Five Finger Death Punch’s Zoltan Bathory Is a Jiu-Jitsu Machine
Zoltan Bathory is a changed man. The judo-throwing guitarist of Five Finger Death Punch typically lugs around mats with him whenever the metal band hits the road so he can practice jiu-jitsu techniques. Now, as the gold-selling quintet promotes their new studio album American Capitalist on the headlining trek of the Share the Welt Tour, he has ditched the mats and is visiting dojos at various tour stops.
“Almost every bigger city has some kind of academy, and thank God I know enough people to hook me up,” says Bathory. “I get into town at noon and check out the venue, and then I go to a gym and roll in the afternoon. After that, I come back and do the band meet-and-greets and interviews.”
The metal juggernaut typically trains two or three times a week when he travels, but that’s assuming the tour bus doesn’t arrive to town late and that there is a reputable jiu-jitsu gym close by. Even so, Bathory can work on his ground game whenever he wants because he is traveling with his faithful companion Bubba—the ultimate grappling dummy that’s used by jiu-jitsu practitioners to perfect their art.
“It’s a life-sized dummy,” the guitarist says. “It’s 140 pounds, and I put a gi on it, so when people roll by, everybody gets scared. They’re like, ‘Who the fuck is sitting there?’ And it’s a dummy. It’s pretty fucking funny. So that’s Bubba…Bubba Shrimp.”
As the five-piece began recording American Capitalist late last year, he decided to accomplish that goal. The guitarist affiliated himself with the Gracie Humaita Las Vegas Competition Team and trained extensively under black belts Mica Cipili and Don Charley.
On Jan. 29, 2010, Bathory—as a second stripe white belt—stepped onto the mats and made his tournament debut at the Abu Dhabi Pro World Trials in the heavyweight blue belt division. Although butterflies would have been expected, the metal-head was cool under pressure.
“It’s the same to me as when I go on stage. I don’t get nervous whatsoever. I actually get really calm, and the more people that are there, the better it is for me,” he says. “I’m a performing artist, so it also gives me some confidence. I’m playing shows for thousands and thousands of people every day, so that whole adrenaline rush affects me in a different way. It’s not a jittery thing. I have an excitement like, ‘Fuck yes!’ I just like to fight.”
Bathory, who holds a judo black belt and is the co-owner of the MMA clothing line Alpha Dog Combat Gear, made the most out of his jiu-jitsu debut and won a silver medal at the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials in Las Vegas.
The guitarist, however, wasn’t done. He took home a silver medal at NAGA in the white belt heavyweight division, won a bronze medal at the 20th Grappler’s Quest West Championships in the blue belt heavyweight division, and earned his blue belt along the way.
While proud of his accomplishments, Bathory still has his eyes on the ultimate prize. “I fucking love it, so I’m going for the gold,” he says. “Next year, I am going for the gold. World Champion needs to be on my résumé.”
He already has gold-selling music artist on his résumé, as do the rest of the members of Five Finger Death Punch.
Formed in 2005, Five Finger Death Punch spent their formative years building their reputation and crafting their debut album The Way Of The Fist. By the time it dropped in July 2007, the collective was tapped as an opening act on Korn’s road festival The Family Values Tour. They were also given a slot on the Jagermeister Stage at the Rockstar Mayhem Festival the following year.
When the five-piece’s sophomore album War Is The Answer dropped in September 2009, it grabbed commercial metal listeners while maintaining their loyal underground following. Five Finger Death Punch (who, along with Bathory, is comprised of vocalist Ivan Moody, guitarist Jason Hook, bassist Chris Kael, and drummer Jeremy Spencer) would ultimately go on to headline the Rockstar Mayhem Festival in 2011 and sell out shows wherever they played. In addition, both of their records turned gold by moving more than 500,000 units—a feat rarely accomplished by a metal band in today’s musical landscape.
Now the quintet returns with American Capitalist, their third studio endeavor, and it appears as if it’s only a matter of time before it turns gold. It debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 top albums chart by moving over 91,000 units in its opening week, giving the group its highest showing ever.
According to Bathory, it’s a testament to the fans. “We have sort of an underlying attitude and message that resonates with a lot of people. It’s about a general attitude of life that you’re an achiever. You don’t give up on shit,” he says. “This band has been successful because every single member of this band is a hardcore, driven person who will not give up, and that attitude goes into the music. From the lyrics and the music, to the way we talk and the way we do interviews, people can feel that.”
Five Finger Death Punch is a group of warriors, and if Bathory has his way, his grappling dummy Bubba may be joining them on stage for the long haul. “Actually, I think he’s gonna be the sixth member of the band,” Bathory says with a chuckle. “We’re gonna have to give him an instrument.”
Zoltan Bathory has earned silver and bronze medals in jiu-jitsu tournaments, and along with his Five Finger Death Punch band mates, he already has two gold records as well.
The Way Of The Fist (2007)
The five-piece’s debut offering contained a heavy onslaught of intense groove metal rhythms and tight fretplay with heart-pounding bass backdrops. Vocalist Ivan Moody displayed his wide vocal prowess, especially on tracks such as “The Bleeding,” “White Knuckles,” and “Death Before Dishonor, as he alternated between singing emotional confessions and screaming his frustration.
War Is The Answer (2009)
The group strengthened its grip on the metal culture and achieved mainstream rock notoriety with their crossover sophomore set. While radio-friendly records “Hard To See” and “Far From Home” grabbed commercial heads, the collective maintained its thunderous core as showcased on “Bulletproof” and “No One Gets Left Behind.” There’s also a cover of “Bad Company.”
American Capitalist (2011)
Looking to further establish their metal dominance, the quintet amped up their destructive resonance on their third studio album. Arguably their hardest, most polished gem to date, American Capitalist is a cutthroat effort about standing up for yourself and giving the finger to the naysayers. That’s best illustrated on “Under And Over It,” “The Pride,” and “Remember Everything.”