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Dann Cucuta

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Dann “BFOJ” Cucuta

Dann with Marcus "Pheng Phong" Fisher

Dann with Marcus “Pheng Phong” Fisher

In Ya Face MMA is fortunate to have this opportunity to learn about Dann “The Bionic Fist of Justice” Cucuta. Dann trains at Wright’s Gym with Pittsburgh Muay Thai in Crafton, PA. He is highly skilled in his stand up, both boxing and Muay Thai, and his ground came is nothing to underestimate. Dann and I actually trained at the same boxing gyms, with the same people, back in the day – Grant Street Community Center in Bellevue, Pa and Weightmasters in Wilkinsburg, PA. He trained closely with the “Fast” Eddie Chambers, and his coach and father, Adrian Chambers. A little known fact is that Dann was also the sparring partner of Roy Jones Jr. No wonder he moves like he does! Today, you will find him rolling at Wright’s or sparring in the ring with his elite Muay Thai training partner, Marcus “Pheng Phong” Fisher. Don’t let his Jiu Jitsu white belt status fool you, he taps many blue belts and beyond.

GOTC Rise to Power 7Dann has been climbing in his MMA career over the past couple of years, he is an unusually creative fighter, that is able to adapt with ease while in combat. His relaxed composure and fluidity is matched by none in our region. His fights are exciting and end more interestingly each time. His stoppages range from a knee to the face to intelligent submissions. He is humble, yet confident in his knowledge and abilities. A true martial artist, in both his philosophy and approach on life. There is no doubt that you should keep your eye on this dynamic warrior, as he will be on to the next level in no time.

InYaFaceMMA.com: Were your parents athletes? If so, please elaborate. 

Neither of my parents were athletes. My stepfather trained in Shotokan Karate as a teenager, but took on a life of pacifism after an incident. Therefore, he stopped training, before he came into my life.

IYF: Where did you grow up? What was it like?

I grew up a few different places. I’m originally from Brooklyn, New York. I spent some of my youth there as well as Grenada in the Caribbean (where my mom and her side of family are from). I moved to Atlanta as a teenager and went to High School there. I then moved to Pittsburgh at 19 and did the remainder of my “growing up” here. It’s kinda weird. I still feel like a New Yorker at heart, but I’m technically like a man without country, so to speak. Not fully from any of these places. I was kinda the outside guy as a kid. Cool with everyone, but feeling accepted by only a few.

IYF: Did you get into fights as a kid? What were the reasons? 

I got into some fights, but I wasn’t into trouble. I was a pretty shy and passive kid. I’d rather not fight or argue, but I wouldn’t back down from others. I always stood up for myself, even though I was scared. Sometimes I’d end up in fights with bullies that were picking on other kids, or get jumped and things like that.

IYF: What kind of sports were you into as a kid?

I wasn’t very athletically inclined honestly. I was slow. Couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. Couldn’t dribble, throw, etc. I was just tough and had heart. Martial arts is the only “sport” I’ve really been involved in since I was a teenager. I got into playing basketball and football a little, but only for recreation.

Dann with his sons, Lex and Gab.

Dann with his sons, Lex and Gabe.

IYF: When did you first get involved with MMA?

In 2010, when my ex-wife and I moved to North Carolina for a bit. I had stopped training altogether, for a couple years, to work and provide for my family at the time. I was working hard and making ends meet at the time, but I was miserable. A friend of my ex-wife made an offer for us to move to NC for her to start a business venture. I agreed with the compromise that I go back to training. We didn’t stay there long, but I continued training after we moved back here and I haven’t looked back since.

IYF: I know you are considered to be one of the best stand up fighters around, can you please tell us about that?

Well besides the obvious answer (Pittsburgh Muay Thai), I’ve trained as a stand up fighter primarily for over 20 years. I’ve trained individually in Taekwondo, Kickboxing, boxing and Muay Thai for many years, so I’m comfortable with the intricacies of each hand a separate entities. I’ve been in there with guys way bigger and better than me. Guys with skill sets that I’ll only see once I hit the elite level of MMA, and even then, just the elite strikers of the elite MMA fighters. Needless to say, I’m very comfortable mixing it up with anybody. Any size. Any skill.

IYF: What goes through your mind when walking into the cage?

All the different ways I can finish my opponent. I go in there thinking about winning and doing so I  dominant fashion. Not letting myself or my kids down by making sure I place maximum effort and focus into the current moment.

GOTC Rise to Power 7IYF: Are you looking for a knockout or a submission?

I always rather knock someone out, but I won’t pass up an opportunity for a submission. The fact is that I want to finish them. I’ll take no opportunity for granted.

IYF: How did you get the name “Bionic Fist of Justice”?

It kinda just started as a joke when I was in the hospital after breaking my right hand in my fight against Matt McWilliams in December of 2013. I was updating everyone about my preparation for surgery and at some point, referred to my hand as the fist of Justice. There was mention of possibly having to put a ate in it, so I was joking with GOTC ring announcer extraordinaire, Dan Bogan about it possibly becoming “bionic”. Then for my next fight, Bogan just announced me as “The Bionic Fist of Justice” out of nowhere and I just went with it. So basically Dan Bogan coined that nickname for me.

IYF: Can you tell us a little bit about your training regiment? Who you train with, eating… weight cut?
With RJ Creer, William Barry, Stephen ไพศาล Strotmeyer, Liam Petchyindee, Tyler Balsam, Ben Case and Steven Dang.My training regiment can vary. There are the usuals: running, pad work, heavy bag, jump rope, sparring, Clinching, boxing, Jiu Jitsu. Sometimes, depending on the particular opponent or injuries, etc., I’ll do some more than others. The training is generally intense and condensed. Hard training, but smart training. I train the way I’ll need to fight for the upcoming match. Stephen Strotmeyer is my head trainer, then we have Marcus Fisher, Ben Case, Jeff Kennedy and Shane Carlin who round out my crew of striking

Dave Wright, Ben Case, Stephen Strotmeyer, Dann Cucuta, Marcus Fisher

Dave Wright, Ben Case, Stephen Strotmeyer, Dann Cucuta, Marcus Fisher

trainers and advisers. Dave Wright as my main grappling coach in my corner. Though he isn’t my BJJ trainer, he has many years of wrestling experience and can instruct my grappling game in a style that more suits mine. I’m not a pull guard kinda guy. Since I’m a pretty small middleweight, I don’t have much of a weight cut. I usually only have to lose 10-15 pounds to fight and I’ll start the real cut the week before the fight. My diet is mostly clean. Not crazy. I don’t carry around ALOT of excess mass to cut like many fighters do and don’t believe in the crazy dehydration that some fighters do.

IYF: What are some of the major challenges you have faced as a fighter? How did you overcome them?

Attempting to fight and be successful at my age, as well as manage my responsibilities. Having the proper balance between training, resting, family life, dating and responsibilities. It’s an everyday process to overcome it all. Some days are great, some days not so great. I just got a deal with it all and manage.

IYF: Can you tell me your thoughts on tomorrow’s fight?

I’m looking forward to it. Jesse Murray seems to be a monster. He’s stopped everyone he’s fought. I’m thankful not to be given easy opposition. One can’t grow as a fighter that way. I’m looking forward to facing him and beating him decisively.

IYF: Where do you hope to be in one year? How do you plan on getting there?

In a year I intend to be the defending Gladiators of the Cage middleweight champion and moving on up from there. I’ve set my sights on that goal first, so I’m focused on working towards that for now.

IYF: What is your ultimate goal?

I don’t have an “ultimate goal” yet. That’s too final for me. I want to continue growing and I don’t see that stopping. My current goals are to continue improving my craft, continue winning in impressive fashion and win a Pro title later this year. I want to continue building my brand as a fighter, build the reputation of Pittsburgh Muay Thai and Wright’s Gym in the MMA community and continue to develop and expand as a trainer. Within the next year or two, start investing in real estate and grow from there. It’s a long process.

Dec7For FUN –  What is your favorite?

Food: Pizza, cheesecake, ice cream, Thai food, Italian, Chinese, Caribbean, roti, bakes seafood, pastries, chocolate,

Alcohol: I RARELY drink, but if I do, it’ll be a lil sissy drink like Smirnoff Ice, Rum Runner, Long Island or something else sweet. I’m not into beer or hard liquor.

Dann with Jaime of IYF MMA. Thanks for the interview Dann!

Dann with Jaime of IYF MMA. Thanks for the interview Dann!

Athlete:  Saenchai, Yodsanklai, Lerdsila, Anderson Silva, Edson Barbara, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, myself. Past athletes: Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Julio Caesar Chavez, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, Roy Jones Jr., Ernesto Hoos, Rob Kaman, Ramon Dekkers, Samart, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin, Charles Oakley, Bo Jackson

Sports Team: 

90’s Bulls, 90’s Knocks, 2000’s Steelers. I honestly don’t follow team sports anymore.

Actor: Jason Statham, Michael Jai White, Wesley Snipes, Schwarzenegger, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson

Movie: The Last Dragon, Glory, Avengers, and all Marvel Studios movies, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, Matrix trilogy, Blade 2, Expendables…

Band: Wu-Tang Clan, Bob Marley and the Wailers,

Dream Date: No particular person. Just someone that I’ll do a lot of smiling, talking and laughing with and is pretty freakin hot to boot ;-)

What place(s) would you like to travel to that you haven’t been yet : 

Thailand, Japan

Heroes:

Superman, Batman

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