If you can’t beat them, join them, though mixed martial arts allows fighters to do both. Crossing the threshold of the cage for the first time at Titan Fighting Championships (Titan FC), welterweight Jake Smith (3-0) may not yet possess a championship belt for the fight promotion, but he finds himself more than up for any challenge Titan FC can provide, logging a career’s worth of hours with the current Titan FC lightweight champ: Pat “Bam Bam” Healy (29-20 1NC). As a special guest on Jon and Mike’s MMA Corner, Smith discussed: the before, during, and future of his MMA career while under the tutelage of veterans such as Healy.
In life, opportunity often rolls up to your front door based upon who you know, and, being a long-time training partner of Titan FC’s 155 pound champ, Smith picked up the knocker and firmly let you know he was there, twice: Bam-Bam!
“The current lightweight champion, Pat Healy, is one of my main training partners, so having little connections like that definitely helps out. He’s able to get my foot in the door a little bit, but now it’s up to me to go out there and put on an exciting fight, let them [Titan FC and their fans] know I’m the real deal.”
At the gym where Smith trains out of, Rose City Fight Club, the music blaring during practice sessions will fill a substantial portion of the evening’s playlist, as a number of Smith’s training partners, along with Healy, will be competing on the Titan FC 35 card: Jason Novelli (8-1), Ricky Simon (6-0), Austin Springer (8-0), Ryan Walker (4-1), and Mohammad Abed (2-1). Partnering as a pride of hungry lions models a terrific strategy successful people implement: collaboration. Smith stated,
“There is definitely a little buzz [in Rose City Fight Club]. It’s definitely going to make cutting weight a lot more fun. I mean, we all get to suffer together, ya know? Then, we also get to enjoy our victories together as well. It’s definitely a good thing to have a few of the guys be a part of this opportunity.”
A few of the guys? Clearly, a humble attitude is another aspect required to breed a championship caliber pedigree. Smith was aware of how special Healy was based on his heart, craftiness, and durability, even before being adorned in gold,
“I’ve been training with him for a while now. Even back when he was still an amateur, I was mixing it up with him. He’s been a big help so far. I’m going into this, and it’s like looking up to a big brother in a sense.”
Jack Cranfield, co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, quoted Paul R. Scheele, Chairman of Learning Strategies Corporation, in his book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (2006),
The phrase I can’t is the most powerful force of negation in the human psyche. (p. 42)
Smith learned to target his strengths by observing Healy hone his own: an unrelenting pace,
“I don’t know if you guys notice when you watch Pat fight, but he’s the kind of guy who: In the first round, he has a pace; the second is the same pace; and the third round has the same pace. He keeps the steady pace and, over time, you start to see every one of his opponents start to break. He does that to me in practice. Sometimes, we’ll get in there, and I’ll have a really good first round; I’ll be fast and explosive. Come that second round, I’m a little bit more drug out, but there he is with the same pace that he had in the first round. He starts dragging you into the deep water. I’ve learned to be a little more cautious and know when to tee off and when to settle back.”
As the reigning and defending lightweight Titan FC champ with a resume requiring 10 point Times New Roman print to fit within the frame of an 8 ½ X 11 sheet of paper, MMA fans weren’t taken back by Smith’s honoring of Healy’s grind-ability. What tool has Smith been sharpening for his Titan FC debut?
“I’ve been compared to Joe Frazier from my boxing coaches. I have this big left hook, and it seems to find people’s chins. I’m almost contemplating coming out with a nickname for it. I kind of want to call that left “Bill Cosby” because it puts people to sleep. Everyone knows you’re the toughest guy around when you have a nickname for your fist.”
Similar to Bill Cosby’s pleasure at a bowl full of Jell-O, Smith chuckled. The smile etched in his own humor would act as yet another Kodak moment to collect along his MMA timeline; another artifact occurred when Smith discovered his Titan FC contract was ready to John Hancock.
— Rose City FC (@rcfcmma) August 4, 2015
Those with a number of years of professional experience under their belt, championship or otherwise, rest upon a mountain of been there, done that with regards to the fight game’s wheelings and dealings. Entering a large scale organization like Titan FC, with a worldwide reach streamed via UFC Fight Pass, Smith rang out ovations at reaching the summit of a large hill, fully alert to the magnitude of work required to scale the mammoth rock resting on the horizon:
“You should have seen me the day I got the word that they wanted to sign me. I was running around like a little schoolgirl on picture day. I was so excited! It’s a really big opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.”
Finally, complacency’s rewards are comparative to kryptonite for those with championship aspirations. Instead, they must regularly push onward, upward, and two steps forward with only intermittent steps back. En route to any dreams of world class accessories, Smith predicted what he, and his teammates, are in store for while fighting at Rose City Fight Club: attaining more notoriety for the fight culture fostered in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
“I’m just going to throw this out there: In the next five years, we’re going to put the Pacific Northwest back on the map. Right now, everyone talks about New Mexico [Jackson Wink MMA Academy] or ATT [American Top Team] down in Florida or the Blackzillians. Not many people are talking about the Pacific Northwest anymore. I mean, we have Demetrious Johnson and Matt Hume, but that’s all you get when you’re out there. We used to have Team Quest back in the day. I just feel like we are getting ignored up here, and we have all these great young guys coming up with all these veterans to look up to. Within the next five years, we’re going to be the next gym that they’ll be talking about.”
At Titan FC 35, the discussion of the gym will be underway when Smith, currently slated to enter the cage in the evening’s second fight, uses sentence starters like his left hook against fellow Titan FC rookie Taki Uluilakepa (4-1 1NC), and the conversation will be punctuated by Rose City Fight Club’s fearless leader, Healy, who aims to defend his belt against Rick “Ghengis” Hawn (20-4) in the main event at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield, Washington on September 19, 2015.
Exclusive: Josh Emmett: “I think I can make a run at the featherweight title”
On Saturday, Team Alpha Male’s Josh Emmett takes on his toughest challenge yet as he steps up to face Ricardo Lamas on short notice at UFC Winnipeg. Lamas was originally supposed to take on Jose Aldo, only for Aldo to take on Max Holloway on short notice and leave Lamas without an opponent. Although it took some time to find a replacement, Emmett was the one who eventually stepped up.
“So the fight came together, as everyone knows, Jose Aldo went up to fight Holloway, Ricardo Lamas didn’t have an opponent,” Emmett told MMA Latest. “The UFC and Sean Shelby were looking for an opponent for Lamas since that had happened and they went through the top 15. They asked, basically, everyone who wasn’t scheduled to fight or had a fight already if they wanted that fight and everybody turned it down. I was one of the few- actually I was the only fighter who wasn’t ranked that my name was thrown in the hat, and my managers they talked to Shelby. I was going to fight in January and Shelby kind of just threw that out there like ‘oh Lamas needs a fight too’ so my managers told me this.”
“I went to bed that night and then I just thought about it and when I woke up the next morning I called my managers right away and I said ‘hey I want that Lamas fight’. It’s a huge opportunity and these are the opportunities I want and I won’t pass up an opportunity like that. They told Shelby and he basically asked Lamas, he said ‘this is the only person that will take the fight against you, it’s either you fight Josh on December 16th or you have to wait ‘til a later card to fight a higher ranked opponent’ and I figured as a fighter and a family man, with the holidays coming up, and you know we don’t get paid if we don’t fight, so I thought he’d take the fight and he accepted it so here we are.”
Lamas is currently the number three ranked featherweight in the UFC. The veteran of twenty-three fights is the best opponent Emmett has faced so far, but the Sacramento native doesn’t seem fazed as he predicts a fun fight for the fans.
“He’s one of the best fighters in the world he’s been at the top of the sport since he’s been in the sport,” Emmett said. “I think stylistically this is a great match-up. He’s well rounded, I’m well rounded, and I think we’re going to put on one hell of a fight for the fans in Canada and around the world and this definitely has fight of the night written all over it, he has the kind of heart, so do I. I think we’re just going to clash in the middle and see who’s the better man that night.”
The currently unranked Emmett could certainly find himself ranked into the top-ten with a win.
“I think a win over Lamas- for sure I’m in the top ten maybe ranked a little higher, maybe even the top five, you never know,” Emmett explains. “It depends on my performance. So if I can go out there and it’s just a close fight but I still get the win, I think I’m still up there but if I go out there and do what I’ve been doing in most of my fights and just dominating the fights and being one-sided or I get a finish. Then I think I can be ranked a little higher, maybe even in the top five.”
Although Emmett only has three weeks to prepare for the fight, preparation isn’t any different.
“Preparation is really no different for me,” Emmett said. “Do I wish I had a six or eight-week camp for one of the best fighters in the world? Of course. But I’m taking the cards I’m dealt- I fought six weeks ago and got right back into practice probably 10 days or 2 weeks after the fight, because I help my other teammates get ready for a fight and I jump back into sparring too, because I was helping some other boxers prepare for their fight. So I’m in good shape and I literally just ramped it up as soon as I got the notice. I know it’s 3 weeks but I had the hardest 3 week camp of my life and the weight’s good. I feel really good. I just have to show up and perform the way I typically do fight night.”
Emmett is back at featherweight for only the second time since 2014. The former WCFC lightweight champion started off his career at 145 before trying out 155, ultimately he decided 145 was the best option for him in the UFC.
“I feel good I think that’s my weight,” Emmett said. “I should have been fighting there all along. Like I’ve said before when I was starting out my MMA career I was fighting regionally. I was fighting at 145 but it was such a rough cut and I don’t know why but I wanted to try 155 one time and I feel, felt great. So I just stayed there and I got in the UFC at 55 so I just kept that going, but 45 I feel faster, my footwork- just everything, my movement is better, more fluid. I’m average to a bigger featherweight as well.”
“I think the lightweight division, I was just a small lightweight and at that level too I think every little ounce counts, as long as you’re doing everything right. I have a nutritionist, doctor, I have a whole team behind me that monitor a lot of my- just everything, besides my fight camp with like Team Alpha Male, and I just kind of dialed into that. Everything is scientific to the T. I just feel phenomenal and I think I can make a run at the featherweight title and that’s why I made the decision to drop down to featherweight.”
Visualization is also an important part of Emmett’s training camp as he believes the mental game is just as important as the physical one.
“I don’t know how the fights going to happen,” Emmett said. “It’s always unpredictable, one thing I constantly visualize is seeing my hand raised at the end of the fight. I do a lot of visualization, I work with a mind coach and I get put into every position good and bad, finishing the fight multiple ways grinding it out but always coming away victorious and to see my hand raised at the end of the fight.”
[Exclusive] Demarte Pena talks rematch with Sayed at EFC 66 and coaching on the “The Fighter”
EFC 66: The Fighter 1 Finale is only two days away now in what is expected to be a historic night for the promotion as they round off their first season of the reality show “The Fighter”. In the finale fighting for a shot at the title and 500,000 rand is Brendan Lesar and Ibrahim Mané. Topping the card though is the rematch between Demarte Pena and Irshaad Sayed fight for the bantamweight strap. In their last fight, Pena walked away with the decision win, however, it was later ruled a no contest after Pena failed a drug test as a result of a tainted supplement.
Demarte Pena comes into this fight determined to take that win and is confident it will be easier than the last. Having worked hard on his overall game, in particular, his boxing, we could see a somewhat different approach to this fight.
“Yeah, the first fight I controlled the fight really well, used my kicks kept the distance and took him down when I wanted to. But for this fight, I’ve improved a lot, especially my boxing, I’ve been boxing a lot, with professional boxers that are both African and World Champions. So I feel that my hands will be a lot better for this fight, I’ll be able to use them a lot better. And I truly believe this fight will much easier for me in terms of stand up and if it goes to the ground obviously I’ll be better than him.”
Following the tainted supplement issue, Sayed has recently been vocal about wanting to see a positive test prior to the fight. Pena did not hesitate in mentioning how he has been tested numerous times leading up to this fight.
“The last time I remember Sayed was just a fighter and he doesn’t work for WADA or SAIDS, so he might just do his job, those people are doing their job. I’ve been tested multiple times so I feel that fighters should just fight and stop worrying about other people’s jobs.”
The Fighter 1 will officially come to an end this weekend, looking back on the show, Pena described the difficulties he experienced at first but quickly grew to like the coaching aspect of the despite it being time-consuming. His overall view of it being very positive.
“Y’know coaching was very cool, at first it was, hard because I train very hard throughout the day and my time was taken up during the show. I didn’t like that as much, but after some time I started to enjoy more. In the beginning, it wasn’t as nice but the exposure was great for me and that it was going to be ultimately something good. After a while, I got to know the guys and they’re really cool guys, I made a few friends on the show so overall it was great”
The opposing team coach was, of course, Irshaad Sayed, who did a lot of talking throughout the season, something that Pena anticipated so it didn’t faze him.
“With him there as a coach I knew he was going to talk a lot, but it is what is, it’s tough sport you just gotta take the shots and give them as well”
A member of Pena’s team, Will Fleury, was tipped to do great things in the competition but was removed early after receiving numerous illegal blows to the head. Demarte agreed with many stating that the fight should have been clearly ruled a disqualification.
“Yeah, the Will Fleury incident was right in front of our corner, I do feel that Shaw should have been disqualified because those shots were illegal but I think EFC only made that decision because Will couldn’t fight anymore. In an ideal world, Shaw should have been disqualified for sure.”
Despite Fleury missing out on a chance at reaching the final, Ibrahim Mané, who was on the same team on the show made it to the final. Pena spoke highly of him as he enters the fight Saturday, believing that if the fight is kept standing it’s Mané’s fight.
“I have trained with Ibrahim for the past two weeks, he’s an extremely talented athlete, very explosive, very strong with very good cardio but he does have a disadvantage on the ground. If he gets taken down him to ground, Brendan will have the advantage.”
Confident he’ll get the win once again on Saturday, Pena is looking for bigger things having accomplished everything he can in the EFC. The UFC being mentioned as what could be on the cards moving forward.
“After I beat Sayed, there’ll be nothing more for me to do in EFC I feel that I have done everything. Yeah, definitely I think the next is to try and fight in the UFC or any other big promotion.”
Exclusive: Curtis Blaydes on Francis Ngannou: “He’s not the cleanest striker but he is very powerful”
The last time fans saw Curtis Blaydes in the Octagon was against Oleksiy Oliynyk at UFC 217. Blayes ended up winning the fight via a weird stoppage. In the second round of their fight, Blaydes got up from Oliynik’s guard and threw an illegal soccer kick aimed at his opponents head. Although the kick didn’t land, the referee stopped the fight and had the doctor check out Oliynyk. Oliynyk informed the doctor that he was unable to continue and the referee called a stop to the fight. The fight was ruled a TKO win for Blaydes in what proved to be a lackluster ending.
Even with the fight ending the way it did, it didn’t seem to take anything away from Blaydes’ victory. “No,” Blaydes told MMA Latest. “I was winning the fight. I would of won, anyone who says otherwise is just irritating. I don’t think the weird ending has anything to do with how the fight was going.”
Although Blaydes has moved on from his fight with Oliynek, one man who hasn’t moved on from a fight with Blaydes is new UFC signee and DWTNCS alum, Allen Crowder. Crowder has been calling out Blaydes in almost every interview he’s done so far. The Mebane, North Carolina native first fought Blaydes in April 2015, with Blaydes winning by TKO in the second round. “He’s not worth it,” Blaydes said. “If anyone wants to watch the video of our last fight they can look it up, it wasn’t much of a fight.”
Speaking of former opponents, Blaydes also represents the only fighter in the UFC to have gone toe to toe with Francis Ngannou without having his lights shut off. The Chicago native wound up with a closed eye and the doctors were forced to step in and stop the fight. But unlike Ngannou’s former opponents, Blaydes was able to experience the power first hand without going to sleep. “He has been getting a lot of hype but he is extremely powerful, Blaydes said. “I won’t- I’m not going to be a sore loser and downgrade all the things he does, but he is a powerful striker. He’s not the cleanest striker but he is very powerful.”
Ngannou was able to successfully able to shed the prospect label after he knocked out Overeem and punched (pun intended) his ticket to a title shot. Meanwhile, Blaydes believes he’s shed the prospect label himself after winning four straight in the UFC. “I mean I think so, but I guess it’s not for me to say,” Blaydes said. “It’s up to the audience and the media to say. I wasn’t the one who gave myself the prospect label in the beginning so it’s just up to the people who gave it to take it away.”
After four straight wins, three in 2017, Blaydes goals heading into 2018 remain simple. “To get better every fight, just trying to climb the rankings.”
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