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Derek Kronig balances management, UFC-interpreting duties

Derek Kronig balances management, UFC-interpreting duties

August 28, 2015

Very few people have set foot inside the octagon as often as 26-year-old Derek Kronig. Despite his numerous UFC appearances, many MMA fans would be hard-pressed to put a face with the name.

If you’ve witnessed a UFC fight card over the past few years, you’ve probably seen Kronig. He’s the 6-2 gentleman you see patiently waiting next to many fighters as they answer in-cage questions after a fight. He’s the UFC’s go-to guy when it comes to English-to-Portuguese and Portuguese-to-English translation. Hence his many visits to the cage.

Kronig was born in Rio de Janeiro to an American father and Brazilian-born French mother. Growing up, he learned to speak Portuguese, the native language of Brazil. He also became fluent in the languages he heard at home: English and French.

While his exposure to jiu-jitsu and MMA didn’t come at birth like his exposure to multiple languages, the young Kronig didn’t take long to become familiar with the fighting arts.

Raised in a surfing family, Kronig spent a lot of time on Pepe Beach, where the infamous 1988 battle between Rickson Gracie and Hugo Duarte took place.

According to Kronig, the jiu-jitsu community and surfing community around Pepe Beach go hand in hand. The close relationship between the two populaces started Kronig toward a life in MMA.

“I’ve known (Black House MMA co-founder) Jorge Guimaraes since I was a kid; my mom knows him, so it’s one of those things where I always knew him,” Kronig told MMAjunkie. “I got close to him and started hanging out with a lot of the fighters. (Then) I met (Black House co-founder) Ed (Soares), and it was just really just a natural progression.”

Kronig’s first interaction with the UFC came when the promotion was in Rio to film an episode of “UFC All Access” in advance of Renato “Babalu” Sobral’s title fight against then-UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, which took place in 2006 at UFC 62. The UFC hired Guimaraes as a producer, and Kronig worked as a de facto production assistant.

Kronig kept in touch with the UFC after that 2006 video shoot. When he moved to Los Angeles in 2008, to work in America as part of the Black House management team, he became even more familiar to the organization.

“I was on the road all the time with our guys, and (the UFC) needed someone to be there,” Kronig said. “I started translating between rounds in the corner. There was a time when most Brazilians were getting translated by their managers or coaches, but there just came a time when they said, ‘Hey, you’re here.’ Then when they started doing events in Brazil. That’s when I think (they realized) there was really a need to have a translator, because you’re not only translating for the fighter, you are translating for the crowd.”

Kronig currently plays two roles for the UFC. For Brazil events or fight cards that have a large number of Brazilian competitors, he’s on hand for the majority of fight week. For events with only a few Brazilian fighters, his duties are usually restricted to fight night.

Duties also differ by location. If Kronig is working a Brazil event, he spends the majority of his time with the non-Brazilian fighters, translating Portuguese to English. In English-speaking locales, he works work with the Brazilian fighters, translating to English.

“I think I’ve always had an ease translating,” Kronig said. “I speak Portuguese and English like they are the same to me. It makes no difference. It’s just something that comes very natural, and hanging with the guys, I know what they mean. I know the lingo.”

Even knowing the fight game’s vernacular, Kronig sometimes finds it difficult to do his job when a fighter is overly loquacious. It’s times like that, when he may paraphrase a fighter, that Kronig can feel the heat from fans.

“There’s two points to that,” he said. “If I talk to you for 30 seconds, for you to say everything I said back without trying to translate is hard enough. Then you add in the guy that’s talking is excited, he just won a fight, and he’s going on and on. There’s also the time constraint on TV. The interview’s three minutes long. If the guy talks for three minutes and I translate for three minutes, the next thing you know the interview’s nine minutes.”

Kronig doesn’t shy away from fan observation. In fact, he said he recently began to search for feedback on social media. He’s found 90 percent of the comments related to his translating are positive.

After seven years in Los Angeles, Kronig recently moved back to Brazil, where he continues to work with Black House. He said he’s never let his UFC interpreting work interfere with his management work.

“I’m independent, and I think that’s something I do a decent job at, separating when I’m there as a manager and when I’m there as an interpreter,” Kronig said. “I’m not in there hugging our guys after a fight, and they know that. They respect that. There’s been a few instances where I’m like ‘Oh, man, this guy is going to win, and is he going to try and hug me’ or something, but that’s never really happened. They shake my hand or whatever. Aldo always puts his arm around me, but if you watch, you’re not going to say, ‘Oh, man, that guy’s too close.’ Most people that aren’t in the business don’t even know that I work for Black House.”

In the business or not, it’s always nice to put a name to a face that is seen so often at UFC events.

Source: MMAJunkie