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Keyboard to the Cage: Ep. 6 - Watch my fight

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Check out the sixth episode of this SB Nation original series, where journalist Eddie Mercado competes in a professional MMA match.

Welcome to the sixth 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.

Episode 1 explored exactly what I’m doing here, and also introduced my coaches and teammates. In Episode 2, I went and supported some of my guys as they had some MMA matches of their own, and captured some of what goes on behind the scenes. For Episode 3, I got in some sparring rounds, endured some hellacious pad work, and also discuss with my teammates some of the common fears associated with getting into a fight. Episode 4 saw me run through the ample distractions I’m facing, and how words of wisdom from Dustin Poirier helps me combat them. Episode 5 details fight week with some ground and pound work, a weight cutting discussion, and then finally hitting the SFL 42 weigh-ins.

In this video, watch me compete in my very first professional MMA match. By the grace of God I come away with the victory over Will Holtzclaw at 1:40 of the first round. The win came with a submission due to strikes, Bloody Elbows that is.

Online gambling site BetOnline.AG had me as a strong -260 betting favorite for my SFL 42 fight, with Will Holtzclaw at an underdog tag of +200. It looks like the oddsmakers were right when they set the lines.

Before the fight earlier in the night, I had a chance to step in the cage and feel it out, and boy was I scared. I was jittery and had a moment where I was thinking ‘WTF am I doing?’ I didn’t feel like I could perform in that state. I exited the cage and wen to the locker room, where luckily I had brought a pillow. I laid down for about 45-minutes to gather myself, which really helped with the nerves. I started watching the preliminary bouts with the rest of the blue corner, and my confidence began to slowly rise.

After I got my hands wrapped, I felt ready to go and was wanting the prelims to hurry up. I was the second bout on the main card, so when the fighter before me walked out, I started to warm up. I went through some grappling drills before cracking some kicks on the Thai pads. I felt gassed! I was like, ‘oh no! I’m already tired.’ I drank some water and that’s when I heard my named called. The fight before mine ended quickly, and it was my turn to head out. Before making the walk, I felt like throwing up. Sexy Harvey Grasse gave me a few Karate chops to the gut, telling me to tighten up. They called my name to walk out, so I dry heaved into the trash can twice, before they called my name again. I walked to the staging area and saw that my opponent had just entered the cage.

They cut his walkout song and started to play mine, and that’s when the remaining nerves went away and extreme focus set in. On my walk down the ramp, I had tunnel vision. I didn’t look anywhere but at the cage, and couldn’t hear anything but my own thoughts. I was dead-set on what my job was and how to get it done. I gave one last hug to my corner Sexy Harvey, Diego Bispo, and Rob Shermer before entering the prep-point to get checked over. I stepped into the cage, bowed, and did one lap to dap up my opponent. As they called my name I just kept shaking my head up and down, feeling like I did everything possible and this was my time. I was ready to kill or be killed.

The fight starts and my opponent blitzed me, just as I suspected. We clinched up and exchange some knees to the body. I had the inside Thai plum so I was getting the better of the exchanges. Holtzclaw landed some clean leg kicks, but I was unfazed thanks to the flow of adrenaline. He comes in with a right hand but I counter with a left hook to right hand combination. My hook landed on his ear, and he took a second to wipe the blood away. Holtzclaw blitzed again, hitting me with a punch before attempting a takedown. I used my footwork to step to the side, and his forward momentum caused him to fall to his back.

At the time, it all happened so fast that I thought to myself, ‘how did we get to the ground?’ I realized I was on top and in full mount, and put an emphasis on controlling him first to not lose the position. Once I felt him only trying to hang on, I used short punches to posture up and deliver a smashing elbow to the same ear I opened up with the left hook. I grab ahold of a gift wrap and land one big punch before he wiggled out. I then grabbed one of his arms, and delivered another bloody elbow with same arm trapping him, and to the same ear. He turned on his side as I cocked back with the right elbow. That elbow too smashed that same ear. I go to throw a right punch, and as it lands I realize that he is tapping out. I stop and start to stand up, and that’s when the referee realized that the fight was over. My opponent is a good dude and there was no need for me to keep going until the referee pulled me off. Plus, it’s kind of cool stopping your own fight.

The rush I was feeling was like nothing else. It was primal. I put hours and hours into my training camp just for it to be over in 100-seconds. I remained in the kill zone throughout the announcer vocalizing the results, and it wasn’t until I saw my mother enter the cage that I was able to flip the switch back to ‘human.’ That’s when elation set in. All of my hard work had paid off and the satisfaction sunk in. I gained a great new appreciation for what fighters go through, and why they go through it. I was honored and relieved that I was able to make my coaches, teammates, friends, and family proud. I feel like all the time and energy they put into me gave them a high return on their investment.

I did it! I went from the keyboard to the cage, and was fortunate enough to come away with the win. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a desire to do it again, but for now, I’m going to retire from the sport I love so much undefeated. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Why?

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.

Making this possible: