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Exclusive Interview: Yves Jabouin Talks About His Rough Childhood, His Long Road to the UFC and the Animal Inside Him

(The fight that opened the doors for Jabouin. PicProps: Sherdog)

If you haven’t yet watched an Yves Jabouin fight and you aren’t going to UFC 129, we suggest you sign up for a Facebook account to catch the Montreal-based Haitian take on Pablo Garza in the event’s prelims next Saturday.

A training partner of several past and present UFC standouts including David Loiseau, Miguel Torres and Georges St-Pierre, Jabouin has continually impressed his teammates with his highlight-reel finishes, his shocking speed and explosiveness.

We had a chance recently to speak with the 10-year MMA veteran and we discussed a number of topics including his childhood, his long road to the Octagon, and losing out on a title shot to Mark Hominick.

Check out what “Tiger” had to say.

You’re originally from Haiti and you grew up in Montreal. Why did your family decide to relocate to Quebec?

Basically, my family was fleeing a civil war that was going on towards the end of a dictatorship that was going on over there. My mother decided that it wasn’t a safe place for her kids. Montreal was the place where she had the most family and where we would have the most support to make the transition from living in Haiti.

It probably helped that Quebec is a primarily French-speaking province.


How old were you when you moved there?

I was seven or eight.

Fighters get into martial arts for various reasons. Some do it for the athletic aspect, some do it for the discipline, and others do it to learn how to fight to protect them from being bullied and what not. Why did you start training?

I had a pretty short temper as a kid. I got into a lot of fights because of my anger and I think it was partially a result of seeing all of the things I saw growing up in Haiti. I got into martial arts to help learn how to deal with my temper and my aggression.

This is your tenth year competing as a professional MMA fighter, yet you’re just now getting the recognition on the big stage. Was your goal always to be in the UFC and did you start to lose hope at any point that it would happen?

As a younger man it was my dream to be the champion of the world for the biggest organization. That kind of died out over the years, but it’s coming back right now. I can see that it’s within reach, so I’m reviving the dream.

You’ve been pretty lucky to have arguably the two biggest fights of your career in Canada — your WEC 49 fight against Mark Hominick in Edmonton and your upcoming UFC 129 bout with Pablo Garza in Toronto. Does it make a big difference having the home crowd behind you?

It definitely makes a difference. Look at the GSP-Koscheck fight in Montreal in December. The whole crowd was booing Koscheck. That must not feel good. I believe in energy and when you have like 60,000 people cheering for you, I really believe you absorb some of that energy. It makes a big difference when you’re the one they’re cheering for.

I know you’re good friends and you train with a fellow Haitian-Canadian fighter, David Loiseau, but you two basically started out at the same time, except David got his break with the UFC earlier than you did. Who were your role models when you first got into the sport?

I remember the first time I saw Vitor Belfort and saw how fast and explosive he was, I really fell in love with his style. I have a similar explosiveness as he does and I started mimicking his style early in my career.

This will probably change the next time I ask, but what was the biggest win of your career so far?

Ohhh….I would have to say my XMMA fight two years ago against JT Wells. That was the fight that opened a lot of eyes. Right after that fight I got the call from the WEC.

That was the spinning back-kick KO, right?


People like a flashy finish.

Yeah. That fight opened up the doors for me.

You train at one of the best camps in the world. You have guys coming from everywhere including the USA, the UK and South America to train at Tristar, making it one of the go-to locations for fighters to train. Is that why you decided to train there?

Back then it wasn’t like it is today. Back then it was known for being one of the best schools for jiu-jitsu and wrestling and so on, but now it’s really the place to go to test yourself against the top fighters. That’s what it’s become.

There’s the large group you train with for pro classes and sparring, but who is your core group of training partners you train with the most?

It all depends. For this camp Miguel Torres was one of my main training and sparring partners. He comes here often and I spent a lot of time with him. Aiemann Zahabi – Firas’ little brother. He’s been there for me for so long. He’s also one of my coaches, so I get to go with him a lot. Ivan Menjivar is also a guy I work with a lot. These are my main ones, but a lot of other guys have helped me out a lot as well.

Your nickname is “Tiger.” How did you get the nickname?

When I first started fighting back in the UCC, even in training I had a really aggressive style. I had to control the anger and aggression I used to have inside me. When I would get hit I would see red and an animal would come out. My boxing coach Ali Nestor started saying I was like a tiger and he started calling me that . He would use it to his advantage in training when I was lacking motivation. He would smack me upside the head to make me mad and I would lose it.

You mentioned that anger helped fuel you as a fighter back then. Is that something you need to do now to get motivated for a fight, to get angry or even manufacture a mental dislike for your opponent?

When I fought Sam Stout when I used to fight at 155, I used my anger to propel me, but it kind of worked against me. He’s the type of fighter who can weather the storm and come back late in the fight when his opponent tires out. Using anger sometimes gasses you out when you go for broke. Since that fight, I dropped that animal instinct. I no longer lose control like I used to. I still use my aggression, but I don’t let the animal take over.

Looking back at your fight with Hominick, you seemed to be in control until the finish came. Do you look at the fact that he’s now fighting for the title and say, “damn. That should have been me?” or do you see it as more of a case of things happen for a reason and it proved I wasn’t quite ready for the shot he’s getting?

I see it exactly as you said. I’m spiritual and I believe that God has plans for all of us. I don’t believe in coincidence. My path has been a little bit harder than most people. I’ve had to work a little bit harder and push a little bit further to be successful. I think I still have a lot to learn before I get a shot and when I get there it will be because I belong there. When I do, watch out!

What are your main career goals for the rest of this year?

My goal is to put my name out there and to show people who the “Tiger” Yves Jabouin is. I want people to say I’m one of the best.

Picking up a few more Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night bonuses wouldn’t hurt either.

Definitely (laughing). That’s some motivation right there.

What is the first luxury item you bought when you got your first major payday?

To be honest, I’m still waiting for my first major payday. When I fought Hominick, we won the Fight of the Night bonus, which was nice. I’m a sports car guy. I have a souped-up Japanese car and I bought a few little gadgets for it.

What’s something about you that not a lot of people know?

That I’m a great wrestler. I’m a natural born striker, so I don’t use my wrestling much, but I think I demonstrated a bit of what I can do with my last fight with Brandon Vishor.

Well man, that’s all I have for you. Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me. I’m looking forward to your fight in Toronto and for what the 2011 brings for you.

Perfect, man. My pleasure. Thank you. Take care.


Cagepotato Comments

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ajaykumar- September 20, 2011 at 11:20 pm
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GistoftheFist- April 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Cool story bro
LB_Fargo- April 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm


kellyman- April 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm
I'd also like a sidebar update on where Steve Mazzagatti's mustache is now.
kellyman- April 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm
CP's bringing it these days with exclusive content and awesome, meaningless lists. Have we seen a top 10 MMA mustaches list yet? If that's something being worked on, I'd like to petition to add the ref from the Jardine/Mousasi fight.
danomite- April 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm
You should have asked him how often he gets mistaken for Yves Lavigne.
Hey, whatever happened to Ryan Jimmo's blogs? He hasn't done one since before his last fight, which was two weeks ago. He on vacay or something?