The life of an MMA fighter is hard. Some fighter's journey to the top may be more difficult than other's, but we all go through similar adversities to excel in the sport we love. From the day to day tasks of staying in shape and avoiding indulgences that would otherwise hinder our performance, to having to explain to every condescending stick-and-ball sport fan that "UFC fighting" is not a correct term, to the occupational hazard that being in a violent full contact sport and training for such events brings, it all adds up, and is sometimes not as much fun as you would think.
Despite the negative intro, this fanpost is not to gripe and complain about the the hardships of being a prizefighter. After all this is the sport I chose, and continue to throw myself into. Rather, I would simply like to document and share my experience withthose not so lucky or willing to be able to do so. For those of you who haven't had the awful burden of getting bored to death with my self-indulgent writing, feel free to take a look back at the first or second post for what may be a necessary brief overview.
Last time I shared with you guys, I was headed to Vegas for what would be the tryouts for Season 13 of the Ultimate Fighter, which just concluded past Saturday. The tryouts, which were my third attended, went great, and upon leaving I was sure that before long I had finally made it and I would be in a gazillion US home televisions, busting heads all the way to the top in a blaze of glory. Clearly I should have looked to the past for evidence that things don't always turn out the way you expect them to, and before long the bad news came rolling in- Spike and the UFC had decided to use only Welterweights for the season, as opposed to both Welterweights and Middleweights which had attended tryouts. Being that I walk around 220 lbs feel like I'm on my deathbed every time I cut down to middleweight, 170 lbs was certainly out of the question. It was quite the letdown, and it wasn't long before I was back at the proverbial drawing board.
In a twist of fate, a recent opponent of mine ended up getting the call for Season 13, making it slightly more interesting for myself and my fans to watch, however bittersweet it may have been. I won't post the video (you can look it up), because from the comments around here it sounds as though you guys have had enough Chris Cope, but it would suffice to say that it was a quick fight. Also, I can assure you he was doing his "WHOOOO" chants far before his stint with reality television. Nevertheless, he was a very likeable guy, and I was rooting for him the whole season.
Around the same time that I was attending the tryouts, two things happened. It began to get difficult to get fights on the regional circuit, and I began to get calls from various management agencies looking to represent me. Up until that point I had guided my career as I saw fit, and was not yet comfortable handing my years of hard work and efforts to a stranger whom may or may not have my best intentions in mind, as I had seen many fighters have bad experiences with their managers. I knew eventually though that to reach the next level this was a necessity, and it wasn't long before I found a great fit at AMR Group through a trusted mutual friend.
Immediately upon signing, AMR President Gary Ibarra began finding and creating opportunities for myself that I didn't otherwise have. First and foremost was finally a fight within one of MMA's top 3 organizations. At the time, Zuffa had still not bought Strikeforce, and Bellator hadjust inked a deal with MTV2, which ended up growing its viewers to a peak of 360,000 in their latest show. Given the exposure that being on a network such as MTV2 brings, as well as the opportunity to compete and win buttloads of cash in their middleweight tournament, the decision was a simple one.
In addition to finally being able to compete on a big stage, another opportunity I was afforded when signing with AMRGroup was the opportunity to train with one of the absolute greatest camps in the MMA community- Cesar Gracie Fight Team. Clouded by the controversy that was the post-fight brawl in Nashville, it is sometimes easy to forget that their team in North California is home to undoubtedly some of the best fighters in the world, at one point holding the world title in Strikeforce's lightweight, welterweight, and middleweight divisions. Plus, being a Diaz/Eddie Bravo/Joe Rogan fan, and overall counter-culture enthusiast (get it?) I was more than happy to tag along.
Fast-forward to roughly 3 months after signing. My first match-up announced for Bellator was set for June 25th, and boy was it an exciting one. Mike "El Gringo Diablo" Bernhard was set to be my first opponent, in what I was told was essentially an audition for the Season 5 Middleweight Tournament beginning in September. Back out West I went to train for a second time, splitting my training camp between California and home-sweet-home in Tallahassee, Florida. Mike was a very dangerous opponent indeed, with an uncanny similarity to myself in terms of body type and fighting style. With 5 first round knockouts, 3 of them coming under 30 seconds, I was ready and prepared for the tough task ahead of me. Halfway through my camp however, Bernhard reportedly tore a ligament in his knee, and was immediately replaced by former TUFcontestant and UFC veteran Dan Cramer.
Although after reviewing their records, some would say that Cramer may be a less dangerous opponent, he still indeed poses many threats and possesses a skill set that is not easy to beat, as he has won most of his fights and never been finished in his very few losses. I look forward to what will certainly be my toughest challenge yet, and would be very interested to hear strategy breakdowns and/or predictions (be honest!) for the fight in the comment section, as this showdown will be happening in less than 3 weeks. I appreciate the feedback I have already received from many of you guys (even though I was passed up for the 2011 scouting report- ouch! lol) , and I hope to continue to receive your support, as it means alot to me.
I will close with another thank you to those who have helped me out in the past and will surely help in the future, as there have been too many to name. I hope to continue to build a relationship with what is undoubtedly the best MMA community on the web here at BE, as well as sufficiently articulate my thoughts and plans best I can into posts for all to enjoy (if I can avoid getting punched in the head too much). Thanks again... Here's my highlight reel to get you guys excited...
JOSHsamman2011.mov (via chachicoldstream)