(Koller & Couture)
Days after watching the debut of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, lifelong boxing aficionado Pete Koller enrolled in jiu-jitsu classes at Studio X in New York City. In the years to follow, the tatted guitarist for legendary NYHC band Sick Of It All would train with the Gracie family in California, crossover into other fighting disciplines like Muay Thai, and meet Randy Couture through the fighter’s Celebrity Golf Tournament despite never stepping foot on the green previously. The 43-year-old continues training to this day at Daytona Jiu-Jitsu in Florida and while he does it for the love of the game, it also helps prepare him for a killer stage show.
FIGHT! Magazine: When did you start training in MMA?
Pete Koller: After I saw the first UFC, a few days later I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s been on and off my whole life because touring definitely interrupts your training, so. To get ready for a tour, I’d do that. I’d try to follow different fighters routines of staying in shape and stuff like that.
FM: You follow different fighters exercise routines?
PK: Yeah, to keep my cardio going and fighters have the best bodies, the best shape. They have muscles, like functionable muscles and with the band, Sick Of It All, it’s not just about the music. It’s a live performance and nonstop energy on stage – jumping, running, spin kicks and all that good stuff. And we don’t really rehearse. We’ll rehearse three days before a tour, but we all have to really train before. We’ll be ready to do 25 shows straight somewhere in the world, so you have to keep your cardio up and everything. Being an “older” guy, it gets harder every night playing for an hour and ten minutes, running around and jumping around like a nut.
(Pete Koller doing what he does.)
FM: So what you’re basically trying to say is training in MMA has helped you perform awesome stunts with your guitar?
PK: Of course. Yeah (laughs). Like Randy Couture is one of my favorite fighters. He’s an older guy, and the guy never gasses. His muscles never tense from acid build-up and stuff like that, so I try to see how he does stuff [and] ask [him] questions like, “How do you do this? What should I do?” One cool thing is I was invited to play a so-called “Celebrity Golf Tournament” with Randy Couture’s GI Foundation. I think it was last year. First of all, I never played golf in my life. But for the chance to go meet Randy Couture and go to his gym, I was like, “Alright, Yeah. Fuck it. I’ll go.” So I bought myself a set of clubs, started learning on my own and the cool thing is they flew me out there and [I] got to hang out with Randy and his wife, and the whole crew.
FM: Did you get to see Gina Carano?
PK: She was there. I didn’t get to meet her, but she was there. She was doing her Muay Thai training inside the Octagon at the Xtreme Couture gym. She was kicking the pads like a fucking gunshot going off. So that was great, and getting to hang out with your favorite fighter and everyone was just cool. Getting to watch other people train, that’s how I get my routines going. It’s like, I see, “Ok this guy has a great cardio,” so I’ll look up on YouTube or even just ask him, “How do you do this,” and he’ll show you a routine and that will put it all together for my own use. It’s always fun to learn different things, whether it’s Jiu-Jitsu, Muy Thai or Boxing. When we were playing in Boston with the Dropkick Murphys, Micky Ward was there. He’s a very famous Irish boxer. He came into this show and was totally down to earth, and showing us all sorts of drills we could do. It was really cool, and he’s a super nice guy too. The good thing about being in the band, or one of the good things, is you can meet different people you admire or they’re a fan of the band.
FM: You should’ve sparred with him.
PK: (Laughs) That’s the thing. When I was out in Las Vegas, they said, “Oh, you can train with the elite team,” and I had a show two days later, so if the fingers get broken or the shoulder gets dislocated, I won’t play any shows and mortgages don’t get paid when that happens (laughs).
FM: Right. When did you meet the Gracies?
PK: Back in 1996 I think it was. I got to go to the Gracie’s Academy. I got to train with them and got to meet the whole family. Great people. We did a photo shot for a Japanese music magazine. The premise was that I was a mugger and Royce Gracie was my victim. We did step-by-step photos showing different takedowns. It was a good time. I got to hang out with Helio and Rorion also. That was real cool.
FM: If you were younger, would you consider being a fighter?
PK: An MMA fighter? Of course I would have. If music didn’t take over my life, I’m sure I would’ve tried something like that. Like I said, training to me is fun and it’s interesting, and I love pushing myself beyond what I have. One thing I always learned is the more you keep doing it, the more your body adapts doing it. So if ya have to run, [at first, it’s like] “Oh god, I gotta run ten miles.” But in two weeks, those ten miles are nothing. But sure, when I was younger … maybe open a gym, train people. I don’t know if I wanna get punched in the head anytime (laughs). But yeah, sure, I’d probably give it a whirl. At least a couple of times.