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Interview with Stan The Man Longinidis (December 2000)

This is an interview with Stan the Man one of the world's most accomplished heavyweight fighters who has held many titles and shines a light for Australian muaythai and kickboxing.

When did you start training, who with?
I got into martial arts in 1982 through a good friend of mine by the name of George Konstas. I was out at a nightclub and saw a fight break out and he took out about 5 guys. I thought to myself "geez, this martial arts stuff must work!" Initially I trained in a style called Bushido Kai and being around the martial arts I naturally took an interest in kickboxing, a sport that had a miserable profile and no media coverage to speak of whatsoever. We used to have local amateur fight nights at the local clubs every few months that had a fairly enthusiastic local following. I got into kickboxing and had my first amateur fight in 1983. I won on points. I never envisioned a long term future in the sport. What happened afterwards was not planned! I found I had some natural talent and became a favourite among the fight crowds. The name "Stan the Man" was getting around! After winning two Australian amateur titles I turned pro in 1987 and fought my first pro fight against Santiago Garza, a guy with three times my experience! I drew that fight.


You spent your early professional years training in the USA. How did that come about?
Well, the show that I had my first pro fight on was quite a big show. None other than Maurice Smith was the co-feature on the show, he defended his title against Dino Homsey. I was not aware of this, but there were scouts from what was then the world renowned Jet Centre in Van Nuys. The best names at the time cut their teeth at the Jet Centre. Word was spreading about me and these guys came to check me out. They were impressed with me and approached me with a proposal. To live and train over in the USA, at the Jet Centre. I needed time to think about it, I was a little stunned. Not long after that I read an American martial arts magazine, and my photo was in there, with the caption "Could Stan be Australiaís first World Champion?" That hit my heart. I made the decision to live and train at the Jet Centre. I knew I was making a huge sacrifice and taking a risk, getting into a sport and with little profile and dedicating my life to it, but I went for it. Those were my apprenticeship years, and they were hard. No reward, a lot of bumps and bruises, but in the long run I made the risk worth it. I had 17 fights in the USA, for 17 wins, winning US and North American titles along the way, and developed a following around California where I mainly fought and people were starting to take notice of this kid from Australia. That was the beginning and it was a long hard road to get to where I am. People donít always understand what I did, it was a hell of a hard time, so when Iím a guest at a kickboxing show now or I fight internationally and I get a standing ovation itís sort of a reminder that it was worth it and people appreciate what Iíve done for the sport.  (Pic:Stan with good friend Mike Bernado)

What was your first pro title victory?
In March 1988 I won the US Heavyweight title with a 3rd round KO of Brendon Leddy. The fight was in Los Angeles.

(Stan greets his friend with a customary K1 guesture)



What other titles have you won? What is your record?
Apart from the US and North American titles I won, my other early title was the Australian Heavyweight title. During my career Iíve won 8 Heavyweight World Titles. K.I.C.K Super Heavyweight World Champ (in April 1990, to become Australiaís first world champ), WKA Junior Heavyweight World Champ, WKA Super Heavyweight, ISKA Heavyweight Oriental Rules world champ, ISKA Heavyweight freestyle rules World Champ, WAKO Super Heavyweight World Champ, WKBF Heavyweight world champ and the WMTC Heavyweight World Champ. The WMTC title fight was memorable, the show was held on Pattaya Beach in Thailand, and there were about 50,000 spectators. My total record stands at 82-8-4 .



What fight would you say has been your hardest?
Iíd say my fight with Maurice Smith in Sydney in 1991. We fought for Moís WKA Heavyweight world title. Mo had held that belt since 1983. I lost a split decision in that fight, in a bout where we pushed eachother to the limit! Many have stated it was the best heavyweight world title fight weíve had in the sport, and no doubt it was a war. That was my first loss, however I never looked back on that fight with any regret. It made me the fighter I became. I got experience from that fight that you donít learn in a gym. Not many people may know this, but Mo was a guy I idolized during the early years of my career. He used to ring me up at the Jet Centre and say "Stan, I hear your coming up in the ranks. Looks like it will be me and you one day huh?" We used to joke around like that. Mo used to say "when the time comes for me to leave the top of the sport, I want someone like Stan to fill in for me" Mo and I were close and we still maintain our association with eacother. We caught up with eachother in Japan recently, it made me happy to see him again.
There is life after kickboxing and itís important to remember friendship. I rang Mo up after his first loss to Peter Aerts to see how he was doing, and he used to call me to pump me up during some of the rough patches in my career.



What would you say has been your most memorable fight? Different fights are memorable for different reasons. An early pro fight of mine, around 1988, in Mexico against a Mexican champ I fought was one I wonít forget because of the crazy audience! The Mexicans are fanatical, let me tell you. I knocked the guy out in the first round and I thought I wouldnít get out of the arena alive!
But in the big picture, the Dennis Alexio fight was memorable for many reasons. Firstly, when I was coming up in the ranks, people were saying I was a real threat to Dennis. That set the wheels in motion. I started to call out Alexio after my fights. He was ringside to see me once, and I got on the ropes and started calling him out! It got the hype happening. When interviewers mentioned my name, Dennis lost his temper! He couldnít stand it that this kid was stealing his headlines. Safe to say that me and Dennis didnít get along and we never have and probably never will. In 94 fights, heís the only one I can say I donít like. Anyway, it took a miracle to get the guy in the ring, I firmly believe he was ducking me since he always found a way to dodge a fight with me, but when the time came there was nothing like it. The media hype, the excitement, the worldwide anticipation was incredible. Everyone wanted to see Stan the Man vs Dennis Alexio. Looking back, Iím slightly disappointed it was anti-climactic, but taking him down, no matter how quick, was one of the most satisfying feelings of my career because there was a lot of personal dislike between Dennis and I. I knew I was going to take him out with leg kicks, and I knew I had hurt him with that kick I landed, I just didnít know it would be THAT quick! There was a lot of tension between us. However short it was, I think itís safe to say it was one of the most famous incidents in the history of the sport, something that will forever be talked about. I know Dennis would prefer it to be forgotten.
(Pic:Alexio down and out!)



What motivated you to spend so much time in Greece and Europe recently?

Thereís always been a big demand in Greece and Europe for me. Now, in the twilight years of my career, I decided it was time to capitalize on the Greek and European markets. I live in Athens now, but return to Australia during the holiday season.
One of my main endeavours in Greece was a series of seminars I held there. I conducted a 52 seminars in all, all over Greece and Cyprus. I wanted to share some of my experience and knowledge with the Greek youth, who have always been very supportive of me. The response to the seminars was incredible!
I recently fulfilled one of my dreams when I fought in Kozani, Greece which is my fathers birthplace. This town has posters of me in their bars and cafes. It was something that held sentimental value to me, with it being my fathers place of birth. We had a wild crowd in the outdoor venue the fight was held, it was overwhelming and a special moment. I knocked out Simon Dore in that fight.
I have a lot of plans for Greece. I aim to help the sport develop. Iíve formed an association, the Olympc Kickboxing Association, which is unifying the schools in Greece and giving structure to it. Before, there was no structure! With the OKA and all the schools working together, weíll nurture the talent, give the sport some more notoriety in Greece while everyone fights under the OKA banner. Working together, weíll do it.
In the near future I plan on staging a huge show in Greece. Kancho Ishii has supported the idea of me promoting a K-1 Hercules show in Greece, and I want the venue to be the Panathinaiko stadium which was the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The plan is to have myself, Michael Zambidis, and Parris Vassilikos against international opponents, a sort of Greece vs The World! Promoting shows like this is something I will hope to get into a lot in the future.
Also under construction is my gym which will be the largest one in Greece. In the future I hope to open gyms in Australia as well. On top of this, neighboring countries in Europe are throwing a lot of offers at me, so itís convenient for me to be in Europe these days. In the past 7 months Iíve fought in Italy, South Africa and Greece as well as Japan and Australia.
Right now the opportunities are endless.



A lot of people have been touting your protege as one to watch, can you tell us more about him?
Michael Zambidis is not only a brilliant fighter, he is a polite, humble respectful kid who deserves whatever comes to him.
Michael grew up watching tapes of me, I was his inspiration to get into kickboxing. When he found out I had arrived in Greece earlier this year, he tracked me down. When he first saw me in person, he had tears in his eyes. He had met his idol! I was overwhelmed at this guy, his dedication, his respect and his hunger. The sport in Greece has some talented fighters, but they donít have the resources to give them a push. Part of my obligation is to help these guys where I can, to give them that boost. Iíve taken Michael under my wing and organized for him to fight on my undercard of my recent fight in Melbourne. I knew what he was capable of, and he showed everyone what he was capable of! His fight with Baris Nezif stole the show, Michael shined in winning a 12th round TKO. Thereís more to come from this kid.



What stopped you knocking out Peter Graham in your last fight in Australia, many people have said you had the opportunity to?
Well these days I tend to fight as hard as I have to. I cruised throught the fight, saw what Peter was throwing at me and adjusted my fight plan as we went along. Experience takes me through my fights now. To be honest, being rinside for my boy Michaels fight for 12 rounds and screaming all the way through it zapped me a little bit! It was an emotional rollercoaster so to speak. It took a little bit out of me. But Iím a different fighter these days, I have to be. Iím not all bombs away like my earlier days. If Peter was aggressive and fought that way then I would have stepped it up a notch and taken him out. But the main thing for me was to pick him apart and let the fight happen as it did. If the KO came, then itís a bonus!

(Pic:Stan vs Nakasko)



Will you fight him again?
Well, if it makes sense financially, of course, no problem. Iíd prefer to move on though, I canít see the sense in a rematch right now. Itís always been important to me to give the local boys a shot however. Iíve fought a lot of the local up and comers who wanted their shot at glory. From Grant Barker, to Nathan Briggs, to Adam Watt and now Graham.

(Pic:Stan vs Musashi)



What's your favourite technique in a fight?
The jumping, spinning back kick. No seriously, itís no secret I like to use my low kicks in particular. My left hook, overhand right, I like to use the backfist to surprise guys.



How do you think the sports of muaythai and kickboxing could be developed further in Australia?
Simply marketing it properly. You have the product, now you need to push it into peopleís minds. Groom these guys into stars, get them to speak well and endorse the sport in a positive way. People always considered Stan the Man the greatest ambassador for Australian kickboxing, but thereís potential for some guys who arenít handled properly to become their own package, thereís potential to do more with the sport and the fighters and for the fighters to be creative in their own ways.



You are famous all over the world and considered quite a showman! Tell us about how you like to entertain the fans.
I always considered it important to give the fans a show, give them a total package. I made things my trademark. The glitzy costumes, the trademark splits and high kick routine I do, it gets an atmosphere going!
I like to introduce innovative things, get people talking! I used to have a mascot, a giant koala! He would come out to the ring before my entrance and do the splits, throw some kicks and start dancing. First time I used him was in Japan for my second fight with Mike Bernardo, and the Japanese people eat that sort of thing up! Next time I went to Japan, I saw people holding little koala bears in the crowd.
I started wearing a warrior mask in Japan this year, the Japanese people are great, very receptive, they love unusual things, they like a show. Next thing I know, fans have made up their own masks and queing up for me to autograph them! Itís great, I love to please the fans. They are the ones who show you support and pay to see you, you have to keep them buzzing.
To get somewhere in the sport is one thing, but to be a true champion in and out of the ring, to be a positive role model and ambassador is what itís all about. Champions come and go, but to be a specialist, thatís what people remember. To be a specialist is something Benny the Jet used to tell me. To be somebody people will always remember, thatís what itís all about.




Who do you respect in both muaythai and other disciplines? Who'd you rate as the best out of the K1 fighters?
As far as K-1 goes these days, theyíve all got their own individual traits that make them good. All are special in some way. Though I have to mention Andy Hug. He was the most disciplined of us all. Itís a true tragedy when someone so strong and healthy, so young had to be the one to leave us. I dedicated my fight in the K-1 South Africa to Andy, and that was a tough fight to go through with since Andy had left us only a few days before. I guess if you are going to rate the best guy out there now, it has to be Hoost no question.

(Pic: Stan with the Weaver boxing family)



What are your future plans?
As well as all that I mentioned before, I start shooting a film here in Melbourne in late January. From there, I continue with what I do. I was recently in France to do an exhibition with Jerome LeBanner and thereís interest in me returning there to fight. Iím also considering offers in Belgium and Germany right now, as well as a possible March date in Greece and fights in Japan.



Anything you would like to add in closing??
In closing I wish to say to all my followers and fans all over the world something I have said before, you can be a great fighter, you can be the best fighter, but if the fans don't want to see you or show any demand for you then youíre not worth much. The constant fan mail I receive makes me feel that I made a real impact and left an impression on so many of you around the world. Your fan mail and support really moves me. Thank you to the fans.

 

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