Van “Tactic” Vo is a Colosseum Combat veteran and professional mixed martial arts fighter from Dayton, Ohio. I had the pleasure of interviewing him leading up to his pay-per-view fight against Michael Shields at Colosseum Combat XLVIII in Indiana.
John: You’ve been a pro since 2008 and have a tough fight coming up on February 23. I feel like you’re fighting for something more than the adoration of the crowd. What does this fight mean to you?
Van: We’re here to inspire each other. I fight, hoping the people around me see how diligence and a positive mindset can create a better world.
John: Can you talk a little more about that? Some people only see athletes punching one another. Where is the window into the better world?
Van: People tell me I inspire them to work out, train, and eat better. Just seeing my fights help them handle life’s situations with a poise they didn’t have before. I see my friends training, becoming better public speakers, and living more organized lives. Their happiness contributes to me and my family’s happiness.
John: Martial arts have come a long way since you first started training, thanks to MMA fighters who were willing to fight and find out what works. Has your experience in the cage informed how you teach?
Van: The cage gives me the opportunity to legally test what I believe about the martial arts—and do so against the best. Each opponent I faced has forced my style to evolve. In the past, we only had pure tradition to guide us. I like to find the truth from real situations.
John: You help coach the Kettering Youth Wrestling Program. How have the athletes responded to your experience as a fighter?
Van: The kids think it’s cool, but their parents show the most interest. They don’t complain about the hard work I make their kids do, because I do it with them.
any of the athletes become interested in martial arts?
Van: Yeah, I teach some of the wrestlers, parents, and coaches Voki Tae Do—my style of mixed martial arts. Three of my kids are also in the program, and they are my best marketers, telling everyone about my fights.
John: What makes wrestling so good for kids? For fighters?
Van: Wrestling requires a strong work ethic.
Compared to other sports? Other martial arts?
Van: Wrestling has the number one thing all fight spectators are looking for—action, and action makes fights fun. I don’t believe wrestling is the hardest or best for self-defense, but it’s essential. The better wrestler can mold to his opponent.
John: By mold to your opponent, do you mean control the pace and choose if the fight stays standing or goes to the ground?
Van: To “mold to one’s opponent” is to stay one step ahead through feeling. Bruce Lee said, “when my opponent expands, I contract. When my opponent contracts, I expand.” It’s more than choosing if we fight standing or not—it’s controlling the entire situation. Life never stops and we must always evolve.
John: Have you always been a wrestler?
Van: No, I started wrestling after I became interested in MMA. I learned wrestling, Judo, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and laced them together. Now with my kids and team, I’m still learning and love it.
John: You had to lace them together yourself? I guess there weren’t many teachers who knew how to combine the different martial arts when you started.
Van: I didn’t have an overall MMA coach. I had King Webb—a Black Belt in BJJ, my Judo coach Wilbur Wood Jr, my friend Andrew to help with wrestling, and Manny Sepada as my boxing coach. Each one added to my game.
John: I feel like martial arts can change the lives of people who practice. How have you made a difference for Dayton?
Van: I pray I’ve made people smile and helped a few see their potential for diligence and self-understanding. I helped Professor Jim Rosenthal of Tenbears Martial Arts create a self-defense program for Dayton area businesses, so their employees feel safer.
John: You won the Blue Grass MMA “Knock Out of the Year” award. What did you do to earn it?
Van: A lifetime of training and the jab-cross I’ve thrown ten thousand times came together at just the right moment in front of the cameras and crowd. I couldn’t do it without my squad, pushing me hard and making my comfort zone so much wider.
John: Let’s get back to Colosseum Combat XLVIII. I’ve seen video of your opponent. Michael Shields is a tall, rangy fighter with precise striking and a good bottom game. He fights with a wide, karate-like stance and defends takedowns well. What are you bringing to the table to beat him?
Van: We have similar frames, but styles make fights, and our styles could take this fight anywhere. I love to strike, but I will fight in the clinch or on the ground. Every day, I become a smarter fighter, and I’m diligent in my practice, so I can be great in any position.
John: “Be like water, my friend.” Awesome! I know for a fact you have a well-rounded game. How can fans get in contact with you and show their support for the martial arts of Dayton Ohio?
Instagram – @vantacticvo
Colosseum Combat Information
— John Calligan coaches kids’ self-defense at Tenbears Martial Arts