Interview By: James Franchise
Swedish MMA Fighter Andreas Hesselback is set to face Fransino Tirta December 27th in Bali, Indonesia. Tirta will be looking to build upon his 9-0-1 unbeaten record. Fransino gained international attention recently by fighting Top Chinese fighter Dai Shuang Hai in Art of War 8 to a 15 minute Draw.
1. Q:For the readers who don’t know about you, give us a lil’ background info about yourself.
HB: I’m 26 years old, I’ve been training in different Martial Arts since ‘94. I started fighting Shooto style fights nearly 8 years ago while in living in Sweden. My career was put on hold in 2001, when I interested in body building. Eventually I found my way back to MMA in 04, when I faced USA-Art of War contender Klas Akesson. I lost the fight via armbar. The loss motivated me to make changes in my training. I found new techniques, cross trained with other fighters, and eventually moved to Thailand pursuing my fighting career. I had my first “Return fight” in October when I beat UK grappler Lawrence Neele during an MMA fight held in Thailand. After beating him up on the feet and landing a high light slam, I secured the Guillotine choke early in the 2nd round.
*Video of fight*
2. Q: What do you know about Fransino Tirta?
HB: I know he is an Indonesian MMA Icon, having a perfect 9-0 record. I also know those wins came against some weak competition. I watched him struggle against another top fighter in South East Asia, Dai Shuang Hai of China. Thanks to YouTube I’ve had an opportunity to watch over an hour of grappling and MMA footage of Tirta. He is a BJJ purple belt, but doesn’t seem to transition his ranking very well when he is forced to fight without the gi. I think the technique he lacks in striking he compensates with his power, and warrior spirit. I am looking to turn this into a shotgun shoot-out on the feet. (Laughing) I want him to realize I’m here to take his undefeated record.
3. Q: Fransino has a ton of fight experience, do you think that will play a factor in the fight?
HB: Fight records are illusive. Fransino has experience with performing in front of the crowds and the lights, but he has never really been in a war. Most of his fights were over in the first round against opponents I could have beaten just as easily. He has never faced a fighter bigger and more powerful than him. His fight in China showed he had cardio and heart, but Dai Shuang Hai didn’t fight with the same intensity and explosivness my style offers.
I have a lot of experience on my side as well. I’ve got professional fighters who know how to cut weight and who understand plyometric conditioning. I have an instructor who has actually competed, and knows the differences between submission grappling and fighting. Besides having fought on PPV himself, Ray has been a training partner for fighters getting ready for big UFC and PRIDE fights. I know he understands what it takes to be the best. Fransino isn’t getting to train with the same level of competition I am getting pushed by every at practice. I am getting to train with KOTC, TKO, and Cage Rage veterans. Our camp has BJJ Purple, Brown, and Black Belts visiting almost every month from various locations in the world.
4. Q: Tell us about your training leading up to this fight?
HB: At the beginning of my move to Thailand I set a goal of becoming the best fighter possible. I’ve dedicated my entire life from top to bottom with preparing myself to compete. I live a clean life. My diet is balanced, I don’t smoke or drink, and I train twice a day. This is my shot at doing what I love, in order to make this dream a reality Fransino is the next step. I know Fransino doesn’t get the opportunity to train full-time. I make sure every night when I go to bed, I know that I did the best I could for that day. One day at a time, one fight at a time, I’m training to make this a career.
5. Q: Living in Thailand do you find it difficult to find qualified MMA training partners?
HB: No, not at all. Tiger Muay Thai has a great MMA instructor who trains along side his students. Ray Elbe is a BJJ Purple Belt under Juliano Prado. He has fought some of the biggest names in MMA and has over 30 professional fights. I actually helped Ray prepare for his recent 1st round KO victory in Khabarovsk, Russia. Since returning from that victory Ray has dedicated 100% of his training attention on getting me ready for this fight. We have been reviewing video footage of Fransino, and training specifically for him. Ray is a smart guy with a ton of experience. He has trained with some of the best in the sport, and I have no doubt we are well prepared for a tough battle.
6. Q: You took 2nd place in your division at the last SEA Grappling games. The Finals match was against a teammate Allan Harvey, did you find it difficult to compete against a teammate, and do you have to listen to the guys at the gym talk smack about the loss?
HB: Knowing he was a teammate relieved a lot of the anxiety a fighter can get from competing. I still didn’t like taking home the silver medal though. (Laughing) I don’t have to listen to the guys too bad. I was satisfied with my performance. Allan is a Judo brown belt and has almost 10 years of Sambo experience. He is actually fighting in AOW 10. That match has motivated me to train harder. If you watch the end of the fight, you can see that regulation expires with me attempting a single leg takedown. If I would have just committed sooner to the takedown I would have won. That feeling makes the silver medal motivate me that much more.
7. Q: Battle in Bali is going to be 3 rounds of 5 minutes. The Rules include PRIDE’S Knees and Kicks to a downed opponent as well as the UFC’s use of elbows. What do you think about the rules?
HB: They are Great. The Rules are one of the things that I get excited during my daily visualizations of the fight. Mentally I’ve played out face stomps, and soccer kicks so many times that I wake up in the morning to find that I’ve punted pillows across the room like it was a football during my sleep. (Laughing) MMA should be fought with these rules. I like the 3 rounds of 5 minutes. Art Of War uses 2 rounds, one lasting 10 minutes, and the second is 5 mintues. I think the extended round causes a slow down in the action. Being able to break every five minutes will allow me to push the pace from start to finish giving the crowd the action they pay to see.
8. Q: You have mentioned Art of War in Beijing China several times, are you looking to compete for that organization?
HB: Yeah, Of Course. They have a huge TV deal and an expanding audience. Andy Pi is currently the best promoter in Asia. I see that show feeling the void felt by the departure of PRIDE FC. Fighting is my job, I want to fight and showcase my talents, if Art of War wants me to beat up their poster boy, I’d do it for them. (laughing)
9. Q: What are your predictions for the fight in Bali?
HB:First of all I’m looking forward to the experience. Fighting is fun and I view this as my first real opportunity to showcase my skills against a promising opponent. I see Fransino is one of the biggest names on the MMA scene in South East Asia. Now that I am living in Thailand I want my name mentioned with the same reputation as the other top fighters living/competing in the region. Mentally I’m preparing myself for a war. I believe in my training and skills. Going into this fight I would have myself as the favorite.
10. Q: Anything else you would like to mention in this interview?
HB: I want to thank everyone at Tiger Muay Thai. Ray has done a wonderful job getting me ready for this fight. The gym owner Will Mcnamara has gone out of his way to help me maximize my potential, he really recognizes the support a fighter needs in order to compete as a professional. Training for this fight I have had too many black eyes to thank everyone, but I can’t forget, Wade, Ngoo, Marko, Allan, and Apocalypse. I want to wish Fransino luck, I really respect him for accepting the fight against a bigger foreign opponent. I hope he plans on turning this into a dogfight, the crowd always recognizes a fight between two Gamebred fighters.