Bryan "The Beast" Baker is a rising prospect in the middleweight division. Baker was a finalist in the second season of Bellator's middleweight tournament before falling to Alexander Shlemenko. What truly made Baker stand out from the crowd was the announcement he made about three weeks ago where he revealed that he had been battling chronic Leukemia throughout the Bellator tournament which included both his first round victories. Baker has since gone into remission just in time to battle and defeat MMA veteran Jeremy Horn this past Thursday at Bellator 30 in Louisville.
Bryan was kind enough to stop by on my internet radio show, Verbal Submission (66 minute mark) and here's an excerpt from his interview.
Brian Hemminger: How are you feeling right now? You're coming off a really big win
Bryan Baker: I feel great man. It's not really, I don't feel all the way back in my zone yet but I'm just excited to have that victory and I want to get back in the cage as soon as possible.
BH: Congratulations on that big win over Jeremy Horn on Thursday night. He's a guy who was given UFC title shots, and he had 5 wins in a row and was poised to potentially get back to the UFC win a victory over you. Do you feel this was the biggest win of your career?
BB: Career-wise, yes. Obviously beating such a well-known opponent who's been in the cage and had such respect. Also being able to release my diagnosis, being able to build through it, just strengthen my mind and my team and just everybody believing in me. I've been given the opportunity to address it and I'm at the point in my career where I'm building, I'm getting my name out more and more and it's gonna go hand in hand with hard work.
Ben Thapa: Bryan, you've talked about the importance of a gameplan in fighting Jeremy Horn. I was kinda curious, how far back did you go in Jeremy Horn's career to make your gameplan? Obviously he's had a lot of fights and there was a lot of film available.
BB: Well Thomas (Denny) has been kinda hand in hand with Horn with how long he's been fighting as well. They're both veterans and they both watched each other's careers growing and me having a mentor such as Thomas who's been in the game as well. He just came up with a gameplan that I had 100% belief in and we were on the same page and I went out and executed it.
BH: Well obviously Jeremy Horn wasn't the only thing you've been fighting. You had that big, big revelation where you revealed you're fighting chronic leukemia. That's gotta be tough. I couldn't imagine getting up and training every day like you've been doing. Can you tell us just a little bit about what you've been going through these past few months?
BB: Well, originally I was moving out to Colorado and with the high elevation and the low oxygen. It triggered me being anemic and that's what led to leukemia. I started off horrible. I couldn't even warm up without starting to get dizzy, headaches, turning different colors. It just affected me so much in my head and physically with my body. Once we got with certain doctors, got referred to certain people, I got on this medication and I've been building back. I'm just excited to build back my spirit and my confidence as a fighter grows more and more.
Knowing that I can get through something as tough as leukemia then there's no limit to as far as I can go, how many lives I can inspire and touch and just really try to do God's will. Just let his light shine through me, show his love. There's no stopping me, you're not gonna hold my spirit down and there's no holding me back. I'm gonna reach a level that I can't even explain. I have full belief in that, full faith and I'm gonna come out and be as effective as possible.
BH: How long ago was it that you were diagnosed?
BB: It was April 19th of this year. It was 10 days before the tournament started, before my first fight with Sean Loeffler. It was seriously 2 days to train for Sean Loeffler in the first leg of the tournament. You know, it was just keeping my head all positive thoughts, thinking forward and just knowing that if I'm gonna do it I'm gonna go forward with it 100%. I'm gonna go forward into the tournament expecting to win. With so much to overcome, I was just trying to keep confidence in myself.
I held it out for the first two legs, however in the final, I don't know where my vision went that night. I just had an off night and you know, I just gotta build back from that point and I'm just excited to be coming off a win right now.
BH: You definitely built back from that point. Leukemia is a disease that makes you tired, weak, anemic as you mentioned. Just how were you able to stay so strong and conditioned to be able to train competitively the way you've been doing?
BB: That's just Thomas Denny and all of Team Wildman. We put in so much time, dedication and hard work. We have this system that we have 100% belief in and it's always been about overcoming anything as far as sickness, as far as hard times, family times. We're a team and family that built that knows we have hard times in our life and we've always pushed through it, always supported each other and we've always wanted the best to come out of everybody's life. So it was just another situation you know.
I'm just a piece of the stronghold of all Team Wildman and I'm not gonna let one wall cave in for my whole team, where everybody believes in me. My belief in myself and in them goes hand in hand and it's just being a light for our whole team and everybody around me and all my family. I've got so much different energy going towards me and my success that with my hard work, and everybody's care for me, we're just gonna build to the top.
BH: You've mentioned Tom "The Wildman" Denny and Team Wildman and they showed him in your preview video before your fight and he got really emotional talking about you Thursday night. Just how important has he been for you these past few months and how important moving forward in your career?
BB: My whole career has been in Thomas Denny's hands. Thomas Denny's hands have put together my career. I was just a fighter who was training and believing in my coach and having a family relationship. Both of our hearts strengthen each other and we have a belief in the system we've built and we've put so much sacrifice and hard work into it that it's just kinda in a way makes it easy for itself. Everything just sets up as long as we put the sacrifices in and Thomas has just been the number one guy who sees my life and directs it and knows my passion and we just go hand in hand and know we're gonna be effective in my career.
He's a top coach and he puts 100% into his fight team and they're people he loves and he has no doubt in himself on what he puts together. And when everyone believes on a certain same path, great things start to happen.