Sydney Force: Michael Badato and Joe Concha


International Kickboxer Magazine, March/April 2013

The Full-Force Gym in Blacktown in Sydney’s western suburbs is a family affair. JARROD BOYLE talks to MICHAEL BADATO and JOE CONCHA, two of its brightest stars.

Michael Badato, younger brother of Rinehard, bears of the standard of one of Australian kickboxing’s outstanding families. The responsibility fits him well; he has distinguished himself by claiming both IKBF and WKBF world titles, as well as the WBC Australian title at seventy-five kilograms.

“I’ve always been training in Muay Thai,” he says. “When I was a teenager, I did a little bit of skating, but nothing serious. The only sport I’ve ever really been into is Muay Thai. Having said that, I only started fighting with elbows in the last five years. It changed everything for me; once I started using elbows, there was no going back. I loved it. Especially my right overhand elbow.”

Michael is trained by his older brother, Reinhard, who is the founder of Full Force.

“He’s a very tough trainer,” says Michael. “Family or not, he doesn’t do me any favors. I don’t think I’ve ever done a session on the pads without him killing me. It’s as if he’s training me for a world title every time we’re going to fight. In saying that, he doesn’t go from zero to hero. We have a structured training program and he builds us, but in the last two weeks, it’s like training to the death.”

It would be one thing to train your brother, but something else entirely to do his corner.

“[Reinhard] get even more nervous than me! As a fighter, you can’t show it, but he does. He’s my brother, my manager, my trainer and my promoter. I just show up and fight; he does everything else. He makes it all much easier.”

Michael describes his fighting style succinctly. “I’m a brawler; I love my power shots. If I can end it straight away, I leap at the chance. I’ve got a reputation as an exciting fighter for that reason. Once we touch gloves, it’s one hundred per cent.”

Of all Michael’s achievements, he ranks his WBC Australian title as the pinnacle.

“That was a really hard fight,” he remembers, “That was a war. The reason being was that I was cut in the first round with an elbow. I’ve had a massive scar ever since. His name was Brett Whitton, and he came from Urban Fight Gym on the Gold Coast.

“Everyone thought I was going to lose the whole time. There was blood everywhere, dripping down the side of my face. The doctor could see it was near my eye, not in it, so he let me continue. I had to fight through it, and I managed to KO him in the third.

“Other than that, I think Shaggy [from NTG] would have been my hardest; he was my first opponent as a professional. I lost, but I leaned a lot from him. He is very much ‘go for the KO’ – you’re not in there to try and survive. He actually KOed me with a body punch. It was a hard lesson to learn, but now I know how much a good body punch will hurt, I use it myself!”

As far as 2013 is concerned, Michael’s plan is to continue fighting and win more titles.

“I never thought 2012 would be such a big year,” he enthuses. “I didn’t plan to have this many fights. We took it a step at a time, and I’ve had all these wins. I actually proposed to my wife after my WKBF world title win. I called her up into the ring and everything; it was in the paper, on the news, the whole lot. Reinhard also had his second son, so I became an uncle for the second time.”

It appears the Badato clan is expanding in both number and reputation.

Joe Concha found his way into the Full-Force gym in 2005. He came down with a friend and trained and, after some “Umming and Ahhing”, decided to join. It was a fortuitous decision for both Joe and Full-Force.

“I joined and I never looked back,” says Joe. That is for good reason; he has had twenty-three wins out of thirty-four fights, and lays claim to a world title win amongst them. If a world title in kickboxing is defined in terms of the opponent, Joe can claim his against one of the country’s outstanding fighters, Dane ‘Daddy Kool’ Beauchamp.

“The first time I fought him, it was on Total Carnage, on the Gold Coast. I think that until the last round, I was losing the fight. I’d say that out of four rounds, he’d won three and I’d won one. He was without doubt the best I’d fought; very aggressive, coming forward the whole time. He had good combinations and lots of tricks, and it was a high work rate, right from the start. He’s very powerful, also, especially his right hook! I actually knocked him out in the final round to win, with about ten seconds left until the bell. He gave that impression; I’d have to knock him out to win.

“The second time we fought was in Orange, in New South Wales. That was for the MASA world title. I stopped him in the second [round] that time with a cross, followed by two elbows.  As I remember, he’d had about twenty fights when I started Muay Thai. It would have been an honor just to fight him for a title, let alone come home with the win. He has won all his rematches, too, as I understand.”

It appears that Joe has been a perfect fit with the Full Force family. Reinhard has been training him since he was a teenager. “When I was younger, he was very much one way: ‘my way or the highway.’ Now I’m an adult – and a fighter – I know what I need more and we compromise about some things. It’s more of a partnership. That said, he’s always right behind me, kicking my arse!”

Reinhard has done a lot to shape Joe’s style.

“I started off really heavy-handed, with lots of boxing. Then I loved to kick, and didn’t care so much about my hands. Now, as my understanding of Muay Thai improves, I’m starting to fall in love with the clinch and elbows. I probably favor [my] hands, but I guess I’m becoming an all-rounder. I try to be adaptable.”

Joe began training at fifteen and while he has been training for 10 years, he didn’t have his first fight until he turned eighteen. He was a kickboxer until he travelled to Thailand and stayed at the WMC camp on Koh Samui.

“The trainers at the WMC camp taught me that you have to work hard for what you want. Those trainers knew I wanted it, and they gave me a flogging! I trained for a month and at the end of it, I had my first full Thai rules fight after about eight kickboxing fights. I only fight full Thai rules now; it’s too much fun to not fight with knees and elbows!”

That fight in Thailand introduced Joe to the magic of elbows

“I got caught in the first round with one, and it woke me up! I’d never been elbowed before, and I was impressed. You can’t see it coming. It’s highly technical and amazing to watch.”

Michael Badato is also a major part of Joe’s success.

“I spar with Michael. There’s a big weight difference and his skill and confidence have increased so much; he’s also quick and works at a longer range. I know that if I can do a good round with him, week-in, week-out, then I’m doing alright.”

“On March 8, I’ve got my first big promotion. I’ve had my nice holiday break, and started back training already. Most of my fights organized by Reinhard; he lets me know a month or two in advance. Most of time, it’s not a question of whether I want to fight or not, it’s just that the opportunity appears. I had six fights last year; my biggest year was nine. I’m hoping for six or more this year. I want to stay active on the best shows, fighting the best opponents. I’m on the eight-man Rebellion Muay Thai eliminator down in Melbourne. That’s going to feature Joel Fisher, Ghot Seur Noi and a few internationals. I’m really happy that promoters are starting to see I’m worth putting on.”

2013 holds a lot of promise for the Full Force gym, generally speaking.





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