My First MMA FightOn June 16, 2012 I made my amateur mixed martial arts debut at Yankee Lake Brawlroom; a small promotion in Ohio. Originally, I was supposed to fight at WCC IV on June 8 in Greensburg, PA but my opponent backed out for unknown reasons. I was disappointed because three of my teammates were already lined up to fight on the same card and I didn’t want to be left out of the action.
A short while after, during a training session at Fight Club Pittsburgh, I was offered a fight in Ohio at Yankee Lake Brawlroom 34, set for June 16. I was familiar with the promotion because several of my training partners had fights there in the past and generally agreed that it was a good place to kick off an amateur career. I accepted the fight and anxiously started counting down the days leading up to my debut.
The opponent I was matched up with had an identical build but apart from body type I didn’t know much about him except that he was a white rapper from Ohio. My confidence was high going into the fight because I had been training for nearly two years while many amateur fighters make their debuts after just months of preparation (sometimes even less). Not only that, but I knew the caliber of training partners I had were much higher than any of my opponents could hope to have at this level. Also, I was excited to fight under Ohio rules which are far more lenient and realistic than those established in Pennsylvania for amateur competitors (i.e. the required use of shin pads and over-sized gloves in addition to no ground-n-pound).
A few days before the fight, my opponent was unsurprisingly changed once again and for whatever reason the weight limit became 210 pounds instead of 205. I was informed that my new opponent was making his debut as well but only had about two months of training. I figured the largest obstacle I would have to overcome in the fight was the weight advantage, because I knew for a fact I was going to show up lighter than him. My opponent probably had to cut from heavyweight or else the bout would have stayed at 205. The biggest concern I had at this point was making sure I weighed in somewhere between 205 and 210 otherwise the fight would be cancelled.
I woke up the morning of the fight and immediately weighed myself. I was shocked to see “199.5” on the scale after I went to bed the night before right at 205. Up until I left for Ohio around noon, I chugged water bottles and ate constantly in an effort to get my weight up. However, it was still not enough so once I got to the weigh-ins a few people let me borrow their keys and cell phones so I could stuff them in my pockets in order to make the weight minimum. It worked, and I officially weighed in at 207.5!
It was extremely hot that day in Brookfield, Ohio so the organizers had to set up a cage in the backyard of the original venue which was deemed unsafe due to lack of proper ventilation. The whole setup was far from glamorous. The seats were your standard lawn chairs, with sections separated not by fences or railings but big planks of plywood and other haphazard materials. There was a DJ booth that blasted crappy death metal in an effort to pump up the crowd before the fights started. As for the cage itself, it was rickety, plain and probably unsafe. Say hello to your average entry-level MMA promotion!
The hours leading up to fight time were interesting to say the least. A training partner from Fight Club Pittsburgh also had a fight on the card but his opponent mysteriously vanished after weigh-ins. A short while after, we received word that his opponent went to a nearby gas station, slipped on an oil puddle, and banged his head against a gas pump, forcing him to go to the hospital and withdraw from the card. You can’t make this stuff up.
After a while, the fine citizens of Brookfield, Ohio and surrounding areas started filling up the seats, eagerly awaiting the sound of the first bell. As I was getting my hands wrapped, I finally started feeling a little nervous. The fights before mine were ending quickly and the time to test my skills was fast approaching. As I was warming up, I thought about all the training I had gone through over the past two years to get to this point. I felt very confident and surprisingly relaxed because I was certain I had worked harder than my opponent, therefore I could not lose. I was ready both physically and mentally. It was time to fight.
After the announcer called my name, I steadily made my approach towards the cage. Once I got in and the door shut behind me, I felt an incredible energy and couldn’t wait to go to battle. Before I knew it, the referee said “Go!” and what ensued was one of the realest experiences of my life. Every time one of my punches connected, I could feel my opponents skull through the gloves. It was the hardest I had ever hit anyone in my life. I remember thinking to myself that my hands were definitely going to break at some point but the adrenaline rush made it hard to feel any real pain. I clinched with my opponent several times and delivered some brutal knees to his midsection. I could tell he felt every one of them. As the fight went on, I ended up rocking him several times until I finally secured a standing guillotine choke and forced him to submit in the first round.
Immediately after the referee stopped the contest, I felt a wave of happiness, relief and countless other emotions wash over me. I had just accomplished one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life; I had won my very first MMA fight! All the blood and sweat (no tears) I put in on the mats for the past two years finally paid off. I felt like I conquered a massive obstacle and proved to others as well as myself that I could not only compete, but win in the toughest sport in the world.