Valley brothers hope to rise through MMA ranks with unorthodox training
SCOTTSDALE, AZ – At first glance, the state of mind may seem unusual. There is the Electric Diet, which focuses solely on consuming mucus-free fruits and vegetables. There’s the cold character, born out of a love for Jeet Kune Do – a style of martial arts inspired by Bruce Lee – and the connection to weapon-based martial arts.
Initially, it’s unclear why Alex and Tim Carrillo are fighters, given their stiff frames. But it helps explain the popularity of MMA: the unknown and unorthodox.
Amid the limitless expansion the MMA world has seen over the past decade – from global sports awareness through the UFC and other promotions, to the MMA-specific gyms popping up in every city – two Ahwatukee brothers seem to appreciate their roots more than ever these days.
â€œIt’s more like the vibe of nature,â€ said Alex Carrillo, â€œespecially adding that in and then with my character, the High Vibe Shinobi, I like to be inside like the trees and the grass.”
It’s mid-September and the brothers are at Chaparral Park, their playground, the arena where they show up with a handcrafted bo staff and a smile on their face, eager to start their training for the day.
â€œWe’re really trying to develop our specific skill, which is a mix between upper body wrestling and boxing,â€ Tim said.
Alex, 23, and Tim, 33, started wrestling at a young age, becoming Desert Vista High School athletes. Tim started his MMA training in 2018, taking Alex with him, which allowed him to immerse himself in the sport.
â€œYes, we’ve always had similar mindsets with what inspires us to do it,â€ Tim said. “And much like all cartoon martial arts (aspect), our theme really keeps us going and interested … by supplementing our training with weapons and so on.”
For Alex, this mindset has become an essential part of his career, helping him secure his first victory at RUF 43 in August, when he won a first round by TKO against Mark Courson.
â€œSo because it was more play, it helped me a lot, because I didn’t think of any pressure behind it. The fight was a little more pressure, â€said Alex. â€œBut as far as the fighting goes, it wasn’t so much pressure. I was just more confident because I treated it more like a game.
This mindset has also helped establish Alex’s fighting character, High Vibe Shinobi, personifying who he wants to be in and out of the cage.
The name comes from the brothers’ love of the Electric Diet, a mucus-free diet that focuses on consuming fruits and vegetables, leading to more water energy and essentially higher vibrations. They combined that with their love of Jeet Kune Do to become the fighters they are today.
â€œI did underground fights and a lot of people are becoming fans. They’ll call me the Ninja, the Shinobi, High Vibe Shinobi and they’re great in it, â€Alex said. â€œSo I’m really trying to build a good fan base, especially to reach out to the kids more and stuff like that, to get them more involved. “
Alex also believes that this personality of being true to himself is the main catalyst for connecting with fight fans.
â€œNot necessarily that character where I’m here trying to get to know you, swear too much or act like I want to hurt people so much this and that,â€ Alex said. â€œIt’s more about the martial arts aspect and hitting different crowds insteadâ€¦ mostly because a lot of people have their style but they stay away from MMA, say they just want to do karate or they just want to do judo and stuff like that, but I want everything to be connected.
Don’t be fooled by the character, as the brothers take their jobs seriously. They travel between Arizona and Los Angeles monthly, training with UFC talents at Blackhouse and the Brazilian samurai MMA, but it’s the time they spend outside of the gym that is most precious to them. .
â€œI think we’re definitely very committed to training,â€ said Alex. â€œBut it’s just in our own systems. I like to go and test my skills in the gyms rather than being there and sitting there. â€¦ Most of my learning takes place on the side where I have more time to work on it rather than trying to put it all together in an hour or two.
Even when the brothers aren’t physically together, they still manage to train together through FaceTime. A “normal” session often involves a little sack work, a little jiu-jitsu and then an individualized lesson plan that the other has helped prepare.
Their most recent fight camp was all about movement, especially for Alex, who mostly focused on his striking footwork. The pre-strike movement, invented by Alex ‘before the buttons’, helped him get the RUF knockout in September. Imagining a series of tiles on the octagonal floor, Alex uses it to place his feet in certain positions, anticipating not only his opponents’ movements, but his own as well.
â€œThe reason I call it a pre-button move, we treat it like it’s basically buttons,â€ Alex said. â€œSo there’s a button in the middle between the opponent and then where your feet are basically supposed to be. And when you kick your foot you’re supposed to land on that button, which we call it, and that’s where you can hit it, so you’re kind of off the button until you land on it. And when you land on the button, that’s when you hit. So we don’t want to intervene on the button to pick up the strike until we have worked on the pre-button.
The brothers also spend countless hours watching movies and mods that they send to each other.
They will even give a course just to have more work, taking every opportunity to improve in their profession.
â€œI’m like a nerd about this,â€ Alex said with a smile. â€œI basically try to study it like a video game. “
They admit that they spend every possible minute thinking about their fighting careers while struggling to get out of it, as many fighters are in part-time jobs. For Tim, it’s about finding a balance between the two, as he has a 2-year-old son at home.
For work, Alex focuses on food delivery services from Doordash and Grubhub for Income.
â€œI think the deliveries really got me going back and forth to California,â€ he said. â€œI don’t think I would be able to do this if I had a normal job because I would have to take time off, I would have to ask for things, I would be stressed when I get my paycheck. “
Alex is looking to make his pro debut before the end of the year, while Tim is aiming for the next RUF event in October.
â€œI don’t want to continue to be an amateur,â€ said Alex. â€œI wasn’t even really hit, I haven’t been punched once in these last four fights. And I was able to finish every fight. So I’m definitely ready to go pro for sure.
He may soon be making his wish come true as Joel Lopez, CEO of RUF Nation, left impressed with Alex’s recent performance.
â€œThis kid is legit,â€ said Lopez, who sat ringside at RUF 43 with former UFC middleweight Rich Franklin. â€œI was actually saying to Rich, I said, ‘You know, that kid doesn’t really look like a fighter. I don’t know, man, I feel a little bad for him. And boom! As soon as I said that, I said, ‘You know what? I put my foot in my mouth. I will take back (my words) â€.
Lopez likened Alex’s appearance to that of a “computer geek” due to his 5ft 9in tall, 125lb build, but Lopez understands that looks aren’t everything in the MMA world. . â€œIt doesn’t sound like a mean-looking fighter. And then they come out and their inner warrior comes out, like they’re Incredible Hulk, â€Lopez said. “And so to my surprise, he proved me wrong.”
An old quote from Bruce Lee personifies the Carrillos: “Absorb what is useful, throw out what is not, add what is unique to you.” The brothers try to live by these words. While others may question their unorthodox training methods and composure, they say they choose to embrace it, citing discipline and consistency as the primary tools of their trade.
They also see the MMA mat as a chess board, strategically planning every move before making it, because despite the outward appearances and laid back personalities, this is their life. While others will be more in the spotlight, these two are perfectly content to sit down and hone their craft like the ninjas they embody inside the Octagon.
For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.