fights have you had and currently what is your NHB record?
EI: The Rings fight, I had a DQ (disqualification). I don't know how you record that. Shooto, I had one fight, in the Shooto rules. I won by submission. The Jacket Jiu-Jitsu (Lumax Cup Tournament of "J"), I don't know if that's considered a professional fight. I think I had five different fights, including Kosaka, who's fighting in UFCs now, and Alexander Otsuka, who just beat Marco Ruas. That's basically all the professional fights I had.

FCF: In what mixed martial arts events have you participated?
EI: Just the Rings, Shooto, and the Lumax Cup (Tournament of "J").

FCF: Whom have you fought?
EI: I fought (Tsuyoshi, T.K.) Kosaka, Alexander Otsuka, (Akihiro) Gono. I fought Sunae Kikuta. A guy named Dehdman from Australia. I can't remember the guy I fought in Rings.

FCF: By now everyone has heard of your victory over Renzo Gracie at the 1999 Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championship (Under 87kg) in February. How was your experience in Abu Dhabi and what did it feel like to beat a world class grappler like Renzo? Weren't you hoping to meet up with him?
EI: First of all, the Abu Dhabi tournament was a good experience to be in. To beat Renzo, that felt really good, to beat Renzo. I mean the guy is a great fighter. He's a fearless guy. He fights against anybody, he doesn't pick who he wants to fight. And he's a tough competitor. If I was hoping to meet up with Renzo, I was hoping if I did, it would be in the finals. But I kind of did want to meet up with Renzo, just to see where I stand, not to knock him down or anything like that. For me it's more of just a challenge. To see if what I have been doing as training works. And if it doesn't work, I'd like to know it and that was a good time to find out.

FCF: There was also some post fight activity after your match with Renzo. What happened?
EI: The post activity was just, ah, it was his brother, Ryan Gracie, he just said it was a shit match and he was upset. But it was really no big deal. You know he came up after and apologized. He just said he was upset that his brother lost and I understand that because when Enson is in the ring, whether it's no rules or if it's just wrestling, to see him lose is real upsetting. So, I can see where he's coming from. So, that was really no big deal.

FCF: What is your opinion regarding the match between your brother (Enson) and Mario Sperry at Abu Dhabi?
EI: That was basically, to me, it was a holding match. It was a hugging match. Its not a matter of…Mario played his rules right. I mean he's a smart guy, a great Jiu-Jitsu guy. Being that he could hold Enson like that is showing how good he is. A lot of people might think that he was scared to let Enson loose or whatever it was. But I don't think in a tournament like that, when you're fighting for money, it's a matter of showing that you're a tough guy. It's a matter of how smart you are. And Mario Sperry obviously showed that he's sharp. And, I mean, he's a good guy, and he's also a smart guy, and a great Jiu-Jitsu fighter. Enson wasn't happy with being held like that, but Enson understands also that's the game. If you're going to play the game, you got to play the rules.

FCF: Last month in FCF Magazine, Relson Gracie was profiled and talked about the incident that occurred at the Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Tournament (held in Hawaii) in 1998. After reading Relson's interview, what are your final thoughts on the interview and the subject?
EI: I think my final thoughts for that whole thing that happened in Hawaii is just old news. It's in the past. It's no big deal. I've got a lot of other things coming up. And Enson and I are doing a lot more things. The bottom line is, pretty much, a lot of people have the facts all mixed up. And I really don't care what people say. It doesn't really matter to me. The bottom line is that Enson and I do good showings, in Abu Dhabi, we did good showings in the NHB fights and we just let our schools do the talking. I mean if we're out there promoting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it's really silly to do something like that, like restraining orders (Relson took out a temporary restraining order on Egan and Enson). That's just ridiculous. A lot of people say I should grow up, but I'm not the one that's going after him. He's the one who went after me, brought me to court (for the restraining order). I didn't bring him to court. You know he's accusing me of throwing a rock through his window. I mean, all those little things like that is ridiculous. I mean, he has no proof of most of the things he says. And I mean, I can go on about all the different things and negate all the things he says, but I would be just wasting paper and time. And we've been going back and forth with all of these things. I'd rather leave it at that and let him have the last say and just move on.

FCF: You have not fought NHB for a while, leaving that for Enson, while you entered grappling competitions. All of a sudden you have two matches almost two months apart, why the layoff and then sudden re-entry into NHB?
EI: The layoff was basically due to the Rings fight. I had 2, no, 3 eye jabs and I had slight retina damage. And it wasn't real bad. It was the gel in the eye that was the problem. I saw spots for eight months. And I thought to myself, "I never want to do something like that again." But doing an NHB type [match], where we can close fists, the chances of getting eye gouged is a lot less. And hopefully, I don't get any eye gouging going on. Also another thing was the money issue. I refuse to fight for nothing. Nothing meaning, you know $2,000. Now some people see that as a lot of money, but the effort…I train hard for my events. I spend a lot of time, I spend a lot of money on my supplements. And, you know, I get discounts from Designer Body (one of his sponsors), but it still costs a lot of money. For me, to fight for $2,000, doesn't even pay for my time. I may as well spend it [my time] and go work somewhere else. I'd make a lot more money. Basically, that's what it was. I was just doing competitions, stayed in shape, I fought a few NHB fights and got into Rings and I fought the Lumax Cup and Shooto. Just to know that I can fight these things. And then I was going to wait. I held out for what [the money] I thought I should fight for. And I wasn't going to fight until then. And all of a sudden I get two offers. And our starting of the [payment] negotiations was where I wanted my minimum. They started at where I wanted to fight at. So, that's why I'm fighting two in a row.

FCF: You have two fights coming up, one fight at Pride 5 with Minoru Toyonaga on April 29 and one fight at Superbrawl with Marcelo Tigre on June 1. What do you know about Toyonaga?
EI: I don't really know much about him. All I know is that he fought Pancrase. I got all the dates of the times that he fought in Pancrase. I got, uh, I think he also fought a Rings fight and I also have the dates of that. And I haven't really gone over studying those tapes yet that, I'll leave that to a week before the fight. Umm… that's about all I know about him.

FCF: This is your first fight back in quite a while. How do you feel your layoff will affect your performance against Toyonaga?
EI: Uh…You know I'm not sure how it's going to affect me, but I don't think it's going to affect [me] too much because I've been still in competitions. It didn't have striking, but whenever I do any type of grappling thing, I'm always thinking about striking. And the striking just adds another dimension where it's more of a standup game and I think that's where I belong.

FCF: Also in Pride 5, your brother Enson is scheduled to fight Mark Kerr, whom most people rank as the number one active NHB fighter in the world today. After submitting Randy Couture (previously undefeated UFC heavyweight champion), Enson definitely earned a shot at Kerr. What do you feel Enson has to do to win this fight?
EI: I think for Enson to win this fight, he… if Enson fights his fight and you know, stays with what he knows how to do, I, I don't think Enson is going to have too much problem with Kerr. Also, a lot of people don't think otherwise, but it's the same thing. They thought otherwise with Enson and Randy Couture and you know everyone can have all the excuses they want about all the different fights, but the bottom line is who wins at the end. And I think if I felt that Enson didn't have a chance against Mark Kerr, I would discourage him in fighting that fight and same with Enson if he didn't feel he could win, he wouldn't take that fight.

FCF: How do you feel about fighting on the same card as your brother?
EI: I feel a little bit weird fighting on the same card as Enson. Just for the fact that his fight is the bigger fight. And, uh, I want to make sure that, that by me fighting, I don't stress him out and take any energy out of him because he has the last fight of the night. And luckily, my fight will be the first fight of the night so hopefully I can open up with a big bang, a quick fight and Enson can end it with the same thing. Big bang and a quick fight.

FCF: Will you be training with Enson for the upcoming Pride?
EI: Uh…not at all. I'm just doing my training here, he's gonna do his training in Japan. But, we keep in contact, probably every other…at least a couple times a week. And, basically we know what each other does for training and we know, where, you know I can visualize everything Enson is doing all day long. I know exactly his routine. And we can just talk over the phone knowing what each other…I give him ideas on what I think he should be working on. And you know, he'll call me back and say well this doesn't work or that doesn't work. So, basically we work together over the phone.

FCF: Marcello Tigre, a Brazilian boasting a record of 32-0, is your opponent at Superbrawl. This match came about because of the incident at the 1998 Pan American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament. He is a Brazilian brown belt, like yourself, and came to Hawaii specifically to fight you. Do you foresee any problems because of his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background and vast experience?
EI: In any type of NHB fight, there's gonna to be problems and I think, I would think, the major problem is that you know he's, ...I'm giving up probably at least 30 lbs. on him. He's probably at least 220 lbs. plus, so… you know, I'm giving up a lot of weight. Any time you're giving up weight, I mean, that's why they have weight classes in fights because weight does make a big difference. And I have seen some of his fights and he has 32 fights, he's definitely experienced. He's also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which is, the same, supposedly, the same technical skill I would have. So, on the ground, it's gonna come down to who gets to the better position. If I fight my fight, or he fights his fight. Uh…every fights gonna be tough, doesn't matter who.

FCF: Do you feel that fighting in front of your home crowd will help you or cause added pressure?
EI: Uh… I think always fighting at home always adds a little bit of pressure. But you know, I like pressure, I mean I've always done really well under pressure and through all my other sports that I've ever played, the more pressure, I usually function better. I hope it still stays the same way. (laughs)

FCF: You have just joined Nova Uniao (John Lewis and Andre Pederneiras team). Nova Uniao has an incredible competition team in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a few notables (e.g. John Lewis, Andre Pederneiras, and Joao Roque) have fought NHB with a lot of success. Why did you leave the Machados and choose to join the Nova Uniao team?
EI: Basically, my move was made from the Machados to Nova Uniao because it goes back to that problem at the Kaiser High School (where the 1998 Pan American BJJ tournament was held). The Machados are cousins of the Gracie's and it's not, not necessarily the Gracie's that the problems are with, but it's with Relson Gracie. And the bottom line was that they're cousins and I didn't want to jeopardize their relationship with their own cousins because of me and for my family. Enson and I will never have disagreements, I mean, we will have disagreements, but we'll never fight to where, you know, we split and we do things on our own. And the same with our cousins. You know, we don't… I wouldn't appreciate someone breaking apart our family. And, you know, I'm still good friends with the Machados, and you know I saw them at Abu Dhabi and we still, you know, get along. And, you know, that's the main thing. I wanted to keep their friendship and I didn't want to tear them from their cousins. And I know I was putting a lot of stress on them and so that's the first reason why I moved to Nova Uniao. Another reason was that, like John Lewis, he's born and raised in Hawaii. And it just makes me comfortable, even if he lives in (Las) Vegas now, you know it's always good for me to stick with someone who's from Hawaii. Same like with anyone else. You know, you see the Brazilians, they always, no matter where they are in the world, they stick together too.

FCF: I understand that you have just released your second series of videos. Are you happy with the finished product and how are they different from the first series?
EI: The second set of videos that came out, uh, I don't know. Every time I watch my own self on tape, I don't like it to begin with. But the reviews that I've been getting is pretty good and I know there's always going to be guys who bash it and those guys have nothing better to do but bash things. But the reviews are good, it's not my type of music, it's not, not my type of thing. But, the people who made it know what they are doing and I have confidence that the way they finish the product is the best way of marketing it.

FCF: Did you get to see the final product?
EI: Yeah, I did. I have the final, actually I got four of the final ones, and the fifth one, I think it should be done by now, but I don't have that one yet.

FCF: You have been the talk of Internet forums everywhere regarding your conditioning methods and techniques. Can you walk us through an Egan Inoue training day as you prepare for your upcoming fights?
EI: (laughs) I usually start in the morning. I start with a run, usually a slow run, just waking up type, to loosen up the body. I usually go to the University of Hawaii and I'll do my interval type training. I have a pool workout that I do. It takes about 30 minutes, of leg movement stuff. And then there's what I call hypoxy drills. It's oxygen depletion type training. I also do weights. I'll go and I'll do my circuit training, all my weights [training] are circuit training. And then from there I'll get on an EFX (Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer, a zero impact, elliptical stride machine that targets specific lower body muscles used for cardiovascular conditioning) machine and do intervals on the EFX machine. Then I usually take a short break and get something to eat, [and] a protein shake. Then I make it down to meet Teddy Limos (local professional boxer/kickboxer) and he works me at my boxing and kickboxing skills for about an hour and a half to two hours. Then from there, straight to Grappling Unlimited. I do my wrestling stuff, Jiu-Jitsu and call it a day.

FCF: Is there plans in the future for a book or video on just conditioning drills or do you feel that you have adequately addressed this attribute of fighting in your present video series?
EI: I really would like to do a training, conditioning video, but the problem with that is that I train so much that I really don't have time for that. I still take classes at Kapi'olani Community College, part of the University of Hawaii. And that takes up a lot of time. So, as much as I want to do it, I really don't have the time to do it. My training keeps changing. As I get older, there's limitations on my body that I have to understand, I have to accept. And I have to make training procedures to do so.

FCF: Many people feel that fighting is 75% mental, 25% physical. What are your views on the division between the mental and physical aspects of fighting?
EI: Mentally, I think that in order to get there, where 75% is mental, I think that the training has to be so hard that you know how hard your body can go. But until you know that, everything is…that's really hard to say because mentally, you can stay in a fight just by being a tough guy. But, if someone else's technique is that much better, then you have to use more physical [attributes]. So, I think it depends on fight to fight. But, I think training is probably 75% mental because you got to get up and get yourself to train. Unless you have the money to hire trainers and they follow you around all day and push you all day. You then just have to put out your own effort. As for me, you know I do everything, my own training, myself. The hardest thing is to get me to the place to do it [train]. Once I'm there, I'll do it. So that's what I think, I don't know what the percentage is. (laughs)

FCF: Can you give us a percentage breakdown of these factors: conditioning, technique, and heart? Please be specific.
EI: I think conditioning is probably the biggest percentage because if there's equal technique, equal strength, equal weight, whoever's in better shape is going to win. And then it goes the same for everything else. If everything else was…if conditioning was equal, technique was equal and there's a weight difference, then chances are the heavier guy is going to win. And it goes the same way for everything. So, I try to concentrate on everything. I make sure that I try to work everything, everyday.


FCF: You have recently started submission-grappling tournaments (with and without gimono) in Hawaii. Do you have any plans to promote NHB matches or tournaments in the future?
EI: What I'm planning on doing is...I want to do the amateur shootfighting in Hawaii. And, I have to do that slow, to make sure people are good both with the gi and without the gi. What my plans are for the finals of my tournament series, I want everybody to fight four minutes with the gi and four minutes without the gi. And, the reason for that is, technique is built with the gi. Now strength, power, conditioning is (developed) without the gi. And, you need to be able to put both together. I don't think one or the other by itself is the best. If I don't feel that people have that, I don't want to put them into a situation where I don't feel that they belong.

FCF: Lastly, what is your future plans, after Superbrawl?
EI: After Superbrawl, hopefully I have two wins in NHB. I hike my prices up for my fights and if there's offers, I fight, if there's none, then I wait again. I'm only going to wait a couple more years because I'm a lot older than most people think (Egan recently turned 34). So, I don't have that much longer to go. But I'll know when I'm done, I'll have video tapes, I'll have pictures, I'll have medals of all my accomplishments. Also, it's not going to be all hearsay stuff. I WAS the champ or this and that, but there's no proof. I'm going to have all the proof of what I claim to be. And, on the same token, when I'm finally done fighting I'll probably…hopefully just disappear.

FCF: Thank you for the interview and good luck in your upcoming fights and with your academy.