Ryan Villopoto likes to claim he’s the best retired guy ever, because he’s done the most cool stuff since retiring. He adds another this week with Moto Fite Klub, a pay-per-view race on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Eastern (which also has a free fireside chat/bench racing show on Monday night at 7 p.m. Eastern). We’ve been asking quite a few of the stars in that race (which is a real race, not a video game, and not a pit bike race) what the event will be like, and we asked the four-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion, also. Then we started talking about even deeper stuff regarding his career.
Stay tuned for Part 2 when we go even deeper!
Racer X: You’re working hard. You’re a promoter, in some case here, right?
Ryan Villopoto: I’m just the racer.
I don’t want to give you too much credit here, but I’ve talked to those guys and they’ve given you some credit. Apparently you’re fairly smart at helping give advice on putting on events.
So here’s the deal. Obviously as we know, the huge success that we had at the RedBud MXON for the pit bike race it was the biggest success of the weekend. Team USA won that one. That was Rob [Buydos]. I’m really good buddies with Rob. He’s always like, “What do you think of this idea? What do you think of that idea?” Some of them don’t ever happen, and some of them he hit a home run on, MXoN for example. So he had this idea. He calls me and he’s like, “What do you think?” I’m like, “Well, sounds great.” But like always our sport, our riders as racers we tend to have an issue sticking together, if that makes sense. So to go out and say, we need ten guys to jump into this thing, tracking down the ten guys… We called upon some other racers and they didn’t maybe believe in the process or think it wasn’t going to work because we had a short amount of time. So we came about with ten riders and now it’s happening.
Are you doing this because you’re going to have fun, or is it because of the charitable element, and maybe America needs something to pump themselves up?
Number one, is supercross, motocross, actually every sporting event that people have grown to love and watch, they’ve all been put to a halt with everything that’s going on in the world. The way we have things set up now, it’s no goggle guys, no mechanics. It’s ten riders, basically, and a few other people on the ground. So as when it comes to big groups of people, we’re social distancing. We’re practicing safe practices. Also yes, we have the charities. I called my buddy up, Cary Hart, he’s helping Fox with Goggles for Docs. Road 2 Recovery will get the gear, like say the pants and jersey. Then cystic fibrosis is one of Broc’s [Glover’s] charities that we’re going to get involved with also. So, pretty cool element to everything, and also bringing racing back for the fans. I think everybody’s tired of watching Netflix and old YouTube videos.
We know the history of you and Alessi. We know the history of Alessi and Tedesco. That’s not a coincidence that these happen to be the dudes in this event.
Ultimately, our sport doesn’t need another typical race. It needs something like Straight Rhythm. It needs something like this Moto Fite Klub. Everybody knows the story of 2005 Glen Helen last race, Mike and Ivan. Mike standing on Ivan’s bike, and a whole controversy with that. Everybody knows the story of myself and Mike Alessi, through amateurs. This brings the controversy side of bringing back. Let’s be honest. When me and Mike get out there, believe me, Mike doesn’t want to lose to me and I don’t want to lose to Mike. That’s just the way it is. Now, is there a championship on the line? No, there’s not a championship on the line. I understand that. But I’ve seen photos of where we’re going to be racing. It’s a very basic track. So we’re splitting hairs with lap times or tenths, if you call it, and it’s going to be damn close racing. I can guarantee you that.
It’s been fifteen or so years since you and Mike were amateur rivals. You guys are actually pretty cool with each other these days?
Yeah. Why not? I don’t hate the guy. Maybe we’ll become closer friends. Not that we’re great friends now, but maybe we’ll become closer friends after this. I got pretty excited about this a couple days ago because I was like, “Holy shit, this thing’s going to happen! I think people are going to dig this, dig the concept of it! Don’t forget that it is bracket racing. It’s head-to-head racing, but Rob’s got a couple wild cards up his sleeve. So say that Mike gets knocked out early or I get knocked out early or Ivan gets knocked out early, the rivalries that people want to see, we’re going to be able to pull a wild card and people are going to be able to see us race each other regardless.
And you guys have figured out the social media trash talk game. You’ve got some practice now, because Straight Rhythm has been pretty gnarly the last few years.
I think it’s going well. We didn’t have time. We knew we were backed into a corner with supercross potentially coming on on the 15th or something, a couple days after us, but then it got pushed back. So we’re trying to spread the word as fast as possible. I think we’re achieving what we need to achieve. We hope the numbers for the pay-per-view are good, but the people at Fite have told us no one signs up until right before the event. That’s what I do. Crack a beer, buy the fight, start watching.
Speaking of that, there will be a beer cracking, bench racing season, and that’s actually for free, just to get everybody warmed up on Monday, right?
Yeah, get everybody warmed up. It’s like a two-stroke, you just can’t fire these two-strokes up and hold them wide open right away. So we came up with the idea of doing a fireside chat. Obviously you’ve been around racing a long time, but probably a lot of the fans haven’t heard a lot of the inside stories, or the really funny shit that happens inside of our industry or the crazy stuff that happens. I think we’ll see some of that coming out, which will be pretty cool. It’s a free thing to just tune into and get people amped up on coming back for Tuesday.
You’re the perfect guy for that because now that you’re retired, we see you taking Coors Lights at the races, hanging out with fans, bench racing with whoever, not holding any grudges. I always told people, even in your racing days when you were winning all the time, if people could see what you were like at 3:00 in the afternoon in the team truck, it was so different than what they saw on the podium. You had fun. You talked trash. Everybody told stories. Now everybody’s getting to see that. I think you’ve shown people the other side over the last few years.
Yeah. I’ve had a few people tell me that. I think I’m as valuable now than I was when I was racing. It is what it is. I get the Cooper Webbs and the Eli Tomacs and the Ryan Dungeys of the world, just like the Ryan Villopotos of the world back then. When you’re in that position, there’s just one goal and that one goal is to win. I’ll be honest, when you’re that focused on winning, it’s going to make it pretty cut and dry and boring. I guess I tried to do my best at not being like that, and I think I did better than a few other guys but still, [I was] pretty cut and dry and boring. But now my position is there’s nothing on the line. I do the 125 races, I do Straight Rhythm. I don’t have to go out there and win. I’d love to go out there and win, but it’s really hard. The beauty of this right now, of MFK, is Kevin [Windham] hasn’t ridden in a while. We know Kevin’s talent is unbelievable. Mike rides quite a bit. Ivan’s probably the one that rides the most out of everybody. So, we’re kind of all on very even playing fields, which is nice. When you show up at Straight Rhythm and you get Kenny and you get Cooper and you get these guys that ride all the time, it’s like, “Okay, I rode for three days. Let’s see how this goes.” We’re all on this even playing field when it comes into this Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong. I could probably still go out there and put a top twelve lap time on the board in an outdoor, but for one lap, not for 30 minutes. So our speed is still there, and we only have to do it on a minute and thirty lap time track, two laps at a time. So I think you guys are going to be surprised on the racing and the speed.
I remember when you actually raced Monster Cup a few years ago and you were like, “I was really tired!” We have to keep that in mind.
[Laughs] A hundred percent. I’m going to be honest. I haven’t rode. With everything going on in the world, I haven’t rode in probably two and a half months. I’m coming out swinging, boys.
No excuses. Still coming and bringing it.
I’m still going to try to bring it.
Let me ask you a couple questions about this racing time. If you were racing, or this break in racing happened when you were racing, would this drive you nuts? Were you the kind of racer that needed everything scheduled? Were you OCD about things? Because now the riders can’t really plan, they don’t even know for sure when or where they’re racing. Would this have driven you nuts or could you roll with it?
I raced Dunge, and Dunge I think was, let’s call it my main rivalry. I think we could all count on being there every single weekend. You had James, that was unbelievably fast. Couldn’t be beat some weekends, but then had his hiccups or had his crashes. Same with Chad. So Dunge and myself I think—as you probably could say more about this—you guys knew who was showing up every single weekend. So I think for me, I want to say this might work into my advantage because I feel like I roll with punches better than Dunge would, being that he was my main competitor. I feel like that would disrupt his training program or his mental side, just getting out of the loop, just screwing with the program.
So you could cope fairly well. You had to do your normal stuff, but if you had a Tuesday where something got messed up or a Thursday or a bad weekend or whatever, it didn’t completely spin you out too bad?
No. Say my bike had an issue and I had to go home early, I was actually kind of excited. I’ll be a little more rested tomorrow. That didn’t play a factor into my head, no.
As a racer, it’s your job every day to try to get better and faster and fitter. How hard would it be to just switch that off?
Well, yes and no. Sure, those guys probably took a little bit of a breather, but I just know how my program was and how Aldon runs his program. They’re not going to stray too far from doing what they’re doing. Yes, as information got out there and as states were starting to shut down and this thing was kind of spreading like wildfire, you could say we would back it up just a little bit, give ourselves a breather, but you’re not just going to hit pause on your training, riding, and all those types of things. You’re still riding every day and training. Probably go for a two-week type of recovery thing, but remember, you’re still riding. You’re still at the gym but it’s at a little less intensity.
Speaking of that, we interviewed Cooper Webb last week and the fans asked, “Hey, does Aldon ever tell old stories of RC or James or RV or anything like that?” He’s like, “He does every once in a while.” He said he told a story once about you and Aldon wrestling on the side of a jump! I was like, I’ll ask RV about this. What happened?
So, I actually think there was a photo of that that came across on something. I think Casey, my old practice mechanic at the time has photo, and same with Ryan, who was Jake’s [Weimer’s] mechanic at the time. I think a photo came across. It was outdoors. It was 103, humid and sticky. Typical Florida hot as hell. I popped off being a smart-ass. You know how Aldon and the mechanics will stand on the side of the track? Well, literally the side of the jump is right behind them. This wasn’t a small jump. This was fifteen feet off the ground. So I tried to push him off the side of the jump. It didn’t work. We ended up both going down the hill, and then wrestled around in the sand. Then I still had to go out and do my moto. Already heart rate at 150. It’s even hotter, and then it’s alright, now go ride. That happened a few times. We’ve wrestled in the shop. We’ve wrestled out on the track. I actually texted Aldon the other day I think maybe a photo of that or something. I was being a smart-ass to him again. I said, “You don’t have near as much fun anymore as we used to.” He goes, “You’re right, mate.” Back then It was only three of us. AC was on an 80, and just got on a big bike, amateur still. Then it was me and Jake. That was our crew. So I’m sure things have changed. I know they’ve changed at Aldon’s program. It’s a lot different when you have just three guys like that then versus as many as he has now. It’s a different business platform that he’s working off of now. Obviously it’s still working for him, but completely different.
What were you wrestling him about? What was the problem that led to this?
I tried to push him off the jump, like being a smart-ass. Or he might have said, “Were you going to go out and do thirty and then another?” Or something. I probably was being a smart-ass about that, and I tried to push him off the jump. He dragged me down with him and the bike comes down also. Sand is now in my jersey. I’m already hot. It just wasn’t a good situation!