At the end of the 15-minute interview, Wiz Khalifa finally stops doodling on the whiteboard walls inside one of Bleacher Report’s meeting rooms and looks back.
“I feel like I’m getting interviewed for a fight,” Khalifa says.
While promoting his new album, Rolling Papers 2, which dropped in July, Khalifa’s physical transformation generated sports culture buzz. In the four years between studio albums, he gained 35 pounds as a result of his latest passion: mixed martial arts.
Khalifa is no longer the “skinny lil n—a” he frequently described himself as in his music when he weighed 140 pounds. Instead, at 175 pounds, we’ve been teased at the possibility of seeing Khalifa in a real MMA fight.
“I’ve been hit in the body by Chuck [Liddell] many times, Randy [Couture], Kyle Long—the biggest and baddest dudes in the planet,” Unbreakable Performance founder and Fox NFL Insider Jay Glazer told TMZ Sports in May. “This is gonna sound weird, but Wiz is the only dude who has hurt me with body shots. Wiz got me in a body shot where he kept digging, and I was like, ‘I think Wiz Khalifa just freaking hurt me. You gotta be kidding me.'”
A week later, Khalifa told TMZ Sports he could go pro if he wanted to, but “I like rapping better.”
Matt Sayles/Associated Press
“You gotta pay me a whole bunch of money to get me to fight,” he said at the time, though asked now about the comment, he says he doesn’t remember.
Would Khalifa step inside the Octagon? B/R caught up with him before his Dazed & Blazed summer tour with Rae Sremmurd to see how he got into mixed martial arts and what he plans to do with this hobby.
Bleacher Report: How did you get into MMA?
Wiz Khalifa: My cousins train jiu-jitsu and stand-up as well. I just got tired of getting my ass whooped, so I figured I would learn how to fight.
B/R: How did your cousins get into it?
Khalifa: They’re like super big, and they’ve got anger problems. They needed to manage that anger. So they started taking it out on other people, and then they started to take it out on me and my friends too.
B/R: What would make you want to get into it in the first place?
Khalifa: Getting your ass whooped (laughs). You get your ass whooped, and you don’t want to do it no more. That’s what it was.
B/R: So you were basically a sparring partner?
Khalifa: More like a practice dummy (laughs). We spar now, though. It’s not as easy to beat me up anymore.
B/R: When did you start getting your ass whooped by your cousins?
Khalifa: When I was three (laughs). [But on the MMA side], it was probably for like the last four years. It’s been pretty rough.
B/R: Where do these ass whoopings take place?
Khalifa: On the tour bus, backstage at concerts, at the house.
B/R: So at this point, you’re pretty much fed up with this s–t. How did you actually get involved in MMA?
Khalifa: The first person I went to go see was [Brazilian jiu-jitsu eighth-degree red and black belt] Rigan Machado. I did jiu-jitsu with him for like a month or two, which was cool. Then I started going to Unbreakable, which is a gym in L.A. That’s where I became a muay thai [fighter]…that’s when my mind changed to like, “OK, this is what I want to do.” I like the conditioning. I like the stand-up aspect of it. I like the footwork. So I was like I’m gonna f–k with this a little more than jiu-jitsu.
B/R: Was it Glazer who got you into muay thai?
Khalifa: The way that Jay works is that he mixes everything up. You do wrestling, f–king jits, f–king stand-up. You do everything. He mixes it all up. It was a couple of the other trainers, like [actor and martial artist] Ernie Reyes Jr., who really sold my mind on muay thai s–t.
B/R: Take me through a typical day for you at Unbreakable
Khalifa: I wake up in the morning, eat some food. I’d go to Unbreakable around like noon because I’m an afternoon worker. I’d stay there for about two to three hours. Then get a shake and eat. I’d go home and smoke some weed, hit the studio, be awesome.
B/R: When was the last time you’ve had such a strict routine?
Khalifa: Never. Ever ever.
B/R: How different was that for you? And was it difficult?
Khalifa: Nah, it wasn’t difficult. I like a challenge. For me, it was just programming my mind to do other things. It was cool.
Matt Sayles/Associated Press
B/R: I have some skinny friends who were upset when you got buff, because you were their shining light. What has it been like going from the “skinny lil n—a” in your lyrics to this?
Khalifa: I just want all the skinny lil n—as to get in the gym and start fighting so we can form our own army of skinny n—as with sharp elbows and knees that can take over the world.
B/R: What is that army going to do?
Khalifa: F–k n—as up (laughs).
B/R: Even though you rapped about it, was it weird when people used to always point out your body frame?
Khalifa: I was cool with being skinny before. But as a 30-year-old man, I like myself with more weight.
B/R: How often do you eat now?
Khalifa: I’m always hungry now; like five times a day.
B/R: When you smoke and you have the munchies, how do you make sure you keep eating clean?
Khalifa: It’s not controlling it. It helps, because I’m putting on weight. So I smoke and eat a s–t ton of food. I never really ate junk food. I eat meals. Smoking a ton of pot makes me hungry, so I gain more weight.
B/R: Will we ever see you fight on an MMA stage?
Khalifa: (Shrugs) I don’t know.
B/R: Are you ever curious about how you would do?
Khalifa: Do I think about it? Nah. I just think about getting better every time I train, learning new techniques and stuff. When I’ve got to apply it, I’ll use everything I know.
B/R: What did you learn about yourself during the process of your physical transformation?
Khalifa: You just learn to break through these walls that you just don’t think that you can. … That’s the cool part, because at first I was doing a lot of drills and a lot of conditioning s–t where it was like, “Man, this is too hard.” Then that just became easy, out of nowhere. So you always break through walls, levels and s–t like that. It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty fun.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
B/R: How has working out and establishing a routine influenced your music as you worked on Rolling Papers 2?
Khalifa: For me, it’s good because I like to go to the studio nonstop. Being in the gym helps me get the f–k out the studio. It clears my mind to do something totally different that I’m passionate about. Then I can go back to it with a fresh mind. I go to the gym five days a week. So when I’m at the gym and studio, it’s a perfect balance.
B/R: What have you enjoyed about joining the MMA community?
Khalifa: The fighting community is really cool. All of the fighters that I meet, or anybody that I train with, they’re super forward with the knowledge and really cool as far as teaching technique and combos. Nobody is really aggressive and wants to f–k you up too bad. They be getting some people in the gym who be acting a little crazy. But for the most part, everyone that I’ve run into, whether that would be professional or on their own situation, they’ve been really, really cool and accepting of me doing my thing and wanting to further my knowledge. You meet a lot of good people, and you meet a lot of friends.
B/R: Did that catch you off guard by how inviting they were?
Khalifa: It didn’t catch me off guard, because I don’t go into too many things with expectations. But it made me really happy. It was like, “Wow, these people are super cool. I love being in this community.”
B/R: Who have you established relationships with?
Khalifa: Tyron Woodley. The Diaz brothers [Nate and Nick]. Uriah Hall is cool with me. Chuck Liddell; I went to [Electric Daisy Carnival] with him. I partied in Vegas with that fool (laughs). Hell yeah.
B/R: Did you ever imagine this?
Khalifa: Yeah, actually. My cousins have been telling me for years—at least four years—that fighting, music and weed is going to come together at a certain point. “You need to be in this s–t.” They’ve always been friends with the fighters, bringing them to shows and making sure that they’re straight. I don’t be on no corny-ass f–king celebrity s–t. It’s more like, “You cool? You good? You have a good time? Here, hit the weed.” It’s like a brotherhood. We’ve established these relationships over the years. It’s all crossing over.
B/R: Now that it’s crossed over, is there anywhere you want to take it from here?
Khalifa: Just keep going, man. I’m just getting started. I’ll definitely keep training. It’s different [now]. I was at home in L.A., so I was able to go five days a week. Now, it’s like applying it into the road life. I was comfortable, man, but now it’s like I gotta keep it moving and apply it to that too. I think that’s the next step.
B/R: You’ve also got your Dazed & Blazed tour with Rae Sremmurd this summer.
Khalifa: Yeah, but I’ll still work out. I’ll keep it moving. I just got back from a three-week Europe tour, and I was lifting weights the whole time. I didn’t get to do any stand-up, but we’ll mix it in.
B/R: You’re so established as a rapper and celebrity figure. What still keeps you going at 30 years old?
Khalifa: Being awesome and showing people how awesome I am.
B/R: In what way?
Khalifa: I’m just that dude.
B/R: Sometimes when you’re that dude, you can tail off and lose that drive. As I listen to Rolling Papers 2, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Khalifa: For me, my music is the way that I flex. People are really into my lifestyle, all the weed that I smoke and things like that. But I’m always going to put my best energy into my music. My album is the best opportunity to do that.