Dragon Ball Z is a martial arts epic brimming with legendary fights.
These fights have awed and inspired fans across the world. And there are some fans who become so inspired that they decide to pursue martial arts and make it their career.
I had the privilege of interviewing one of those inspired fans recently: Marcus Brimage, a Mixed Martial Artist who can currently be seen on Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) on Spike TV.
Here is Marcus’ introduction interview on the show.
This caught my attention and I decided to reach out to Marcus on Twitter. He agreed to the interview and the results were amazing.
We ended up talking for over an hour!
How and why did Dragon Ball inspire him? As an expert martial artist, what is his opinion on the fighting styles of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z? How does spirituality play a role in his fighting? And did Dragon Ball influence his fighting style?
We also discussed his time growing up in Alabama and his desire for a greater life. His early experiences getting tough love from his MMA instructors. And the superiority of Dragon Ball over other action anime.
Not to mention another comment by Marcus for all of the Naruto fans out there!
*Warning that this interview contains occasional swear words.
*Warning that this interview contains violence and mixed martial arts content.
*Warning that this interview contains Dragon Ball spoilers because Marcus and I are super-fans and discuss the series in detail.
That’s right, kids!
So without further ado, here is The Dao of Dragon Ball’s interview with Marcus Brimage, a mixed martial artist and Dragon Ball fan!
Dragon Ball Z Inspires a Young Man
DEREK: Dragon Ball Z really inspired you to join MMA.
On The Ultimate Fighter, you said, “Quinton Jackson and Dragon Ball Z are the reason why I do mixed martial arts today. Dragon Ball Z is the greatest action anime of all time. All time. All these little kids talking ‘bout Naruto. Man, fuck Naruto. Dragon Ball Z.”
You said that on national TV. That was your introduction to the series, people didn’t know who you are and you’re mentioning that Dragon Ball Z and Quinton Jackson, another MMA fighter, are what inspired you. How exactly did Dragon Ball Z motivate you to pursue martial arts and join the MMA?
MARCUS: Just because of the power that the Saiyans emit. It was crazy. Goku is such a super nice guy, but he’s super powerful. Vegeta is a badass, you expect him to be powerful. But I was always a nice guy and like making people laugh, and to see someone that was good hearted and kind, and all of a sudden he’s this powerful fighter, it really made me think that, “Man, I can do that.”
And that’s how I like to fight, because I push my conditioning so hard, I want to fight just like that, whup your ass from bell to bell.
It inspired me because in Alabama we don’t really have any martial arts, except Taekwondo. I just never liked Taekwondo. We have a few boxing gyms, but I wanted to learn how to kick and knee and all this other stuff.
I was in Alabama and I just basically had all these ambitions because of Dragon Ball Z. I mean, dude, c’mon, you’ve seen it, the fights are unreal. One of my favorite fights is when 17 fought against Piccolo, and the way Piccolo was using the body blows. He was hitting him so hard that the fucking fist was coming through the back of his shirt.
I was like, “Oh my God!” I knew I had to watch this cartoon. It was off the chain. It motivated me. I felt that I really wanted to learn how to do that. How to fight like that.
But at the same time, I don’t have to be a super badass guy like Vegeta. Vegeta has this attitude that everyone likes, but it’s not one that many people really have. More people are more like Goku than Vegeta. Happy go lucky: “I just want to eat food and fight!” So I thought that was pretty cool.
DEREK: How old were you when you saw Dragon Ball and you felt this way.
MARCUS: When I saw Dragon Ball I was actually in the 4th grade. It came on WNEM-68, and I don’t know what made me watch that cartoon, because it was about this kid with a tail, and all of a sudden this hot chick with blue hair comes over to find his Dragon Ball that he thought was his granddad.
I remember I watched it before every football game, before I had to leave the house for little league football, I would watch an episode. I don’t know why, because Dragon Ball wasn’t that action packed, but the story gravitated to me, and then come to find out that Goku killed his granddad because he stepped on him. When he was younger he told him, “Don’t look at the moon because the evil monster will come out,” and all of a sudden he looked at the moon and turned into the ape. So it had a very cool story line, but even though it wasn’t action packed, I’m not sure why I was so drawn to it.
Now when Dragon Ball Z came out, I was in 6th grade, and it used to only come on each Saturday, before Cartoon Network picked it up, and they used to show two episodes… and I lost it. The first fight with Goku versus Piccolo and Raditz, man… the thing is, with Dragon Ball, it stopped right after the first season, after they made the wish for supreme underwear.
It stopped after that, so I saw Dragon Ball Z and was able to put it together that, “Hey that’s the little boy, okay he’s strong now.” Not that it was hard to put together.
It was fast, it was ferocious, but somehow it was controlled. It wasn’t like, “Boom, Crash.” It was fast, ferocious, precise. Precision. Every blow was a precise movement. There was no unneeded movement at all. Everything was with precision, and so fast.
DEREK: Yes, it was very efficient. So you were in the 6th grade, playing football, and you were into athletics, was there a particular moment when you were watching Dragon Ball Z and you said to yourself, “I want to be a fighter.”
Because I didn’t know how to fight. And like I said, because I’m from Alabama, we’re a football state. We just got boxing commission in 2008, and in my opinion that’s fucking pathetic. We utilize the Victorian Era boxing rules in professional boxing today. The Victorian Era, do you know when that was?
DEREK: Well, yeah, centuries ago.
MARCUS: Exactly! A long ass time ago! Why the hell are we just now getting a boxing commission in 2008? And that’s what my situation was. It was football, or die. It was football, or just be a regular person. There was no other outlet.
DEREK: Oh, I see. Very limited options with what you could do.
MARCUS: Yeah, you go two hours to Atlanta, they had Jujitsu, they had Muay Thai, they had boxing, they had other styles that I would have gravitated to if I had that outlet by me. I just didn’t. When I saw Dragon Ball I immediately wanted to learn how to fight. But it wasn’t until I saw Quinton Jackson that I said, “I want to be a fighter.”
DEREK: Oh, I get it. Did you see that on TV, the clip of Quinton Jackson?
MARCUS: No, my brother actually downloaded his highlight reel. And he showed me it, him knocking out, what was his name, Marona, when he hit him with a power bomb, and they showed him slamming Shakarama in Prague.
It gave me that same feeling I got when I watched Dragon Ball Z. I got that when I saw Quinton “Rampage” fight. That’s when I said, “I want to fucking fight.” You know what I’m saying?
DEREK: This is a really life changing decision, to become a fighter. So it must have had a really powerful influence on you, those two things, that feeling.
MARCUS: Oh yeah, it really did. To be honest with you, my whole life I kind of just did whatever my parents told me to. In Alabama, everyone is marrying, everyone has kids, around the age of 23. If you’re 25 and don’t have kids and are not married, it’s like, what’s wrong with you? Yeah. I even asked my mom, “Mom, is this all life is about? You graduate from high school, you go to college, meet a girl, graduate from college, marry the girl, have kids and have a family?” And my mother was like, “Yeah, son, that’s about it.”
I didn’t want that. “I’m 26 years old, I’m married, and I got a child” … Why? Why would I want to do that? But that’s the mindset in Alabama. You don’t know how many people have been trying to twist my wrist to marry my girlfriend of 3 years. I’ve known her since high school. “When ya’ll getting married? When ya’ll getting married?” That’s just their mindset.
But Dragon Ball Z and that Quinton Jackson clip made me think that there has to be something more than getting a 9 to 5 job, getting married and having kids. It really made me believe that there had to be something more.
DEREK: I see. So it broadened your perspective and showed you something greater, and made you want a different type of life.
DEREK: Dragon Ball obviously had a huge influence on you. What did you do to go and pursue that dream? Because there were no other places to train, except for Taekwondo in your neighborhood.
MARCUS: I was saving up money to move to Atlanta. Because Atlanta had some cool Muay Thai places, and I wanted to learn Muay Thai so I could fight like Sagat from Street Fighter, but at a Dragon Ball Z pace. My Sergeant in my guard unit told me that he knew this guy that could check out my moves before I left. I was like, “I don’t get it.”
So he took me to this place in Clay, Alabama, and I’m telling you I was the only black person for say, 30 miles. I know you’ve heard the stereotypes about Alabama, the part I was in, kinda true. So that was kind of awkward, being in that kind of place. But that guy who I was introduced to was not doing MMA anymore. So he introduced me to my coach back in Alabama, Chris Collins. Ever since then I’ve been with Chris [at American Top Team].
I wanted to show him I wasn’t a punk, so my first day I told him, “I want to be a fighter.” My first day, I said, “I want to fight” He said, “Yeah, how about you take some classes and then see how it goes.” “Nah, fuck that. I want to fight.” Haha. Yeah, I said it just like that.
So the first day, he dropped me, three times. Yeah, body’s. “Boosh, Boosh,” he dropped me, and I got back up. “Boosh, Boosh,” he dropped me, and I got back up. “Boosh, Boosh,” he dropped me, and I got back up! That repeated three times. Then at the end of practice I was like, “That was off the chain man, see ya’ll tomorrow!” He was looking at me like, “Yeah, you’re not going to be back.” But I was so excited I actually beat him back to the next training session. He turned on the gym lights and I was there ready for him. Yeah. I was a 19 year old kid, and I asked to fight him again. He dropped me again, for a week straight, over 2 times each session.
DEREK: How were you guys fighting at that time? Was it in a ring, did you have gloves, equipment and everything?
MARCUS: We had boxing gloves, shin guards, the whole nine. But the thing was, back then I was full of heart. You know that line I use in The Ultimate Fighter, “I’m nobody’s punching bag.” I got that from him.
He was like, “Look, I see that you’re excited. The reason I keep knocking you out is because you’re trying to kill me, and I’m nobody’s punching bag. So now that I see that you’re serious about this, how about we calm down and I’ll start showing you some shit.” I said, “Okay! Let’s see it!” Haha.
I started as part of the game, like, I think it was part of my initiation process. Truth be told, in boxing gyms that’s how it is. People who come in there, when you spar, they put you against advanced guys so you can get your ass whupped, and the guys who don’t come back, well fuck you, we don’t want you coming back.
The guys who do come back, okay, he’s a little hard headed, give him another ass whupping.
If you tell me that you want to be a fighter, but you get your ass whupped and then don’t show back up, well fuck you, get the fuck outta here and stop playing. If you get your ass whupped and show up the next day, then okay! That’s when we’re ready to work with him.
DEREK: Sounds like you had a lot of endurance and a really youthful, optimistic spirit, to keep going and push forward.
DEREK: Are there any characters in Dragon Ball that you relate to or connect with?
MARCUS: Truthfully, I hate that I… like I said before, I’m more like Goku. I’m happy all the time, I like making people smile. All around nice guy. But truthfully I wish I was more like Vegeta.
DEREK: Why do you wish that?
MARCUS: Because Vegeta got the fucking attitude. There’s something that draws you to that. I don’t know what it is, because he’s not as powerful as Goku. It’s just his persona, his aura, the way he presents himself: “I’m the prince of all Saiyans!” I gravitate to it. I can’t even describe it. The only thing I can describe it as, is impressive.
DEREK: Okay, that makes sense. Having watched Dragon Ball for so long, has it in any way affected your style of fighting?
MARCUS: Yes, it has. Like I said before, the way they move is so action packed, so fast. If you go back and look at my fights on YouTube, you’ll see all my fights are action packed, I’m in their face the whole time, “Pow, Pow, Pow Pow!” I’m chasing them around the ring.
Dragon Ball Z is like, “Boom to the temple, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom Boom Boom Boom!” You know what I’m saying? They’re everywhere. And that’s how I fight.
The thing is, right now I’ve got to learn how to be more controlled with it, but they’re just so in your face. And you know what, that’s what the crowd likes too. The crowd likes people slugging it out, going all out, balls to the wall, everywhere. That’s the shit that gets people standing up on their feet. So that’s how Dragon Ball Z is, and that’s why I always push my cardio.
DEREK: Do you train like the Dragon Ball warriors? Do you do that with a really high intensity, extreme difficulty and push yourself super hard?
MARCUS: Yes, I do that! And that’s another problem with me because I push myself too hard. I’m always thinking my opponent is training harder than me. “Last week, that shit was easy. Hey, how about I jump this 4 foot box and then make it even higher next time?”
DEREK: That’s very cool. So, regarding your comment about Naruto…
DEREK: Haha. Okay, so I guess there’s a little bit of an apology to the Naruto fans, maybe. You actually are a fan?
MARCUS: Yes. Just let them know that it wasn’t fuck Naruto, it was fuck fillers.
DEREK: Okay. Got it. Got it. So you were really inspired by Dragon Ball. Do you think that Dragon Ball has inspired other martial artists, and do you know of anybody else that has been inspired by it?
MARCUS: One of my friends from the show, his name was Prince Albert, he told me that he felt the same way I did, but he didn’t want anybody else to know that. But you can’t be like that. You’ve got to let the world know, like I did. Fucking Dragon Ball Z. You know?
He told me he understood what I was saying because he felt the same way, but he wasn’t as open with it as I was. Because man, Dragon Ball Z, I’ll tell you, it’s the greatest action anime of all time.
You can’t touch Dragon Ball Z. All them other animes, they fight for second place, because first place is already got.
Dragon Ball is #1
Learn from Marcus how mixed martial arts are different from traditional martial arts, in Part 2 of the DBZ and MMA interview »