Thursday, February 15, 2018

We honor the life of Pat Reeves, MMA professional

Pat Reeves died this week, and his death saddened a lot of us. He was the heart and soul of the fight game community here for more than a decade. I was not nearly as close a friend as many others, but every time I saw Pat, we talked a spell, whether at Foley’s gym or at the fights. I interviewed him often, whether for the blog or the Standard-Examiner. I admired the guy, not only for his fighting skill and passion, but for his desire to share his skills with others, to teach and be a mentor. Besides training at Foley's, Pat was also a member of the Assassins fight team. 

I love the above photo of Pat. It reminds of the first time I saw him fight. He took on tough opponent, Drayton Woods, from southern Utah who went on the attack on Pat. From the ground, Pat weathered the storm and maneuvered his foe into a triangle choke. The guy fought it hard, but he succumbed. Pat’s joy and love of MMA is captured in that photo. We ran that photo, or one similar, in the Standard-Examiner, in our recap of the card.

Pat never ducked a fight – he even had a couple pro boxing matches -- and he had bravado. A year after the first fight I mention he was on a card at Raptors field in Ogden, against a contemporary named Gabe Francis. Pat dared him to hit his face. Gabe obliged him. The punches did little to stem Pat’s enthusiasm but unfortunately they drew a lot of blood, forcing a doctor’s stoppage. (18 months later, Pat got another shot at Francis, and this time he won in the first round, via a triangle choke).

Pat won a regional belt in 2013, traveling to Vernal and beating the very tough Daniel Stratton to take the Rocky Mountain Fight Championships title. He won in round 4, a championship round, by – you guessed it – a triangle choke. Pat’s lean, tall, rangy physique was ideal for the triangle choke. I wasn’t at that bout, but I interviewed Pat at Foley’s gym a few days later. He was wearing his belt. I wish I could find the photo I took of him with the belt. He took a lot of deserved pride in that win. He defended the belt successfully once before losing it in the cage.

I got to see Pat’s final two wins, and his last fight, a loss to a world-class fighter, fellow Ogden colleague Steven Siler. Pat was a well-established pro who fought not only the best regional opponents, but the elite too. Besides Siler, he also tangled, and acquitted himself well, against Lance Palmer, in Orem a few years ago.

One time, several years ago when we were chatting at Foley’s gym, Pat told me he wanted to do something to help others, to use some of the blessings he had received to give others a boost. I believe Pat achieved this goal the past couple of years with “The Pack,” a group of MMA fighters that he trained and trained with at Foley’s. Until very recently, “The Pack” was a fixture of fighters working hard at Foley’s. Until the day I die I will treasure the memories of Pat working with these MMA hopefuls in the cage, patiently sharing his wisdom with them, watching sparring, sparring with them, going over the mechanics of the sport, patiently improving their skills. Eric Munoz, who recently retired, is just one example of an MMA hopeful that, through Pat’s guidance, moved from MMA novice to respected, talented amateur veteran who earned a regional belt.

It’s going to be very hard to go to Foley’s gym and not see Pat there. When I learned of his death Monday, I moved away from my work desk, and found a place to shed some tears. We won’t forget Pat, and not forgetting will include taking some harsh lessons from his untimely death and helping others who will face some of the challenges that overwhelmed Pat in his final days.

Right now, we honor our friend. Here’s a link to Pat’s obituary. On Sunday at 1 p.m. a celebration of his life will be held at Foley’s gym in Ogden, 375 31st Street, an appropriate spot to honor Pat because he honored so many of us there, and at other gyms and arenas. Also, Friday, beginning at 5:30 p.m., Foley's will host a night dedicated to Pat with some martial arts instruction (Bang Muy Thai courtesy of Jarrett Kelton), some grappling and a silent auction, all to remember Pat and help his young family. Admission is free.

-- Doug Gibson

Here's a photo essay the Standard-Examiner published prior to Pat's final bout.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

An interview with MMA pro Miles Welk

On March 17 Mountain Force MMA will have its first promotion at the Eccles Ice Arena in Logan. The card is set and you can see matchups at the promotion's Facebook page. One of the pro bouts matches Miles Welk (of KOA gym in Layton) (at left above) with Nick Clem. Both fighters are undefeated. We have observed Welk's career for several years, from a successful amateur who captured regional titles through two successful pro bouts. We took the time to chat with him recently.

Miles, there have been fairly long gaps between your two pro fights. Do you have plans to fight more often?

Welk: Yeah I've struggled to stay in the gym and be consistent in my training. I've rededicated myself and I'm going to see if I can't take my career to the next level so I'm planning to fight at 3 times this year maybe 4 depending on how healthy I stay.

How is training going? You train at KOA. Who are your trainers and other fighters you work out with?

Welk: I do train at KOA. I love it. It's an amazing gym and it has so much to offer to everyone, especially fighters. It's a great fit for me. Training is good. I'm working hard in every aspect. I’m just trying to get better at being a mixed martial artist every day. My head coach is David Castillo, my Jui Jitsui Coach is Anthony Lobato, My strength and conditioning Coach is Bobby King. I have a room full of great partners. Bryce Edminister, Bobby King, Hector Lopez, Edgar Sorto, Brandon Rease, Kelsey Skillman, Bryce Scanlon,Alonzo Salas. We have a pretty stacked team right now.

How do you match strongly against your opponent?

Welk: My opponent is Nick Clem from Colorado. He's a tough guy, had 12 amateur fights, 1-0 as a pro. He has good footwork and lateral movement and I can tell he likes to wrestle and grapple so I feel like I match up well against him. I feel like I can wrestle with anyone in the 125-pound weight class and my striking is getting better every day and so is my jui jitsui . Overall I'm ready for whatever and match up well with him.

You are fighting, and getting some good publicity, from a new promoter. What are your plans beyond this bout. Do you have a schedule, plans to move forward in MMA?

Welk: This is a new promotion Mountain Force MMA. They have been awesome to work with. Juan (Pablo) is the man, and I'm looking forward to fighting and trying to get the W on the very first card. Hopefully they'll have me back. I don't have anything scheduled yet but I have plenty of teammates who do so I'm just going to stay in the gym and stay ready for the next fight and help my teammates get ready.

Thanks Miles for your time and good luck on March 17.

Some extra news: SteelFist has announced a very strong matchup for its Friday the 13th April card. Undefeated Carson Gregory versus former UFC veteran Clay Collard. This will be highly anticipated; either a gate for Gregory to move up early in his career or perhaps a means for Collard to move back into the major promotions. ... Locally, we are intrigued by a Fierce Fighting Championship promotional amateur title fight between Thomas Prestriedge, of American Fork, and Brandon Rease, who fights out of KOA. The pair fought two years ago at at SteelFist card with Rease getting a split decision. It's in Price on March 10, and we'll likely try to interview both soon.

And more ... Kelsey Skillman, amateur at KOA, is set to fight in April for SteelFist, and this weekend, Kaecy Raddon, formerly at One Hit MMA, who now fights out of Colorado, is fighting Roy Sarabia for a Sparta Combat League 155-pound amateur belt.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Boxing, MMA Jiu Jitsu results and more

A quick blog this week:

Some boxing news: There was a pro/am card last weekend at The Complex in SLC. I'm a bit frustrated at not getting results but here is what I have: Undefeated young pro Bladimar Estrada is now 5-0 after logging a win. Female boxer Lisa Carroll was a winner as was amateur boxer Jay Wright of Foley's gym. If we get more results we will share them.

The Complex may have another card in March. Also, as we have mentioned, West Jordan pro boxer, and world ranked featherweight Jose Haro will fight March 17 on ESPN, nationally televised, at Madison Square Garden in New York City against another world-class boxer, Jean Carlos Rivera.

Jiu Jitsu -- As we mentioned last week, John Valentine, who is competing in Jiu Jitsu and has won a world belt, competed professionally in a Submission-Only card alongside his three sons, Cody, James and Kyle, in five-minute bouts. All competed well and you can read about the fights, see photos and watch a video at John Valentine's Facebook page. Valentine went the distance, meaning a draw, with Mark Wegener.

On social media this past week Valentine announced he will have another sub,mission-only bout soon in Utah. We'll keep on top of that.

In MMA, Rowdy Akers, a pro fighter from One Hit MMA, headlined a pro card in Casper, Wyo., but came ups short against Kehlin Rozsel. (You can see a photo spread of the card via the local media here). Unfortunately, Rowdy broke his hand in that bout and will miss a planned March fight.

More info: Amateur MMA fighter Destiny McCubbin will fight at FitCon in April in SLC for a Utah belt. Pro Jarome Hatch is also on that card. Amateur Brandon Rease will be fighting for a Fierce Fighting Championship belt soon. Pro Bryce Edminister of KOA gym plans to fight again soon. Kaecy Raddon, who has relocated to Colorado the past year or so, fights Dean Cotton for the Sparta Combat League amateur featherweight belt in Denver on Feb. 10. 

And remember The SteelFist MMA card this month is on the 24th at the Union Event Center in SLC. Cody Bunderson versus Fabio Serrao is a strong main pro bout but there are a lot of bouts, including a pro bout between Trever Bradshaw and Benjamin Daniel Grass. Here is the promotion's Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Former MMA fighter John Valentine on competing with his sons

As readers can see from the above poster, a combat sports dad is sharing the competition with three of his young sons this weekend just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It's called Submission Hunter Pro 22, and it's promoted by Eric Garcia. 

My friend John Valentine, who wrapped up a pro MMA career last year, coming up short in a brutal battle with Rowdy Akers, is still competing. He's the current 2017 IBJJF Master Ju Jitsu World Champion and still is a matchmaker for female MMA fighters, and a fight manager.

Besides training, he works full time for a biotheraputic firm as an area manager. Saturday night is "Superfight," submission-only grappling, roughly 30 fights, including Valentine and his sons.
John has shared observations with us about retiring from pro MMA action, his current efforts in Ju Jitsu, and training with his sons.


How did you know it was time to go from MMA?  That’s a difficult question but the answer for me is that it is time if you truly listen to what your body and mind are telling you then you will know.  Having been involved in competing and fighting since 2000 in fight after fight my body (but definitely not my heart) began to tell me it was time. While as far as stamina goes I knew I could still fight for years to come, however the risks of injury far outweighed the benefits. I knew of the potential dangers and knew it was only a matter of time before some potential irreversible damage occurred.  While my training was always on point, risks were rising with every fight and was it becoming progressively harder to heal each time.  For years I feared the inevitable would come and ironically in a twist of fate on the night I announced my retirement, it did.  On the fateful night of my last MMA fight with my friend and opponent Rowdy Akers, I suffered a concussion early on about 45 seconds in and remember very little on from that point.  As I endured almost 30 elbows to the face and though I went on to “zombie through” 3 grueling and back and forth competitive rounds, the bloody aftermath left me with an unforeseen and brutal outcome.  I suffered 29 stitches to my face internally and externally, a broken nose as well as a fractured orbital and lost my normal speech for days following leaving the hospital.  In addition, my short-term memory is and may not likely ever be the same as it was before that night.  To make matters worse, the many friends and family (most notably my four young sons) that had gathered to support me that night had to watch as I tried to fight and stand up in the cage only to slip and fall in puddles of my own blood.  That night solidified in my mind the risk of continuing on in the sport that I loved. Being here for my children in the future is far more important; after that night I realized that my career truly was at its end.  Most importantly, MMA took so much time away from raising my sons.  Even as I shared my victories with them they suffered from my absences. In Ju Jitsu it’s just the opposite: they are a part of it as they compete alongside both myself and each other.  While I truly loved the sport, when I took a step back and reflected upon what was most important to me I realized it was time to focus on my other passions and life goals.

So do you regret MMA and that bloody fight? Absolutely not.  I believe that on the backside of fear and things that challenge us are lessons that can’t be gained from safe spaces, winning or acting in the realm of the average. Nelson Mandela said it best when he said “I never lose. I either win or learn.” That last night in a cage I was hurt as I had my first “loss” and yet it was my best fight/learning experience.  I made so many great friends such as the Patton brothers of SteelFist Promotion who gave me many opportunities to challenge myself.  I was honored that night to receive a recognition award from Steelfist and the MMA community.  I was honored to have been involved with the organization in so many ways as a fighter, matchmaker, and co-host of the TV show and ringside commentator.  Fighting has helped me show others that despite fighting into my mid 40s age is just a number. This sounds strange but the defeat that night helped propel me forward into my next chapter.  That night’s blood bath removed fears I’d had at competing at a national/world level and helped make me mentally strong before I stepped on the mat at the Ju Jitsu World Championships in December. I told myself nothing would be harder than what I went through that night so why be nervous?  MMA has always been a young man’s sport and is amazing if kept in the right context.  It can also be a destructive ego force that can damage so much if you let it so don’t; stay grounded.  Utah MMA is alive and well and I am honored to have put on many battles and to have gained the fans and friends I had. 

Any words to new MMA fighters? Yes…learn that it’s not all about you.  It’s about your team, your coaches, your family, and the promotions and that it takes everyone to help you.  The spotlight of the cage can amplify the best and/or worst qualities in us so it’s up to you to recognize which is which and then represent yourself and team to the best of your ability.

Do you have a favorite Utah MMA fighter? Yep. Carson Gregory who is truly an inspiration and represents the next generation of fighters.  I don’t see any ego, simply a focus on faith, fighting and family.        

So tell me about your transition from professional MMA fighter to professional Ju Jitsu fighter for those making that switch? I have nothing negative to say about MMA but I am very much enjoying this chapter of my life.  The rise of professional jiu-jitsu has flipped an old idea on its head and here’s why:  the popularity of MMA over recent years has led to some of the most talented MMA fighters current and past making the switch to professional and competition jiu-jitsu.  Whatever you are seeking awaits you.  Thus if it’s important to have your name up in lights, you can.  If you want to produce far more money in the bank than the average MMA fighter…you can as you can fight every week if you want to but without the same level of physical risk.  Need sponsors? Many are willing to support your efforts financially. For myself I was not as concerned about sponsorship as I was about leaving a legacy and continuing on in a sport where I could excel at the highest levels until I was well into my 70’s.  My long-term goal is to chase lifetime goals in the sport and not chase wins or a record as I stopped keeping track of my grappling record after over 100 competitive matches.  The professional ju jitsu scene appeals to both practitioners and fans of combat sports and can be just as nasty when you enter in submission-only super fights that can take place in the mat and in the cage.  For those seeking the glitz and glamour of MMA you can still get that but perhaps without the physical risks of MMA. When you fight at a higher level, that fight is in your blood and I will be forever grateful for my MMA career. I hope to stay involved to some capacity but the feeling of victory in the cage can never surpass fighting alongside my children in local or pro Ju jitsu matches.

So you can make money outside of MMA?  You can make money in whatever you decide to put your heart and soul into, but yes normally in the pro tournaments it is winner take all. In some cases you are paid for super fights and there are many sponsors willing to supplement your efforts if you are a respectful ambassador to the sport. For me personally I choose to donate all my winnings to charity, but there are many avenues to create a revenue stream outside of MMA if you so desire.

Tell about what you have been able to accomplish since leaving the sport of MMA?  I feel both humbled and proud to have accomplished so much starting with helping 3 of my children compete and train more and watching them win national championships and become medal holders.  I was also honored that my professor, the great Robert Drysdale, felt me worthy to receive my black belt in Ju jitsu.  This journey for me took about 17 years of training and it meant so much.  In December I competed and became a 2017 Ju Jitsu Masters World Champion which was an honor.  In Ju Jitsu the medal and the title means the world but you get to reflect upon this victory only for about 30 seconds on the winner’s podium;  It then becomes an afterthought and the work continues to challenge yourself to get to the next level.  You will get no accolades from your coaches or teammates past the day you win; you may get some level of respect but there is expectation to get back to work and be better the next day.

Tell me about your upcoming Super fight with your own sons? This fight is both symbolic and historic for me as it represents an opportunity to step on the mat for one moment in time with my sons for one pivotal night. It is a submission only, no points professional match where the winner takes all and the loser takes nothing home but lessons.  I am proud to see 3 of my 4 sons step on the mat, the youngest being 7 years old.  I cannot imagine at 7 years old what it would be like to step on a mat in front of thousands of people. Regardless of whether we win, lose or learn it will be a magical night for all of us.  For many years my children have watched me with a certain kind of awe reserved for idols because I am their father and they watched as they sacrificed time with me, always understanding that I was trying to set an example for them of sportsmanship, dedication, humility and honor.  This time, I am the one who is honored to step into the arena with my children to support them in their own battles. In this journey my goal is to teach them a little something along the way about strength and honor, and to show them that I am in awe of the dedication and passion and commitment that they have shown to this sport and to themselves along the way.  This is their night.

Though I am forever grateful there is a big world past MMA. Ju Jitsu gives me the thrill of the fight, continues the love of the sport, brings a bit of extra practice to hone my skills even further, shows my boys that jiu-jitsu truly erases limitations and gives us years of time to succeed, fail and enjoy each other as a family.

John offered these thoughts about fight week and competing with his sons: Well it’s fight week is upon us and my boys and I are looking forward to a successful weigh-in. The week of the fight is one of the most important for us as weeks of hard work and failure are now being funneled into 5 days. Our coaches and team have paved euphoric path for us to follow and it’s still not over as my boys and I look to balance and maintain not just physical but mental health. Each of you have helped in this journey through your kind words and support. We love you all. I have seen each one of my boys begin to develop their own athlete personalities leading up to this and I am proud to partner with them helping them create their own preflight routines and ways to mentally prepare. While nervousness is normal I want my boys to understand that while winning is what we are seeking it is not the main goal therefor they don’t need to feel like they are walking a tight wire. Instead, I want them to do their best, have fun, have us come together as men and grow as a results of this amazing opportunity. While I want victory for my boys I want so much more for them simply to enjoy their experience. I hope I am able to Instill in my boys that fight week like any other goal “is NOT about counting the days but making those days count.

Good luck to John and his sons on Saturday night.

ALSO ... Hector Lopez, of KOA gym in Layton, remained undefeated last weekend, scoring an amateur win at a Tuff N Uff catrd in Nevada. ... The aforementioned Mr. Akers has a pro MMA bout in Wyoming this weekend ... and undefeated pro boxers Gabriel Chairez and Bladimir Estrada are among boxers scheduled to fight on a card Saturday night at The Complex in SLC. Also scheduled to box is female boxer Lisa Carroll. A poster is below. Undefeated Ignacio Chairez and Christian Aguirre, as well as Jordan Marriott, are listed as boxing on the poster. ... A whole bunch of fights have been released for the SteelFist MMA February card in SLC. Go here to see them on social media.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

SteelFist results; a chat with returning Rowdy Akers

To get things going this week, let's get to SteelFist results from last Saturday. You can see them at Fighting Out of Utah MMA News Facebook page. Some of the top fights included former UFCer Clay Collard stopping Troy Dennison in the first round, undefeated Carson Gregory stopping Mike Jones in the second round (that was for a for a pro title). In amateur title bouts, Lehi Dominguez decisioned Alonzo Salas and Ha'va Nathan Owens TKOd Tyson Roberts in round 4. Both Dennison and Jones are tough vets who have won often so Collard and Gregory's wins were impressive.


If you see the above photo, you can see there's an Infamous MMA card Jan. 27 in Casper, Wyo. On the card is One Hit MMA pro Rowdy Akers. He had announced his retirement after defeating John Valentine last year but is back, and in fact is also scheduled to fight in March. We chatted with Rowdy as he prepares for the 27th against Kehlin Roszel.

Utah Fight Game -- Tell me about the fight, what you know about your opponent, how training is going and what you have that makes you the victor on the 27th. Also, in detail, tell us why you decided to return to the cage after announcing your retirement?

Rowdy: About the fight I don't know much about my opponent. I know that he was 11 and 6 as an amateur and this is his pro debut. Training is going well, even though this is a short-notice fight I took it because I have stayed ready.

My last fight with John Valentine was an epic and I shined like I wish that I always would have. I have continued training consistently at One-hit MMA. ... 

I'm returning to the cage. I'm not done. I don't know why I quit (hard work pays) ...  some of it has to do with making my rent and paying some bills and I need the money. I work too but between sponsorship and fight-first if I can pick up this ... it puts me ahead.

What makes me the victor in this bout? Experience, violence and I have no quit. It should be fun; that's the way it's supposed to be. My opponent is humble and (I'm) excited to make a new friend inside the cage. 

A lot of why I fight is I've been going through a lot of struggles in my life. Within myself I am my own biggest critic. I have something left to prove to myself. MMA saved my life, I've always wanted to be part of something. Years of wrongdoing and trying to be part of stuff that I shouldn't have has some regret in my past but where I'm at today MMA saved my life. I change daily because it makes me a better person. I have real friends at the gym, they're my family and I'm a part of something way bigger than me. They say the MMA isn't a team sport because it's just two men getting in there but my team is with me and we're going to get this one for one-hit MMA.

Good luck on the 27th, Rowdy. We''ll be rooting for you later this month.


Notes: SteelFist has already announced a couple of bouts for its Feb. 24 SLC card at the Union Event Center. In a pro welterweight bout, Trever Bradshaw will meet Pedro Artal and in a pro  bantamweight bout (the main event) Cody Bunderson meets Fabio Serrao. ... Jarome Hatch, who has fought often locally, announced on social media that he will be fighting April 7 on the FitCon card at The Salt Palace. ... Hector Lopez, amateur from KOA gym in Layton, fights tomorrow night in Las Vegas at The Orleans on a TuffNUff card. His bout against Evan Schoonmaker is the co-main event. ... Finally, two amateur boxing cards next month. Foley's gym in Ogden will have fights Feb. 17 and PAL in SLC on Feb. 24.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Interviews with MMA amateurs Nathan Owens, Tyson Roberts

One of the title fights this Saturday at the SteelFist card in Salt Lake City matches amateur bantamweights Ha'va Nathan Owens, of Ogden, and Tyson Roberts, of Harrisville. It's an interesting matchup in a card that also includes a pro lightweight title bout between Clay Collard and Troy Dennison and a pro welterweight fight between Carson Gregory and Mike Jones. There is another amateur title bout, between welterweights Alonzo Salas and Lehi Dominguez.

We chatted with both Roberts and Owens this past week.

Utah Fight Game: Hos is training going?

Roberts: Training for a big fight like this one consists of more than just going to practice. I had a 20-pound weight cut so diet was a huge factor. I would wake up and start the day with a good cardio workout with the love of my life. Then I would continue with some great training over at One Hit MMA; a lot of the days I would be putting in 3 workouts a day spending more than 5 hours in the gym getting prepared for this bout!

Owens: ... I don't train for just one bout or get into fight camps. I always stay ready no matter what. I train hard every single day with no breaks. I train about 10-12 hours a day every day. 

Utah Fight Game: How will your strengths provide you the edge over your opponent on Saturday night?

Owens: ... My strength is that I will outwork anyone who decides to challenge me in any aspect. Striking, grappling, anything. Simply put, I choose how I want to finish the fight. My opponent I will be facing Saturday has disrespected me by not training as hard as I do. By not taking this fight seriously, Come Saturday night I will not give him the luxury of being finished early. I'm going to hurt him, cut him up, I'm going to break him. So after I beat him down Saturday night he'll have to look in the mirror every day at the scars I will leave him and he'll remember not to challenge me.. The dominate species. Just another step to becoming world champion.

RobertsMy strengths I have over my opponent this Saturday ... the biggest one is I have the best training partners and gym in the state, putting in work with Jon Neal, Rowdy Akers, and LJ Schulz. I know how Nate fights and I know once it hits the ground he is going to be in some big trouble. I have reach and have developed a strike game he will have to try and match. I can’t wait to get out there and showcase my skills after this 3-year break I have had since my last fight. Come Saturday I plan on having that belt around my waist.

Thanks to both competitors and we wish them well on Saturday night.

Some more MMA notes: Kaecy Raddon, 155 pounds, who recently fought for a Tuff N Uff title, is returning to the cage on Feb. 10 to fight Dean Cotton in SCL (Sparta Combat League) 65. The card is at the Grizzly Rose in Denver, Colo.

We announced last week that featherweight MMA fighter Rowdy Akers (One Hit MMA) is fighting Tyler Polito on March 10 for Fierce Fighting Championship. That's still on but Akers announced on social media that he also take a pro bout on Jan. 27 in Casper, Wyo., against Kehlin Wayne Roszel.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Interview with MMA pro Carson Gregory; Jose Haro to box in March

The next SteelFist card is Saturday, January 13, in SLC, and the co-main pro bout matches undefeated Carson Gregory, of Lehi (seen above), against a very tough veteran out of Idaho, Mike Jones. It's for the welterweight promotional belt.

We had the opportunity to chat with Jones recently and we share that with out readers now.

(About himself, his MMA history and fighters he admires) GREGORY I started MMA when I was 14 years old. I was looking for the new hobby. Throughout my high school years MMA has kept me clean and true to my values. Because I'm Mormon I'm often asked at church how I can fight when we believe we're all children of God. I simply tell them that MMA helps me fight my depression and anxiety and has kept me out of trouble since an early age. And then usually answer their question with another one of my own; Why wouldn't God want me in something that helps me stick to my values and keeps me clean? Francis Ngannou is a new and upcoming athlete in MMA who I look up to. He's all about the KO. I can relate to that. I don't believe that MMA should be a point game. I believe that when you step into that ring that it should be a "kill-or-be-killed" mentality, not to see who can score the most points or hold each other down. Another fighter I relate to and respect a lot would be Chuck Liddell. He was never anything special as far as an athlete goes. He just had tremendous heart and a deadly right overhand. I feel like I'm in a very similar boat. I'm nothing incredible as far as an athlete goes but I know I can hit like a freight train and I know I have more heart than any fighter! 

(On where he trains, his coaches, and other athletes he trains and spars with) GREGORY:  I'm training out of Xcite MMA in Lehi. My coaches are Mark Balcer and Dustin Smith. I'm currently the only active fighter in our gym. My gym does not like to spar a whole bunch, we generally try to keep sparring at a minimum. Our training is focused around drills and lots of fight applicable mitt work.

(On his strengths, his opponent Jones' strengths and how he plans to win) GREGORY: My strengths are obviously in my hands. My footwork is very unorthodox and I can strike at awkward angles. My goal is to move like Muhammad Ali and hit like Mike Tyson. My opponent is an opportunist not a warrior. He has a good one two and a half-decent head kick. It's nothing special or that I haven't seen before. I just need to go out there and fight my fight. My game plan never changes its all the same. Use my footwork to break my opponent down then go in for the kill.

(On where he plans to be a year from now in the sport) GREGORY: A year from now I plan on fighting in UFC or at least Bellator. Sooner or later a bigger promotion like them is going to want an exciting fighter like me fighting for them. It's not a matter of if just when. The only thing that separates me from other fighters already in those promotions is experience. I'm still very young in this sport and just need a little more time.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Carson, and good luck the 13th. We also wish Jones the best of luck as well, and all the competitors. It's a great card. The main pro bout matches former UFC fighter Clay Collard against Troy Dennison. It's a great opportunity for Troy. Two good amateur title bouts match Lehi Dominguez against Alonzo Salas and Ha'va Nathan Owens versus Tyson Roberts.

NOTES: A couple of news nuggets: Rowdy Akers, of One Hit MMA, an MMA pro who had retired after winning a very exciting bout over John Valentine, is making a comeback. He will fight Tyler Polito on March 10 on a card promoted by Fierce Fighting Championship. Valentine, by the way, has enjoyed success in top-flight grappling competitions recently. And Andy Pitcher, of Smithfield, will fight Ben Goins on the March 17 inaugural Mountain Force MMA card in Logan. 


Big news for Utah boxing. Jose Haro, of West Jordan, the United States Boxing Association professional featherweight champ, announced this past week on social media that he will fight undefeated Jean Rivera on March 17 at the storied, historic Madison Square Garden in New York City. The bout will be televised on ESPN. Best of luck to Jose, and we hope to talk with him prior to the bout.