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David “Bulletproof” Mitchell: Lookin’ for A Crown at West Coast Fighting 16

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By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA

Photo courtesy of David Mitchell

Tall oaks line Sacramento’s city blocks, and, at the corner of I and 17th, just beyond the massive trunks and gnarled branches, you’ll find Ultimate Fitness. Rooted in the area since 2005, the gym’s professional squadron, best recognized as Team Alpha Male, has become a destination hotspot for mixed martial arts talent. It’s a struggle to walk through the double doors and not recognize an athlete who is slated for a high-profile fight.

At first glance, it’s difficult to decipher the electricity of prize fighting through the jungle of family and camaraderie. What needed no translation was the obvious focus of David “Bulletproof” Mitchell (19-5) as he IMG_0419prepared for his main event pairing against Max “Pain “ Griffin (11-2) at West Coast Fighting (WFC) 16: King of Sacramento, the most anticipated regional card to date. All smiles before the start of practice, Mitchell demonstrated his ability to mix things up with multitasking, wrapping his hands and his son in love. Like Cinderella set to a different schedule, the clock struck 10:00 a.m., alerting Team Alpha Male members in attendance to stow away any glass jaws and begin sparring. Somewhere between the space for sparring and merely working out a Bermuda Triangle of sorts exists because smiles quickly dissipated into hardened, focused stares.

IMG_0426The dividing line between verbal jabs with friends and gloved jabs from opponents hangs a quote from Dan Gable, the most decorated wrestler and wrestling coach in the history of the sport:

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard to find alloy called guts.”

Long since the days of Mitchell entering the professional ranks in 2006, MMA has evolved into equal parts competition and entertainment value. Accredited as a former UFC welterweight contender and current WFC middleweight champion, Mitchell is attuned to turning up the volume surrounding an event,

“Yeah, that whole humble fighter. You don’t see the Chuck Liddells and the Randy Coutures. You see more of the Tito Ortiz and the more flamboyant. But, at the end of the day, we are entertainers, and this is an entertainment industry. We need people to be interested to come and see us, like they are with Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, or Cowboy Cerrone.” Mitchell adjusted the treble and bass to be as clear as possible, “There’s 10,000 guys, and there are very talented mixed martial artists out there that aren’t going to go anywhere because they don’t know how to entertain. That’s too bad for them. Maybe they can teach or do something else.”

In conjunction to packing a powerful punch, acknowledged several times by his partner while sparring, Mitchell packs a ton of purpose into his promotion of WFC 16,

“West Coast Fighting 16 is kind of a culmination of two years of being in Sacramento. I’ve been promoting the local fighters, promoting the number one local promotion, which is West Coast, and this will be my eighth time: undefeated, 7-0, three different belts, and just cleaning out the different divisions. I’m just trying to transcend that regional MMA show where you’re in like a vacuum. Where it’s like a tree falling in the woods, and you’re like, ‘Did that really happen?’ I’m trying to change that here in Sacramento and bring a bigger, more exciting atmosphere with: open-workouts, media days, wearing suits, and doing the whole thing, just as if it was UFC, which also prepares you better for the UFC.”

As eager as Mitchell is to breathe life into his catchweight (175 pounds) bout against Griffin, WFC’s welterweight champion, the end game for Mitchell is to reunite with the globally recognized brand of MMA, the UFC. Five walks to the Octagon between 2010-2013, Mitchell reflected on his readiness to return, a move from a slurried mix to a solid concrete endeavor:

“When you get there [UFC], at least the experiences I’ve had,” Mitchell’s eyebrows reach toward Ultimate Fitness’ ceiling and his eyes widen to illustrate how captivating the moment is, “coming from a small town, a small gym, ran up an 11-0 record and got to the UFC, and it was like: big lights, bright lights, lots of questions, lots of makeup, spraying water on you, and doing this different stuff. I really wasn’t ready; it got the better of me.” Mitchell compared his past to his present, “I feel now that I’m ready. I plan on, not just finishing, showcasing my stand-up and getting a first-round TKO, KO, or, if it happens to be a submission, that’s okay, too. I’m going to get a first round finish and really put on a show for the fans, and, God willing, get a call from Dana.”

During practice, it was obvious that Team Alpha Male’s coach, Joey Rodriguez, kept Mitchell in his crosshairs. Inches away or masked behind a sea of flailing fists, Rodriguez continuously called out commands and Mitchell met them with immediacy. In the right moment, Mitchell tans in the spotlight. Until then, he deflects any attention onto his teammates. In once instance, he referenced Josh Emmett, WFC’s undefeated lightweight title holder, who will be featured in WFC 16’s co-main event, recognizing how difficult it can be to receive a golden ticket out of the regional scene:

“There’s a lot of good talent, and I want to inspire these guys and give them a path to follow to get to the big show. Right now, unless you’re a collegiate All-American, or were a professional wrestler before, it’s very hard to crack the code. I mean, Josh Emmett is 8-0 and is almost too good to be in the UFC because he’s going to clean out the whole division. He’s a complete unknown. He went to try out for The Ultimate Fighter, and, I believe, they didn’t put him on the show because he was going to crush everybody; it wouldn’t even be a competition. It’s funny to be a victim of your own success.”

Photo courtesy of Josh Emmett

With the enormous growth of the UFC, the promotion is no longer accepting applications. Instead, implementing reality shows like The Ultimate Fighter and engineering a newly released reality series titled: Lookin’ for A Fight, the UFC further ensures quality control of their product. Lookin’ for A Fight features Dana White, President of the UFC; Matt Serra, former UFC welterweight champion; and their eccentric friend, Nick the Tooth visiting MMA promotions across the country. The correspondence shared between WFC and the UFC has fighters and ticket holders hopeful for an appearance from White and his cronies. Mitchell vocalized why White doesn’t want to miss WFC 16,

“I watched that show Lookin’ for A Fight, and they [White and the gang] go to Alaska. I had a buddy up there. They went to New Jersey, and they went to a few shows. To be honest, this show is going to be much bigger than any of those shows. Right now, West Coast 16 is bigger than Bellator; it’s bigger than World Series of Fighting. I think It will be a real great feeder to the UFC, and if Dana White wanted to come out and watch, not only this show, but once a year and pick up a guy, or pick up a couple guys, and girls; we have some amazing talent out here.” Once Mitchell’s engine started churning, it was difficult to derail his train of thought, “I mean, this thing is loaded with legends, and other guys coming up: the amateurs or the first time pros. They’re coming up to me, or they are posting on Facebook that they’re on the biggest show I’ve ever been on. That is going to drive these guys to put on amazing performances and look for finishes.” Incorporating MMA’s Capital City plurality into his final urge to White, Mitchell said, “We just want to be a great feeder for the UFC and want to build the sport of MMA in the Northern California area.”

When the final bell sounded an end to the practice, all the ferocity in the room dropped like everyone’s gloves to the mat. Coinciding his practice worth of action with words, Mitchell’s leadership echoed in his closing sentiment to his teammates. All hands in, he noted his journey would stall without Team Alpha Male’s kinship,

“Normally, I’d be sparring right up until fight week, but the stakes are so high that it’s just not worth taking risk of getting injured. I just let all the guys know that I’m going to be the main event and Josh Emmett is going to be the co-main event, and this is a huge deal. They should put it on their social media; they should get a ticket; they should buy a T-shirt; they should come out; they should tell Dana to come out, and so on and so forth, trying to pump up the guys.”

A repeated theme with Mitchell resounded in his appreciation of others. He closed,

“Just a big thank you to my sponsors: Automotive USA, Meet Up Sacramento, Nutrishop in Natomas, GFY Gear, and a big shout out to all the guys: coach Joey Rodriguez, Team Alpha Male, and Urijah Faber. Also, to West Coast, they’ve given me the opportunity to do some amazing things. I hope Dana comes out and that everyone comes out to enjoy the show.”

Needless to say, Mitchell made it abundantly clear that anyone interested in MMA will not want to be left out of this historic event. On January 23rd, 2016 at the McClellan Conference Center, you’ll want a first-hand view of tomorrow’s superstars.

Photo courtesy of Team Alpha Male

For tickets to WFC 16, go to westcoastfighting.com and use code: David for 10% off. Follow Mitchell to his coronation ceremony at WFC 16 at:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/daudimitchell

Instagram: davidmitchellmma

Twitter: @dmitchellmma

 

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Brad Pickett, “I owe a lot to this sport, it’s helped me out so much”

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As Saturday looms closer, a new championship belt lies in waiting. Not just a new title, the first title bestowed from a young and growing promotion. Rise of Champions hosts its fifth event Saturday, in which new amateur and pro champions will be crowned.

Saturday is a great opportunity for the young promotion. Co-owner and former UFC veteran, Brad Pickett doesn’t look to compete with the bigger promotions like Cage Warriors or ACB, let alone the UFC. To his luck, Rise of Champions 5, doesn’t have to. While the UFC does have an event scheduled for the upcoming weekend, it happens to be the somewhat rare occurrence of a Sunday night show. Though, it does make sense, with the North American market free from the anaconda like stranglehold the NFL (American football) maintains for nearly 5 months of the year. Nonetheless, the Sunday night cards are strewn from the norm. Which is essentially what ROC looks to provide.

The regional circuit in Europe holds a good portion of quality promotions and Pickett wants to add ROC to that list. “I just want it to be a really recognizable name. Like for (people to say), ‘Oh, that’s a good show’. You hear that name and go, ‘that’s a really well worked, a really good show’.” It seems for the retired UK MMA legend, he couldn’t be happier. In describing what it meant to run a promotion, he said, “I just feel great to be a part of it. I owe a lot to this sport, it’s helped me out so much, and I just like to put back what I’ve learned over the years with my coaching but then also later, run a promotion, give guys a good platform to grow and showcase their skills. For me, in a way, I feel it’s my duty to do something like this and stay within the sport”.

 

 

The other co-owner, Mickey Papas and he began the promotion together, while Pickett still competed in 2015. Papas and Pickett have a long-standing relationship stemming from early in the former Bantamweights career. “My relationship with Mickey started off like this; I remember when I was fighting in Cage Rage back in the day, I knew nothing on the floor really. I was just like a stand up fighter. I knew a little bit but I was unversed, and then I remember going to do some Jiu Jitsu and then also bumping into Mickey. Mickey was more Pankration, which I thought back then, the wrestling side of MMA was more important than just Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the gi… he’s been one of my coaches ever since, even when I (went) out to America, I trained in America for a lot but also I’d come back in and train here. I had two teams, I had ATT and Team Titan.”

Upon further discussion of his promotion, Pickett revealed an aspect of his promotion which separates ROC from the rest of the popular regional promotions. “I like the fact when I have a pro main card of 4-5 fights and the rest of my card is amateur fights. Where shows like Bamma and Cage Warriors are predominantly only pro fights.” He continued, “I want to keep to my emphasis of young talent. And also in my pro fights people like Mike Ekundayo (an undefeated fighter coached by Pickett at Team Titan) who is the main event… I’m still trying to promote younger, unbeaten talent to help build themselves”.

 

 

Through his MMA journey, the retired fighter took many personal experiences while competing and coaching under a litany of promotions. He depicted one odd story in which, “I remember one of my fighters fighting on the show getting quite a bad cut on his eye. I remember seeing it backstage where I had other guys fighting on the show, later on the card, (guys) that I’m cornering. He’s just sitting back there and I said, ‘What’s going on, are you going to get stitched? The doctor going to see you to get you stitched up?’ He goes,

‘No, no, they gave me these steri strips’.

‘What do you mean they gave you steri strips?’,

‘They gave me steri strips to do it myself’. And I’m like,

‘You’re taking a piss’…

I went and complained, and they said, ‘Oh no, there’s one doctor, he’s by the cage side. He can’t come back and do the stitches. There’s a hospital just down the road why don’t you leave and go there?’ and I’m like you’re expecting one of my fighters to leave your show looking like he does with a massive gash on his face? It’s just like loads of things like that, it always happens.”

Having experience in the regional circuit, at the time that he did, Pickett was exposed to a lot. When asked about the preliminary conception of Rise of Champions, he explained it as so, “I’ve been to a of lot good shows in my career and I’ve been to a lot of bad shows. I’ve been to the best shows in the world as well. So for me, I knew that I have a very good insight on how a show should run, in front of the camera and more importantly behind the camera, because you get a lot of promoters who know how it should look for the camera but don’t know how to treat the fighters backstage or how things should run. Me (having) competed at the highest organization for many years, I know what that means.”

Pickett continued, “And it’s not a case of always about having money, it’s about proper organization, doing things well and at the end of the day knowing that, the fighters are the stars of the show. Where at some shows, they’re treating the fighters like cattle. (They treat them) like, go in fight and see you later, who’s next? For me, I am very much against that. Also, I felt the emphasis of my shows is to try and help grow and nurture, young developing talent… when I was doing it, it wasn’t really a career path for anyone, but now it’s a legitimate career path for young and aspiring athletes to be able to go out there and earn life changing money.”

As a self-critical person, Pickett believes ROC’s first four events turned out well, although he sees room for improvement. “I do believe they always can get better. One thing I can’t complain with, is the fights. The fights have always been really good, and at the end of the day that is what matters. There is no point of having this glitz and glamour, and spending thousands and thousands of pounds on lights, cameras, and just having complete dud fights.” Without much of a pause, he continued, “I do all the matchmaking myself. I do believe I know what are good fights and I put on some really good fights on my show. That’s what I am happy with. If the show keeps growing, then I can add a bit more glitz and glamour. A bit more on the production and things.”

One aspect he wishes translated better to the broadcast, is the ROC fighter ceremonies. “I do like a Pride thing, where there’s a ceremony before the start of the show where all the fighters come out in front of the audience, (all the fighters) on the under card. Then midway through the whole event, there’s a pause, a break and then we have another ceremony for the main card fighters.” In this certain structure, he believes the ceremonies not only add to the spectacle of the event but excite audiences for the fights to come. “It gives the (fighters) a bit more time in front of the crowd. And where, you may go (to) see Joe Blocks fight, but then you just see these two other guys come out and think, ‘Man, these two guys look like they’re gonna have a great scrap. I wanna watch that fight as well’… if you can get people interested in other fights on the card, it’s a win. That’s why I’m trying not to just make a good fight, I’m trying to make a good event where people go, ‘this is good, I would love to come to this show next time no matter who’s fighting’.”

 

 

While ROC does not occupy all his time, the hectic nature balancing multiple jobs earned Picketts attention as soon as he retired. He claimed, “Its weird, I’ll be honest with you, it was so much easier when I was a professional fighter. All I had to do is concentrate on myself, get up in the morning, train for a couple (of) hours, relax, (then) train a couple of hours in the evening and that’s it. It was so much easier. Also, I earned great money when I was fighting towards the end of my career. But now, I have to go back to the hustle… it’s not always about being financially rewarding but that obviously is important, I have a kid. I’ve got a house, a mortgage to pay. So that is important but, it also is to try to do what I like doing as well”.

It is evident, even from afar, that retirement hasn’t worn out the rugged mentality training and fighting gave him. Besides co-owning a promotion with his friend and business partner, Mickey Papas, Pickett hosts a weekly podcast (The One Punch Podcast), has a beautiful family (with an adorable son you can catch on his Instagram account), coaches fighters, trains average citizens, and travels for seminars. Yet, he finds time for all of it.

I imagine it would be hard to find another human like Brad Pickett. His youthful exuberance, tough mentality, and pragmatic nature make him an impossible character to clone. Speaking to him and feeling those qualities, only magnified the respect and admiration I had for the man. The MMA community is lucky to have Brad Pickett, and even luckier to keep him inside of it.

Rise of Champions 5, takes place this Saturday, February 16th at the Brentwood Leisure Centre, in Brentwood, England.

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Jonas Magard, “This is all I do. I don’t have anything else”

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In the late hours of this upcoming Saturday night in the Greenwich Mean Time Zone, a new Bantamweight champion will earn his crown. A little over 300 feet from the A12 in Brentwood, England, inside the Brentwood Centre, is where it will all happen. The medium sized venue will host Brad Pickett and his Rise of Champions promotion, for their fifth event and second with the venue.

An important event, ROC 5, represents something greater to a few different people involved with Saturdays show. For the promotions co-owner Pickett, it represents an opportunity to capture American audiences on a UFC-less Saturday while being broadcast exclusively on the world-leader’s streaming service, UFC Fight Pass. Although the former UFC contender has a lot riding on the success of his shows, ROC 5 may mean less to the owner than to both his main event fighters. Currently, the ROC 5 main event is set to determine the promotions first ever champion when Denmark’s Jonas Magard takes on London’s own, Mike Ekundayo.

Both young, talented, and riding unbeaten streaks, this main event represents a major stepping stone in their careers. In the case of Jonas Magard, “It’s just a new opportunity to do something, to put my mark on things. With or without the title I just want to fight. He’s in my way to something bigger”. His words echoed his demeanor. While the Danish Amateur MMA Champion, wanted to behave excited for the opportunity, fighting under the ROC banner, his attitude simply would not allow him. “I can’t wait to see how they put on the show and stuff, I think it’s going to be fun. But again it’s just me and him, it’s not about the show… I have not been training to fight at that event. I’ve been training to fight that guy and if it’s that’s event or if it’s in the backyard, it’s the same for me”.

Not only was the young Danish fighters’ mentality impressive but his record as well. At 8-3, Magard owns 7 stoppages, 6 by Japanese neck tie. The same submission he defeated Michail Chrisopoulus, with a little less than half of the opening round remaining, in his most recent appearance at ACB 75. And the same submission in which he holds the record for most finishes.

His journey to this point could not be described by the meager word, easy. After training for a year and two amateur fights in his home of Jutland, Denmark, Magard decided to make a change. “I went to Copenhagen to try to train there, in one of the bigger gyms and they just opened their arms and welcomed me. So, I thought why not move? I was 19 at the time. I didn’t really know anybody in Copenhagen”. He continued, “the first couple of times I was over there, I would live with some of the guys from the gym. I would have an amateur fight coming up, so I’d stay there for a month… I would still have my address and live back in Jutland, but I would just go over there do my training and my training camps”.

Magard travels quite a bit for his MMA training. In his current situation, Magard splits time between Rumble Sport in Copenhagen, Denmark and All Powers gym in Manchester, England. “I think a lot of fighters, they get too comfortable in their own little circle of fighters and in their own gym, where I like to just go out, get the best training work whether it is in Denmark or wherever. I don’t care about traveling or getting pushed as much as I can”.

He’s made a routine of being uncomfortable, something he does not think can be said of his opponent, “I think he hasn’t been battle tested, the same way as I have. Yeah, he’s a good opponent, he’s a guy I have to beat. He’s undefeated… but you know, I don’t think he’s been battled tested as he’s going to be now, with me (in) this fight, it’s just different”.

“I’ve seen his opponents and his opponents are okay but, they didn’t have a lot of fights either like he don’t. Not even as an amateur. As an amateur, I fought the guy who just fought for the Cage Warriors title, Alexander Jacobsen, he had like 125 boxing matches… I fought the guy who is going to fight for the Cage Warriors flyweight championship, Sam (Creasey)… I had the hard fights as an amateur, I don’t think he had the hard fights, that’s the difference about over here in Scandinavia. We get battle tested,” he continued to elaborate, “in amateur, people don’t get built up, people are getting hard fights. I had two fights the same day, for the Danish MMA amateur championship… I’ve been facing guys who I know come there to win, who’s just not there to be food… this is all I do, I don’t have anything else, I don’t have a day job I’m going to everyday and that’s the difference. I’m a professional, I live off this, I live for this, this is all I do. He has not met anybody like me before, who has the experiences I have.”

Magard believes the experience he earned through his MMA journey is what separates himself from his opponent. Outside of MMA, the Dane fought two shoot-fighting matches and one professional boxing bout.  “He is a good fighter, he is a good strong fighter but I know the guys over here, there stronger side is not the ground. The wrestling in England, people want to punch each other in the face they don’t want to wrestle. I come from a place where people like to wrestle. And during this fight camp, I’ve been training with the (Danish) Greco Roman Olympic silver medalist [Mark Madsen]. I’ve been training with Martin Kammpman the former Danish UFC fighter… I eat I sleep I breathe MMA every day and I don’t want anything else. That’s going to be the difference in this fight one hundred percent”.

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Interview: The Sit Down featuring Manny Bermudez

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Staff writer, Brian Gerson, sits down with undefeated Boston prospect, Manny Bermudez. Bermudez talks about his recent signing to the UFC, his upcoming opponent at UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Emmett, and more. 

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