Muay Thai master's student in ultimate bout

Monday, August 20
PITTSFIELD — He can serve you a caramel latte with whipped cream and kick your butt.

He's Elcio Machado, a Dunkin' Donuts manager and Muay Thai master who is one of the coaches of Gabriel Gonzaga, a rising Brazilian star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Machado, 32, who lives in Pittsfield, will be ringside at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Saturday when Gonzaga walks into The Octagon to face heavyweight champion Randy "The Natural" Couture. The fight is available on pay-per-view.

"This is a proud moment for Gabriel, but also for me in some ways," said Machado, just minutes before starting one of his Thursday night Muay Thai classes at Body Works gym on Dalton Avenue.

Muay Thai is a form of martial arts that originated in Thailand around 200 B.C.

It is known as "The Science of the Eight Limbs," because a fighter strikes with eight points of contact (knees, shins, elbows, fists) as opposed to the four points (fists and feet) in traditional fighting styles.

Muay Thai fighters also are known for the speed with which they execute moves. Think Bruce Lee on Red Bull. "It's the most deadly of all the martial arts," Machado said.

Gonzaga, 28, who has been living in Ludlow since moving from Rio de Janeiro nine months ago, used a Machado-taught kick to the head of Mirko Filipovic in April to become the No. 1 contender to the UFC title.

UFC is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) league that was established to showcase the world's best no-holds-barred fighters and styles. Instead of one style rising to the top, fighters began to combine techniques, and the term MMA was born. The sport now attracts a huge following on Spike network and sets records for pay-per-view audiences. ESPN has even begun to cover it.

Machado and Gonzaga can be seen sparring at 11 p.m. Thursday on Spike during a preview show.

Machado said MMA is as popular in Brazil as football is in the United States. As a young boy, he was enamored by Royce Gracie and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighting (grappling) that he made famous.

In his hometown of Curitiba, Brazil, Machado joined a local gym, which staged fights against other rival gyms in the area. He turned professional at 19, and over the next four years ran his mark to 12-3.

He always had dreams of coming to America, and he and his wife moved to Boston in 2000. He worked his way up to manager at Dunkin' Donuts and was offered a position in Lee in 2003.

Muay Thai was put on the back burner, but in 2004, Machado revisited it, training at Body Works.

Matt Bernardo, 32, of Pittsfield, was working out at the gym one day when he saw Machado punching and kicking a bag.

"I was like, 'Wow. What is he doing?' " Bernardo said. "I had taken karate, but I had never seen anything like that. I wanted to learn."

Machado started teaching a class at Body Works, which has now grown to 15. Bernardo said it conditions him and gives him confidence. Fabian Dominguez, 32, a chef from Pittsfield, said Muay Thai helps him concentrate and stay fit.

"Elcio pushes us," he said. "He makes us feel proud of ourselves. And we're proud of him."

About nine months ago, Elcio got a call from Gonzaga, who remembered him from their fighting days in Brazil. He needed a Muay Thai coach to help him in Ludlow at Marco Alvan's Team Link facility.

He jumped at the chance, and he's now part of Gonzaga's inner coaching team, which includes specialists in Jiu-Jitsu, boxing and wrestling.

In a telephone interview, Gonzaga — who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 245 — said Machado has improved his upright fighting techniques. "He's been a lot of help," Gonzaga said in broken English. "Muay Thai helps me (round) out my skills."

Machado, who still works at Dunkin' Donuts in the mornings, teaches Muay Thai on Mondays and Wednesdays in Ludlow, Tuesdays in Worcester and Thursdays in Pittsfield. He hopes to be part of Team Link's expansion, and said a Muay Thai gym in Pittsfield may be a possibility one day.

What does he think of Gonzaga's chances against Couture, the man who has defeated all of UFC's greats?

"I feel Gabriel's kicks," Machado said, rolling his eyes and shaking his head, "so I have to believe in him. He hurts me."


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