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Keyboard to the Cage: Ep. 1 - WTF am I doing?

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Check out the first episode of this SB Nation original series, where journalist Eddie Mercado gives his training camp rundown of his upcoming pro MMA debut.

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Welcome to the first episode of Keyboard to the Cage: A journalist’s journey to pro MMA! This video series will document my journey through a fight camp in preparation for my professional MMA debut at SFL 42 on January 31, 2020.

Since I competed in a pro Muay Thai bout back in December of 2018, the athletic commission here in the beautiful state of Virginia will not allow me to compete in an amateur MMA match. So, just like I did in my Flight to Fight: Thai Boxing in Thailand series, I will be jumping head first into a pro fight without any ammy experience. Go big or go home?

In this episode, I introduce my coaches at Diego Bispo Academy. I’m working my Muay Thai kickboxing with Harvey Grasse, who is a product of Duke Roufus. My wrestling grind is being handled by Seldon Wright, who wrestled for Old Dominion University. As far as Jiu-Jitsu, I am under the wing of 6x world black belt champion, Diego Bispo himself. I really feel blessed to have so much talent and knowledge surrounding me, but I also understand that it’s up to me to absorb and apply the techniques.

In the video, you get to meet some of my teammates who are up and coming amateur fighters, some competing on the SFL 42 undercard. Guys like Manuel Fernandez, Alistair Patterson, and Marshall Shermer make it challenging for my 34-year-old self to keep up. Also in this installment, I take a relaxing epsom salt bubble bath and break down the importance of recovery, and give a bit of background to exactly wtf I’m doing.

Stay tuned for episode 2, where I go watch some of my teammates compete, and capture the moments leading up and through fight-time.

Oh, and don’t forget that there will be betting odds for my upcoming pro fight against Will Holtzclaw, courtesy of BetOnline.AG.


I want a deeper appreciation for both the sport I love to cover so much, and the athletes that risk their lives for their dreams. It’s easy to sit here and critique and ridicule fighters for bad performances or lapses in fight judgement. I believe competing in an MMA bout myself will give me a better understanding of what they have to go through, both in preparation and inside the arena. I gained a little bit of insight in December of 2019 when I traveled to Thailand to train at Tiger Muay Thai and compete in a pro Muay Thai bout out there. It was truly eye opening, but striking is just one facet of MMA. I feel like I need to get a mixed martial arts fight under my belt to curb my curiosity.

Another important ‘why’ for me is that I never want to live with the regret of never trying, or sitting in a rocking chair when I’m 80 years old saying I could have, I should have, or I would have. I want to look back and say I did that. Tomorrow is never promised. This is a fact. I want to do my best to live life to the fullest, and what better way than knucking in a cage? If I happen to inspire at least one person to pursue their dreams in the process, well then it’ll be totally worth it.

Also, I have a lot of little tiny humans looking up to me in the form of six nieces and two nephews. I want to prove to them that anything is possible if you drop the excuses, silence the fears, and put forth your best efforts. It’s easy to be afraid of failure, but easy doesn’t equate to fulfillment. The truth is, I’m just a regular dude without any special talents. The good news is that you don’t need talent to work hard or have an unwavering passion. I want to be proof of that. Inspiring humans is my ‘why.’

Why not? (Excuses):

  • None.

The match:

  • Eddie Mercado (0-0-0) vs. Will Holtzclaw (0-0-0): Middleweight
  • Three five-minute rounds
  • SFL 42 on January 31, 2020 in Norfolk, Virginia

Training regimen:

  • Jiu-Jitsu with Diego Bispo - 6x world black belt champion
  • Muay Thai with Harvey Grasse - Duke Roufus product
  • Wrestling with Seldon Wright - Old Dominion University product
  • Strength & conditioning with Andrew Delcarmen - Certified monster

How to watch:

  • The video series can be seen on Bloody Elbow in article form, along with their and MMA Mania’s Facebook page.
  • The fight itself will be available on in PPV form. If you happen to be in Norfolk, Virginia on January 31, 2020 then you can come watch live at the Chartway Arena across from Old Dominion University.

Making this possible:

SFL 42 fightcard:

Main card: (Pro)

Mitch Aguiar vs. Mumia Abu Deyali: Welterweight

Kedrick Harris vs. Kaine Tomlinson Sr: Welterweight

Thomas Blair vs. Elias Briley: Featherweight

Alan Stephenson vs. Sam Eure: 165 pounds

Ryan Parker vs. Ricky Thompson: 190 pounds

Eddie Mercado vs. William Holtzclaw: Middleweight

Prelims: (Amateur)

Evan Stephens vs. Zion Tomlinson: Light Heavyweight title

Pierre Ba vs. Matt Hicks: Bantamweight title

Adrian Soto-Perez vs. Joseph Huggins: Lightweight title

Justin Spyres vs. Brandon Eldridge: Welterweight title

Alistair Patterson vs. Jeffrey Summers: Lightweight

Manny Fernandez vs. Emanuel Thompson: Featherweight

Seldon Wright vs. Conor Mosby: Welterweight

Kaine Tomlinson Jr vs. Kyle Hall: Welterweight