Fast Confession – Karlos ‘The Terminator’ Vémola: He himself is like a lion in a cage, now he wants to buy one
He devoted his life to sport. Karlos Vémola is one of the most famous Czech professional fighters of MMA, and he is also a former body-builder. At the moment, he’s hounded by curious journalists, who want to know more about his transfer from the XFN organization to its greatest rival Oktagon MMA. But they’re not interested only because of this – he himself has a very bold individual. Apart from the fact, that he draws attention simply with his appearance, he shares that he himself is drawn to anything extreme. He likes attention, expensive and luxury items, and thanks to the money he earns through fighting, he lives a very good life in the Czech Republic and in London. In the interview for Luxury Prague Life, he revealed the dark side of glory. He has to work extremely hard, and his daily routine is for many quite unimaginable.
Why are you now stressed? It’s Sunday, most people are relaxing. And you have so much on your plate. What’s going on?
I don’t have the time to relax. I train twice a week, three to four times a day. Sunday is my day off. I led two circuit trainings today, two seminars, and I’m supposed to go see the doctor for a drip. But now, I’m also doing an interview with you. My biography is being finished, so they keep calling me about that. Everybody knows that Sunday is my day off, so they want to meet.
Sunday, is therefore the most chaotic. Although, I led two trainings today, I have another one at five, and at seven thirty I have to go sign a contract, whether with one, or the other. I honestly have a lot on my plate today, you caught me on the worst possible day. But then, on the other hand, on a different day I wouldn’t have time, because I train. So, people have to come and see me at the gym.
You are everywhere right now. I have a feeling you might fall out of my fridge. The media is all over you, and I want to ask why.
I’ll raid the fridge pretty soon for some quality food, so you’ll see me there too. And why? I guess, because I try to cooperate with them. Despite not having as much time, I always make time for the media, just like today. And I try to drive the sport to the forefront.
I think, that I am the face of this sport in the Czech Republic. I simply tell myself, that if it’s not going to be me, then who? The guys train, and they don’t really care about all this. They’re forgetting that the times when we only trained and were at the gym, are far gone. That doesn’t interest anyone anymore. People want to know about our life, what we do. To make them see, that it isn’t some war of meatheads. We have a life out of the cage, we lose weight, we’re on diets, we train, and we also have families and duties like anybody else. People want to see that. And just as Conor Mcgregor is the face of world MMA, I think I am the face of Czech MMA.
I don’t sugercoat anything, I don’t refuse any reporter, I answer every question. I work very hard, I give seminars to boys, because in my head I have the thought, that if I don’t do it, then no one will do it instead of me, and the sport will remain in the shadow, just as it was five years ago, before I started.
I don’t think I’ve been working on it for a long time. Five years isn’t a long time. When I got on stage five years ago and we sold out the Top Hotel, where there were a thousand people, then everybody was patting my back and saying what a success it was. And so I looked around and I said: ‘You can’t be serious. The sky is the limit. This isn’t the goal, we have other goals.’ I had hockey stadiums in mind, and they sold out immediately. Then, I thought of the O2 arena, and it managed to sell out too. Now it sold out.
Muhammad Ali was the first person to fight outdoors ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. I want to be the first Czech person to fight outdoors. We’re already collaborating with promoters, and we’re going to do it in the summer at a football stadium. We don’t set ourselves small goals, we set ourselves big goals. I want to attract more people to this sport, and I want this sport to be a sport with a good reputation, just like hockey or football. I think it’s wrong, that I am one of a few fighters, who make a living from this sport, I could count the rest of those who do on one hand. However, I don’t think that other guys work less than we do. This sport is underappreciated, and someone has to do something about that. I have to be the one, who gets out of bed. The one, who does something about it.
When you were five, who did you want to become? Surely not an MMA fighter...
Probably not, but my life led me to it. Even when I was five, six years old, when I started fighting, I had great goals, I watched Rocky balboa, I watched great fighters. My idol back then was Alexander Karelin, and already back then I wanted to win. I was eager to be a winner. Maybe I didn’t think I’d be the most famous MMA fighter, but I always wanted to be a great fighter. I wanted to be a sportsman a big, strong famous man. Just like on TV. And it’s coming true, step by step.
Was it really always sport? Didn’t you ever want to be a fireman or a policeman?
If you’re asking me about who I wanted to be when I was five, I remember I liked to saying, that I’m going to be a dustman, or a criminal. That’s because I really liked their uniform, and I liked calling all of them ‘criminals’, because I kept mixing up the words (kriminálnik) criminal and (kriminalista) criminal investigator. I wanted to say, that I wanted to be a policeman, But I kept telling everyone I was going to be a criminal.
And in the end you did see the inside of a cell.
In the end I’m doing both today. I did go to prison, and apart from my prison number, I also gained many awards and various police badges from the police, where I do seminars. I’ve already got three at home, so don’t judge a book by its cover. Anyone can make up for their mistakes these days. Just look at Tomáš Řepka – it looks like he stepped amiss too.
It can happen to anybody, and that’s why I wouldn’t turn my back on those people so easily. I really didn’t want to be that kind of icon for kids, to make them think that every fighter has to have been in prison at some point, but there we are. Now, I want to go into a different direction, to show them that not everything has to end. They don’t have to end up like that, they can go in another direction.
But unfortunately MMA fighters often times have some sort of criminal record.
Most of the boys had a tough life. That’s the root of that. If a person is soft, and pampered by their family since they were little,, and have had a lot of support growing up by that family, then maybe that person takes another direction in life. Boys who grow up on the street have broken marriages, abuse in the family, and are usually tougher. They grow more bitter, and are used to getting the worse option, so they choose tougher sports, to deal with their anger.
Maybe that’s the reason, but I don’t think so myself. On the contrary, there are many university students today that do MMA. I do seminars at universities, and the fact that most fighters have a criminal record is a thing of the past, the far past. A thing that was happening five to ten years ago. Now, the sport is defined by something else.
How do you raise your children? What do you think they’ll do one day? I know you’ve had a poor start, and now you’re making big money. And parents usually want the best for their children. Is it the same in your case?
I give my children the things that I didn’t have in life. I can toil in my life, and my children will have everything that they want, and that is certainly a motto of mine. It is one of the things that motivates me to keep going. No matter what my children choose, I will support them, but they should do it well. Since I was small, I was raised to not do five things half well. Do only this, and let the other one do that. If you decide for one thing, and it doesn’t matter if it’s ballet, figure skating, tennis, karate or box, do that and do it properly. There is no point in doing two things with half the effort, whether it is in life, or work, or sport, or anything.
And what about education, is it important?
Education is definitely important, because a sports career can be short, or there doesn’t have to be any at all. We never, what turn our life takes, and everyone should have a plan B. The fact that I’m a professional fighter, doesn’t mean I will be one tomorrow. If a person doesn’t have a plan B, it’s a mistake. A person should always have a plan B, and that should be having a proper education.
I’m interest in your plan B. I heard, that your plan is to keep fighting for at least 10 years. So you’ll be 43 by then, and that’s almost time for retirement.
Definitely not. I’ll be so hassled by life, that I’ll be enjoying it. While other people go on holiday, and enjoy their time with their children, I don’t have time for that, I’m at the gym from morning until night. I barely see the children, I haven’t been on any holiday. So, If I’ll be able to afford a retirement, I’ll only be happy. I hope I have only five years ahead of me, not ten.
By that I mean five good years, and five bad years, if I need them. I hope I won’t be thirty nine, forty, and I be letting myself get beaten up by young fighters, as some of the fighters do today, because their whole life they’ve been fighting for free, and today a promoter approaches them and offers them a million dollars. So they tell themselves: ‘Damn, a million dollars, I’m fifty-two, but for a million I’ll let myself have my ass kicked.’ I hope I won’t need to do something like that. I hope, I’ll have enough money for retirement, and I’ll have enough money to do the things I want to spend time doing.
Of course, I want to remain in the sports industry, but I might want to devote my time to being a manager, or promoting and similar things, rather than training as such. If you want to be a coach, it takes up a lot of time. I can’t do that to my family, to train thirty years at a gym for thirty years, and then coach others at a gym for another thirty years. A coach has to spend time with trainees at the gym . My coach is at the gym from morning until night.
I believe, that if I’m recommending something to people, I have to have experience with it. When I’m prescribing a certain diet for them, I do it in mind with my diet, when I prescribe a certain training routine, I do it according to my routine. One day, I want to be a good manager for those boys. That’s what’s missing here in the Czech Republic, boys don’t know where to go to training camps or where to professionally fight. They don’t know how to arrange sponsorship contracts and so on.
Since the moment my contract ended two years ago, I’ve been doing it myself. And I do it for one reason, to learn how to do it, and to get experience working with promoters and sponsors. So that I would experience it first hand, and not give advice based on something that I haven’t done before. Maybe, I’m not doing it the best way possible, because I’m a fighter and I’m doing two things at the same time, but I’m trying to organize and manage my professional career, and to gain experience by doing so.
If you stop training four times a day at the gym, what is that going to do with the body?
If a person sticks to a proper lifestyle, it can look fine without training. A proper diet is the foundation of everything. I think, I’ll keep up my diet. I won’t train four times a day, but I’ll train once a day. I won’t stop doing the sport as such.
There are two options, and I prepared my girlfriend for both of them. Either I’ll go crazy, and I’ll start eating loads of unhealthy sandwiches and cakes, and I’ll be really fat and disgusting, or I’ll keep my figure, I’ll train once a day, I’ll keep a proper diet, and I’ll still be the good old pumped up, tattooed, bearded fifty and then sixty year old, and every will be telling me that I look good for my age. I won’t be something in between, I’ll always be an extreme, either on the one, or on the other side. But rather I think, that body building is the love of my life, and after ending my career, I’ll devote myself to it, I will do the kind of lazy exercising of body builders, and I’ll look good in my old age.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Every person has one...
I have a huge weakness for sweets, I have to deny myself them every day. I love cakes, pudding and those kind of things.
You live here and at the same time in England. How are you going to deal with that later on, where are you going to live?
I’ll never deal with it, I’m satisfied with the way it is. When I went to visit my father in Olomouc last week, my journey took four hours. I flew in from London in an hour and a half. For me it’s easier to get Prague from London, than it is to get from Prague to Olomouc, so I don’t see a problem. Due to my lifestyle, I bought a house by the airport, it takes me five minutes to get to the airport, I hop on a plane and I’m here in an hour and a half. It’s not America, or Africa, or Australia, it’s no great distance. I have my close friends and family here and there too. It suits me in this me.
How would you compare Czech and British conditions with respect to what you do?
There aren’t the right conditions here for what I want to do. For me, being in the Czech Republic is like being on holiday, not an actual holiday, but something entirely different. When I’m in England, I have a clear routine, I train and sleep, sleep and train. That’s work for me. I feel like a husband on business travel. I do nothing but work. When I come here, I deal with different things. I have more time, I can eat, I can have a sit somewhere, I can talk to you.
If I did this in London, then my coach would kill me – that instead of training I’m chatting away with you. It happens that he calls me after training sometimes and says ‘Why did you pick up the phone?’ And I say ‘Why wouldn’t I? You called me, so I’m picking up’ And he says ‘Shouldn’t you go to sleep after training? It doesn’t matter, who’s trying to call you. You should turn your phone off and go to bed.’ So there the level of control is completely different. Coach calls me to tell me off that I picked up. He says ‘Okay, pick up the phone, be my guest, but then do you think you’ll be good for tonight’s training?’And he’s right. I’m supposed to train, eat and go to bed. Such is the life of a professional fighter.
As a professional fighter you earn lots of money...
That’s completely relative. For you it might be a lot of money, and for someone it’s pocket change. I wouldn’t call it lots of money.
Do sometimes people write you with a plea to help them, asking you for money?
You don’t even need to earn a lot of money, and people will still ask you anyway. Again, what is a lot of money? Maybe, I have a lot of money in terms of MMA, but I’m not on the same level as Jaromír Jágr, Pavel Nedvěd and others. It’s entirely relative what’s a lot of money. For everyone it’s a different number, for someone it can be a hundred thousand, for someone it can a million, and someone else spends a million at the night club. Jaromír Jágr, for example, doesn’t have a problem with gambling a million away at the casino. I wouldn’t be able to do that. I can’t say what’s a lot of money.
Are you happy with how much you’re earning?
I’m never satisfied. At the moment, when you start being content, you stop being hungry and stop having motivation. At the moment, when you’re satisfied, life is over. When a person is satisfied, he has nothing to propel him forward. All the money that I earn, I will spend, because then I realize that I don’t have money left and I need more. One shouldn’t save money, money should be made and spent. It’s been my motto since I was thirteen, you don’t accomplish anything by saving up. When you don’t have money, you get off your butt and do something to get them. That’s how you earn money. Rich people make money, they don’t save up.
Apart from the fact, that you have rare butterflies at home, you also have expensive dogs or sharks. Why on earth would you have sharks at home?
Why not? They’re fierce animals. They define me in a way, lions eat first. When you throw a piece of meat into an aquarium, the shark always gets it first. It’s just a beautiful, aggressive, fierce predator, and it calms me down after training. Everybody has his own hobby, everybody has something that fulfils him. When I get home from work, I want to feed the sharks. Whenever guests come to the house, we throw a piece of meat in the tank, and the sharks bite and tear.
I love nature as such, and apart from sharks I like crocodiles too. They’re just an incredible feat of nature. People don’t know anything about it, and so they think something like this is unattainable. It’s expensive and unrealistic to have a crocodile at home. People have Labradors and Retrievers at home. Dogs today cost around fifteen to twenty thousand. Let’s not let ourselves be under any illusion, they regularly spend thirty. A crocodile costs ten thousand, so it isn’t such an extortionate amount of money.
But that requires a large aquarium.
That’s not true, a crocodile is small, and he grows into the size of the aquarium. But it requires a lot of time, work and care, like everything else. If a person is lazy, then he won’t have a crocodile. On the other hand, a crocodile doesn’t need so much. You feed him every day, ok, you feed him once in two weeks, also ok. If you feed him once in three months, then he can handle it. If the water is or isn’t dirty, he doesn’t care, because he has tough skin. But for me, if you approach it with a live animal, a piece of meat, and the crocodile tears, it’s an experience.
Are you afraid of anything? For example, If I asked you to go diving with sharks...
I went diving with sharks many times, even with crocodiles. But in cage, I wouldn’t exactly risk it without one, but I’m not afraid of such things. We only live once, so we should enjoy while we can.
What’s left on the bucket list?
A lion. If the laws don’t change here, because of the Circus Berousek, then I’ll definitely get one. I’d already have one, but I don’t because I don’t have the right conditions for it. I don’t have time for it. A lion needs taking care of so that he doesn’t become aggressive and attack. When I end my career, I will be more often at home, I won’t be flying here to London and back, then I’ll get a live lion. That’s one of my yet unfulfilled dreams. Otherwise, I fulfilled all the other ones.
Thank you very much for the interview.
The most embarrassing situation you’ve been in?
When and what dance did you last do?
The most valuable thing you’ve ever bought?
What was the last thing your children brought you to laughter with?
A guide to surviving in prison?
Who from Czech politicians would you like to invite into a cage with you?
Who or what propels you forward, your inspiration?
What kind of advice would you give to someone, who is trying to lose weight?
What kind of punishment would you give to people who torture animals?
What kind of butterfly is the one that always gets the ladies?
I don’t think I’d manage to attract a lady with something like that, but I have great specimens, and I like to show them off, such as the oleander hawk moth or the death-head hawk moth, but women keep saying that they’re just ugly moths. So, I don’t use them to appeal to women, but those are the most rare specimens from my collection.