Jason Chambers is probably best known as co-host of Human Weapon on the History Channel, but he is also an actor, has been a professional mixed martial arts fighter for ten years, and most recently, has performed commentating duties for Bellator Fighting Championships.
During Human Weapon, he and former pro football player Bill Duff traveled the world to study various styles of martial arts. From training in Muay Thai in Thailand to Sambo in Russia, they covered the globe to learn each martial art in its land of origin.
ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) spoke with Jason this week to learn more about his background in martial arts, and discuss all things Human Weapon. We also tried to find out if we could expect to see Jason back inside the MMA cage any time soon.
Jason, thank you for taking time to speak to us at Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com). Where did you grow up, what kind of things were you into as a kid, and when did you get serious about martial arts or combat sports?
I grew up on the south side of Chicago, and got “serious” when I was about 14. A friend introduced me to BJJ on a piece of carpet on my front lawn and I was hooked. I joined a local JKD gym where classes were split between kickboxing and BJJ. Good lead into MMA.
Were your parents and family supportive of your pursuit of martial arts? Did you have any family members also involved in martial arts?
My uncle Dean was a big influence. He was a father figure for most of my youth. My family overall were very supportive. Although I have to say, my Mom isn’t a big fan of watching me fight.
It looks like you started fighting professionally at a very young age. Who were you training with when you had that first pro fight and what were those first events like?
I had my first pro fight in 1998 right after my 18th birthday. Back then a legit fight was a karate guy vs. a wrestler. The sport wasn’t really as adapted as it is now. I trained with Joe Goytia, a JKD instructor and Renzo Gracie blue belt, for several years. He promoted a few shows and still does – Total Fight Challenge.
Talk to us a little about your pro MMA career. Where did you train, who are some of the people you worked with, and did you hold any titles or belt ranks?
I’ve trained all over Chicago; Joy Goytia, Carlson Gracie Sr. and Jr., Jeff Neal, Miguel Torres, Stephan Bonnar, all the old school Chicago guys. When I moved to NYC I trained at Renzo’s place. Once I came to L.A. I hooked up with Eddie Bravo and 10th Planet, although I’ve recently switched over to Paragon. I am repped by ATT for my MMA stuff, but I highly doubt I will fight again, unless it’s Spencer Pratt. (laughs)
Your last pro fight was in 2008. Are we going to see you back inside the cage/ring again or have you officially retired? If you are retired, may I ask why?
Was it really ’08? Feels like last week. I am “unofficially retired.” I would fight again if the money and opponent were right, but that is a rapidly closing window. I’m turning 30 this month and unless you have a 100% commitment to this sport, you’re not going to succeed. I love this sport, I’ve been blessed to have some great friends from it. However, it’s a different time now. I never wanted to be a fighter. I just enjoyed the training and competition. There are way too many beasts out there now to contend with.
Let’s talk about Human Weapon. Where did the concept of the show come from, and how did the History channel get involved?
I saw an audition to host a martial arts show. I had my agent get in touch with them and the rest is “history.”
You guys went all over the world with that show and from a viewer’s perspective it looked as though you got to train with some amazing people. How many places did you visit and how many different martial arts styles did you study in all?
We did 15 episodes, but went to Japan twice. One was a highlight show and two were done in the U.S. It was a great experience. I think we ended up going to Thailand, Okinawa, Japan, France, Greece, Israel, Korea, Russia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and China.
How did you guys decide which styles you would study and where you would go train – How did that process work?
There was a formula for the network. Each art/episode had to fit a certain criteria… we were making TV after all.
Out of all the martial arts styles you studied, which ones do you feel would translate best to MMA?
MMA is really only one dynamic of the martial arts… but Muay Thai is a shoo-in, obviously. We learned some silly stuff that would only be applicable if the person you were fighting was a toddler.
Were there any styles you didn’t get to study, that looking back, you wish you could have?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing in England would have been great.
How did the whole Human Weapon experience change or affect you? What would you say you took away from the whole thing?
I like to think it cultured me a bit more. I can’t even begin to tell you how lucky we are as Americans to have the standard of living we have. Also, the French don’t like us… bastards.
When you think back, what was the most memorable experience for you from the show and your travels?
The pilot. We filmed the pilot for 12 or 13 days in 100-degree weather with 100% humidity. It was exceptionally taxing on us but great fun also. They had to film a ton of stuff because we needed to make sure we had enough footage to compile an episode to look more this way or that way. Shows are still getting their footing on a pilot. By the third or fourth show we were able to streamline the processes and we find a groove.
Where would you least like to go back and why?
Anywhere in Asia. It’s the farthest thing from “the comforts of home,” from the writing to the food, it was all very odd, to say the least.
Where would you most like to go back and why?
Greece. I’m Greek and love history and antiquities, and I really didn’t get to see as much of Greece as I would have liked to.
As a professional MMA fighter, what type of impact did doing the show have on your career, skill-wise?
Skill-wise nearly zero. You can’t really learn anything applicable in a day or two. I think that the sport has evolved to the point where everyone knows what the best styles for the cage are and we all cross train.
Were you bummed about the show being cancelled and why did they cancel it?
No I was very happy! (laughs) Actually we had 24 more shows in pre-production on some level. It was a shocker to everyone that it got canned. I think the production company really dropped the ball with the network. We were the highest rated show on the History Channel.
You are currently working with Bellator as a commentator, right? What has that been like, and what can we expect out of Bellator this year?
I have no idea where I stand with Bellator. I have heard for months that I am coming back as the color commentator and Bjorn Rebney has stated it in interviews but I have my reservations.
What does the future hold for Jason Chambers? Are you working on anything else, outside of Bellator?
Like every other actor/host in L.A., I’m in the grind; auditions, pilots, etc. I have a bunch of projects I’m working on and I get to wear many hats in them; producer, writer, actor, host, it’s a blast. I can’t complain. I hope to always be involved in the MMA scene in some capacity. I’ve actually moved into managing a few fighters and writing for Fight! Magazine from time to time, as well as serving as a consultant for G4’s Attack of the Show on MMA subjects.
I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Do you have any final words of wisdom for us or any shout outs?
Fortune cookies lie. (laughs) I actually believe that we create or own destiny, we become what we focus on. For more updates visit the blog at www.jason-chambers.com.