Though he’s currently riding a wave of success in the IFL, Matt Horwich’s story hasn’t always been filled with good news. Before he made it as a mixed martial artist, Horwich battled a drug and alcohol addiction that spiraled out of control. After a period of time spent squatting in abandoned houses and searching for ways to support his habit, Horwich recognized he had hit bottom and started fighting his way back.
He turned to spirituality and adopted a Zen-like quality that is equal-parts hippie, monk, and surfer dude. He credits his faith in God and the fighters at Team Quest for pulling him out of the quagmire his life was in and setting him on his current track. That track includes his first defense of his recently acquired IFL middleweight title, which will go down February 29th in Las Vegas – the day before his wedding. We recently chatted with Matt Horwich, where he discussed his favorite training partners, his array of nicknames, his love of the IFL, and his rockstar aspirations.
CagePotato: What are your thoughts on your title defense against Ryan McGivern?
Matt Horwich: I know a lot about Ryan, more than Tim Kennedy, because I fought him before and I’ve seen him fight quite a bit. He’s way awesome – it’s an honor to fight him again. Sometimes I think he forgets how good he is, like in the (Joe) Doerksen fight. I hope this will be one of the nights he forgets how good he is.
Have you been working on anything new to prepare for this fight?
I’ve been working on a lot of counter punches and takedown defense. Getting back up. I don’t want him to win a decision from taking me down again and not getting submitted. I’m not letting him pass guard this time.
You’ve skipped around to different camps and trained in different places. What’s been your favorite place to train?
My favorite place is my team, Team Quest. It’s a blessing that they have such a great group of guys to work with so I can be well prepared. As far as venturing out and training in other places, my favorite place has been Legends in Hollywood. I’m good friends with Eddie Bravo and he showed me a lot of good rubber guard stuff. And Chris Riley, the stand-up coach there, is my favorite kickboxing coach. I’d like to do some training with Bas Rutten again – he’s pretty close to there.
Your official nickname is “Sauve”, but you’ve also been called “The Fighting Hippy.” Two names with two very different vibes – which do you prefer?
I like them both alright. It’s cool to have more than one name. I like “Sauve” because it’s like relaxed and flowing and I like “Fighting Hippy” because it’s original. It’s good to be close to earth – it’s a beautiful universe and awesome things are always happening, all the awesome potential to do great things and make our dreams come true, and affect others positively.
Do you fight full time now, or do you work on the side?
I mostly fight full time. I teach one jiu-jitsu class a day at Team Quest, five days a week.
It’s widely publicized that you had a struggle with drugs and alcohol in the past. At what moment did you realize you were at rock bottom and had to get your life back on track?
I got into some bad drugs when I was really young. That was the worst year of my life. I traveled around quite a bit and just drank beer and had greens. That was pretty much the only thing I knew then. I played guitar – I went though quite a few guitars because I’d forget them somewhere or break them. Then I got into training at Northwest Fighting Arts and heard about Randy Couture and the UFC making a comeback. Eventually I found Team Quest and got signed up there. Now the best high is being successful and liking what I’m doing, getting to train and diet and the high of getting an awesome victory – like my last fight, winning the belt.
You’ve been very outspoken about your faith. Do you credit it as much as your fighting for pulling you through your rough times?
Yeah. They both compliment each other a lot. The Bible says the body is the Lord’s temple. In training, we diet as good as possible and train hard and stay as healthy as we can to get every advantage on the competition. So, they go hand-in-hand.
Sounds like the guys at Team Quest helped in getting you back on track.
It’s a good group of guys there that want to see each other do well in the ring, so you can always get good advice there – from Matt Lindland to Ryan Schultz to Chael Sonnen.
You ever catch any flack from people saying that someone so spiritual should not be a fighter?
Yes, but it says in Exodus 15:3 that “God is a warrior”. And also it says in Genesis that we’re “made in His likeliness to be what He is” and the angels are warriors, as well. A lot of people think spirituality is about settling down. It’s the opposite, it’s about limitlessness and doing awesome things. Also there’s the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:7, where the manager is fired from his position and he has the debtors pay half of what he owes his master so he won’t have to work or beg. The person that fires him applauds his shrewdness. The Bible says in the same way we’re supposed to be shrewd with our worldly wealth and influence people positively.
Do your past experiences make you see things differently or even interact with others in a different way?
Everything you experience gives you a different perspective on things. It’s all interconnected: quantum mechanics and flowing on music or poetry and flowing on technique in the rain. Like Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, it’s all connected.
Are you content in the IFL or you eyeing another organization?
I’m content in the IFL, they’re paying me really well. I’m signed another year. All the staff have been way awesome with me. When the year’s up, I’ve got to look with my management and Team Quest and see what’s going to be the smartest contract to sign and which one’s offering me the most money and the least restrictions.
Who do you think is the best middleweight in the world right now?
Matt Lindland and Dan Henderson. No doubt Dan Henderson can beat Anderson Silva. It’s a tough fight, Anderson Silva’s obviously phenomenal and has dominated that weight class, but Dan Henderson also knocked out Wanderlei Silva.
Who is your favorite fighter, past or present?
Matt Lindland, because he’s way awesome and it was great to see him out-technique Quinton Jackson, someone that much bigger and stronger. We all thought he won that fight – nothing against Quinton, he’s way awesome. I also like BJ Penn, Dan Henderson, and Randy Couture.
We’ve read where you want to record a rock album one day. Anything in the works?
Yeah, I’m working on some poetry and some flows on guitar. Hopefully soon, I’ll have an album’s worth. Eddie Bravo is producing bands, so maybe I’ll run it by him.
What are your favorite bands?
I’m a really big fan of Manowar and Dragonforce and the classically influenced heavy metal. The old school stuff: Iron Maiden, Megadeath, thrash metal. I like Pink Floyd and classic rock quite a bit. I like all rock ‘n roll, some country, classical, some jazz. I’m also a really big fan of poetry and creative writing.
You said once that when you’re done with fighting you want to get a hippy van and travel around, enjoying yourself. Will you have curtains and carpet on the inside and big flowers painted on the outside?
I don’t know, I’ll have to run it by my fiancee. We’re actually getting married the day after the fight in Las Vegas.
Congratulations! How long do you plan on continuing to step into the cage?
That all depends on how soon I can make enough money to retire and donate to the orphans. Get some property, so I can make money in real estate, open a school and an organic food restaurant. I’m not anywhere near thinking about retiring yet. I’ve been blessed not to have any serious injuries. Right now I’m doing really well.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given, as a fighter and as a person?
There’s a whole lot of good advice. “Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains”. “The Lord is our refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble,” is another one. I Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxieties on the Lord, because He cares for you” is some other really good advice when you’re getting emotional about a fight.