The fighting stockbroker: Undefeated Fight Time champ Jason Soares aims for a breakout 2015
Jason “The Specimen” Soares answers the phone promptly at 8:30 p.m. for our Tuesday night interview. The reigning Fight Time Promotions featherweight kingpin is polite and highly respectful, unnecessarily calling me “sir” throughout our conversation. The native Floridian is good humored, engaging, self-deprecating and lightning quick with his responses, exuding a mixture of seriousness and levity—a hard balance to pull off—that make him seem older than his 25 years.
This Friday, he’s facing Paulo “Bello” Silva, 27, an MMA Masters product originally from Itabuna, Bahia, Brazil, in a three round non-title fight. Silva’s overall 5-3 record betrays the fact that he’s 4-1 in his last five fights—not that Soares would care, however. He’s one of those fighters who prefer to know as little personal information as possible about his opponents, which isn’t to say he isn’t preparing for Silva (he is, of course); he’s just is more interested in developing a game plan with his coaches than he is with the win/loss record of the man standing across the cage from him.
Soares’s deep trust in his coaches and teammates at Freestyle Fighting Academy is an earned one; he’s been there since the first day he started training mixed martial arts in earnest. A three-sport athlete at Coral Shores High School in Monroe County (where he lettered in wrestling, football and track and field), one wouldn’t be faulted for assuming that the aptly nicknamed “Specimen” had decided to prioritize his athleticism in college. But he didn’t—at least not at first. After graduating from high school, he actually enrolled at Florida International University with the hopes of becoming a stockbroker.
“I’ve always been really good with numbers,” he says. “I wanted to be a stockbroker since I was a little kid. I used to read The Wall Street Journal when I was like 10 years old. I had my mom order it, so I had a subscription. I was trading when I was 14 years old, using my mom’s credit card, and I was making money. It was like day trading, but light—you know, small stuff. But I also wanted to train MMA, to compete at the highest level.”
As fate would have it, he found a serendipitous distraction across the street from FIU and began training during his free time at FFA under Marcos Avellan, who he refers to as “the world’s best MMA coach that nobody knows about.” Before long, he decided to put scholastics on hold and make an honest go at becoming a professional fighter. To gauge his combative mettle, he entered the 2011 FILA World Grappling Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. He took first place.
Unsurprisingly, Soares isn’t much of a party animal. He’s never done a drug in his life, can count on one hand the number of times he drank alcohol and is something of a homebody when he isn’t training or working. His rationale, aside from the fact that he just plain doesn’t enjoy being under the influence, is that if one’s goal is to be the best in the world at something, it’s probably best to not punch holes in your own vessel, so to speak.
“It’s not healthy—especially if you’re a fighter,” he says. “This 55-year-old boxer, Bernard Hopkins… He’s anti-partying, anti-everything. I sort of want to emulate him. He’s really successful and has been doing it for a long time. That’s what you’ve got to do to be the best, you know? GSP and all these guys didn’t get to where they were by partying. Every inch counts. If I add up enough inches, I have feet, then yards and so on, and I’m winning. Every single thing that I drink, that I eat… Every second that I sleep, I’m getting an advantage. As hard as I train, I don’t want to give [my opponent] any advantages [against] me.”
That disciplined, pragmatic approach to the game—and to life in general—is what made Soares such an attractive choice as an assistant coach to Ross Pearson and Dominick Cruz on their respective seasons coaching The Ultimate Fighter. He acknowledges that those two coaching experiences and, to a lesser extent, his two appearances as a contestant on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior (his second run in the competition has yet to air) are notable steps towards a future career in the UFC. But, he says, neither he nor his coaches are in such a hurry to jump Zuffa’s walls that they’re throwing caution to the wind.
“The goal is and has always been to be UFC champion,” he says. “I don’t want anything else. I have connections. I’ll probably [move to the UFC] after this fight or the next. But I’m not one of those guys whose goal is to just make it to the UFC because they love putting that they’re a UFC fighter on their Instagram, Facebook and all that. I really don’t care about all of that. The goal is that when I get to the UFC that I’m ready to make my title run. Like Conor McGregor. He got into the UFC and went straight into making a title run. He didn’t fight a couple times, lose, do a few tune-ups… He got there and was ready to make his run. That’s what I’m doing. I should be there within a year. When I have been on The Ultimate Fighter and have trained those guys, I’ve never been overwhelmed. I’ve always done well and I’ve done well against every UFC fighter I’ve trained with.”
Almost exactly five years ago, Soares was involved in a horrific motorcycle accident that had doctors telling him he’d never again walk normally. He’d T-boned a car at 45 miles per hour. The collision broke every rib on his left side, fractured his leg, tore multiple ligaments throughout and drove a bike peg through his foot. Two intensive surgeries and five months later, however, he was back to training daily at FFA. A year later, he returned to full-contact sparring and has since never looked back.
When compared to that ordeal, what threat of injury, really, could Paulo Silva offer him that he hasn’t faced head on and triumphed over already?
“I plan on going in there and finishing him in the first round, like I’ve done with pretty much everyone, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he says. “I’m sure he’ll come in confident, but after the first 30 seconds he’s going to realize he stepped into the wrong cage with the wrong person. In all of my fights, I believe I’ve performed at less than 50 percent of what I’m capable of. I don’t think I’ve been really comfortable in the cage and have even done close to what I can do. This is going to be the fight where I’m really comfortable in there. It’s my eighth fight in the cage, I feel 100 percent confident and I’m going to walk in there and absolutely destroy this guy.”
Jason “The Specimen” Soares faces Paulo “Bello” Silva at Fight Time 24: MMA Kings on Friday, April 3, 2015 at the Ft. Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium, located at 800 NE 8 St. The fight will air on CBS Sports Network via taped delay (TBA). Doors open at 7PM. The first fight starts at 8PM. For more information, click HERE.
(Slider image the sole property of Fight Time Promotions.)