Meet Kennet Mattson, an upcoming Finnish fighter who works an intense schedule balancing two jobs as an bouncer and as an entrepreneur, managing his own fitness and mma-gear shop FreeFighter and pursuing an career in mixed martial arts.
So let’s go through about your background. How did you start with MMA? Did you have a background in martial arts?
No, the only sport that I did before MMA was Ice-hockey, which I played on the 4th division. I quit playing ice hockey at the age of 23. After I quit I really did not do anything for a couple of years. The way I got into MMA is pretty interesting; I was helping a friend of mine moving into a new apartment and it proved to be a challenging day and I got this taste of blood into my mouth after the day. I felt like something wasn’t really all right so I called up a friend of mine who instructed me to try MMA. I hesitated at first, I didn’t like punching that much. Because of that, I started in submission wrestling at Tampereen Kamppailu-urheilijat. When I started exercising after a long layout I weighed as much as 95 kilos and after three months of training I weighed 84 kilos. After one year of training I won the amateur finnish championship in submission wrestling. I continued training for a few months and I had a vacation in the USA with my wife and from there I bought all my MMA gear. When I came back, I started training and after three months of training I had my first amateur bout.
I wanted to continue with my career and the natural way is to turn professional. I asked Olli Hartikainen about a professional fight and he told me that I should win the amateur Finnish championships in MMA before turning pro. After I won the championship I went back to Olli and asked “Can I get a fight now?”
You started your fighting career quite late compared to many other fighters at the age of 28 years. Do you feel like it gave you any special advantages compared to the younger new fighters?
Absolutely, I feel like I could really relax in tough spots and take my career forward step by step. I still felt like I could learn a lot of things constantly, especially grappling. Despite starting “old” my career advanced quite rapidly as I only fought as an amateur for a year. As for my weight, we’ve taken things slowly with moving towards the lightweight division. My amateur fights were at 77 kilos and from there each of my fights we went down towards that 70 kg limit.
The weight limit depends a lot on the preparations that I’ve had before the fight. About a year and a half ago when I fought Giedrius Skara I got married two months before the fight so we agreed to fight at 74 kilos. Naturally I had a honeymoon trip after the wedding and when I came back from the trip I weighed 89,5 kilos and I had 6 weeks to make the weight. I had a good preparation for the fight and was able to make the weight.
Have you ever thought about competing in ADCC or BJJ competitions?
Well, MMA is my main thing right now, but of course if an opportunity presents itself and I could have a possibility to compete then yeah sure. I’ve never really trained with a gi, only competed once.
How do you continue with your mma-career?
After my last fight in Cage 23 I decided that I will have a break from fighting, concentrate on my family and my business. I’m planning to fight next time early next year. Unfortunately I hurt my knee in my last fight, I tore the LCL on my knee so that also forced me to take a break from training. Luckily I didn’t have to have a surgery and the knee will heal itself with just proper rest and correct rehabilitation. This is a new situation for me, I haven’t been injured before but it’s good now to really relax and let my body heal up to 100% and spend a lot of time with my wife and focus on my weaknesses.
About your business? You run Free Fighter shop in Tampere, Finland. How did you start a business like this?
We started the business with the brand UFS in 2011, but unfortunately UFS closed down all the shops and continued purely as an online store. We had a good thing going on with the shop and together with my wife, we decided to change the name and keep going on our own. Now we sponsor the follwoing fighters with our own brand; Teemu Packalen, Marko Patteri and of course myself. My wife’s really in charge of the business behind the shop. Usually I get an idea and say to her that “I would like to do this or that this would be cool” and then she goes off and does it or comes up with a correct idea to execute my plans. Her support with the shop and with my career has been tremendous, I really couldn’t manage without her.
Sometimes it’s rather hard to keep everything in balance, I maintain the shop with my wife, I also work as a bouncer for three to four nights in a week. and then obviously train as hard as possible. A normal week for me before my last fight was that I train in the morning before work, I come to the shop at around eleven in the morning, leave to second practice of the day at around six in the evening and then go work for the night. I realized that I couldn’t keep this up as I could only sleep a couple hours each night. I scheduled my workweek to be a bit less hectic and everything worked out great.
You seem to have a pretty deep relationship with your coach Timo Lampen, do you feel like it’s necessary for a fighter to succeed and how did you start working with Timo?
Yeah definitely, Timo has helped my career tremendously, it’s actually a pretty funny story how we got together. I was training at Tampereen kamppailu-urheilijat and my coach then was building his house for quite some years now and the city got fed up and told him to finish it immediately. So he informed us that he will not have time to coach us. So for a half a year we really didn’t have a coach, we were just training together and trying out stuff but we didn’t have a schedule. Then in 2010 we went to fight at an amateur event in GB-Gym, Helsinki and after that to see Fight Festival event and Timo Lampen was a referee in the event, I heard that he’s a good muay thai fighter and we started talking. We sneakily invited Timo to come to train and coach us, he hadn’t been training that much in a couple of years. Timo told me that “call me tomorrow if you dare”. So naturally I accepted the challenge and called him. We started training together immediately and he started building my stand up from the very basic stuff, turned out I knew next to nothing. We had trained together for some three weeks and I had an amateur fight in Botnia Punishment against Andreas Ståhl, the fight went all right it was quite a tough fight but I lost in the second round via RNC. This didn’t bother our newly founded co-operation and we continued training and after one and a half month of training with Timo I won the finnish amateur national championships. Problem was that we didn’t really have a gym so to say, we started building the gym that we have now MMA Team 300 and I was the first pro fighter in the team. At this moment we have 4 pro fighters in the team, me, Mikael Nyyssönen, Kai Karar and Marko Patteri.
What makes our team stand out is that we have an awesome coach to teach us stand up techniques and Timo is to be thanked for that. We recently got a new member in the team, Lauri Karppinen who is interested a lot in 10th planet Jiu-Jitsu techniques and together we strive to be the first official 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu team in Finland, that’s why we brought Magnus Hansson. to teach at the very first 10th Planet seminar. I bought Eddie Bravo’s book a couple of years ago and we drilled the techniques then with a friend of mine and it has been a dream of mine to really get approved as an official 10th Planet gym.
Stay tuned for part two when I sit down and talk with Kennet Mattson and his head coach Timo Lampen.