Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Interviews with MMA pros Daniel Stratton, James Russell Francis

This week we start previewing, in earnest, the South Valley Beach Slam that happens in Hurricane, Utah in about three weeks, We have interviewed John Valentine, who will fight on the MMA card, and today we interview Daniel Stratton and James Russell Francis, who will be meeting on the card. It's a rematch of a bout a while ago that Francis won. (Stratton is on the left and Francis the right on the photo above.

So, let's start with Stratton first:

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: So my name is Daniel "The Spartan" Stratton..... I am from Vernal, Utah and recently turned 27 years old. I've been into martial arts pretty much my whole life... I was never really into team sports but I always loved wrestling and martial arts. I had my first fight when I was 17 and a junior in high school and I have been in love with it ever since.

I'm currently scheduled to face James "Scrappy" Francis in an MMA bout for the South Valley Slam promotion May 13th down in Sand Hollow, Utah. This will actually be a rematch between us... he beat me back in January of 2015. So I am very eager to take a shot at redemption. I've been on a rather long hiatus from fighting... when I step into the cage to fight James it will have been 18 months since my last fight. And boy let me tell you what a crazy 18 months that has been. Among many other things I recently spent some time in the hospital with a life-threatening lung infection... this happened back in January. So its pretty crazy to me that not too long ago I was on death's doorstep and now i'm saddling up to be a gladiator again.

One of my best friends and long time fight manager Joey Montanez spent some time with me in the hospital and has been keeping up with me since I got out and thought a fight would be the perfect thing to get my life up and back on track and going again so he gave me a call and asked if I wanted to start getting ready. He did some looking around and called me back and asked if I'd be interested in re matching James again... I don't think the first fight lived up to its full potential and so I jumped at the opportunity. (Photo below is of Stratton and Valentine (right) from 2012)

(ABOUT YOUR OPPONENT) James and I are friends and I know we both respect each other as men and athletes... I know we are both tough as nails and love putting on a good show. I'd bet my purse that its going to be fight of the night so it's not going to be one you want to miss. Skill-wise we match up really well.... we are both well rounded and our fights tend to turn into slugfests so I'm excited to throw down.
(ABOUT TRAINING) I'm living in Vernal, Utah and doing the bulk of my training with Travis Marx at his gym called The Train Station here in Vernal.... I've been working with him for a couple years now and he's been a great friend and coach. I also come to Salt Lake a lot and do some training with my manager Joey and a few other fighters. I even made it up to Layton to train at with Aldo and the killers up at One Hit a while back... I want to make that a regular thing. Life has just been hectic and my schedules been a mess, but I know I'll be coming into the fight sharp, prepared, and ready to win.
(ABOUT THE FUTURE) During my time off I did a lot of thinking on my fight career and where I want to take it... I even considered retirement. Martial arts have always been a huge part of my life and my identity. Looking back I realized that when I'm living the fighter's lifestyle and im dedicated to my training that my life is great and I excel at everything I do... I also realized that when I step away from fighting is when everything in my life goes downhill.... So I made the decision to jump back into the fight game. I'm still young and have too much talent to let it go to waste. So after I win this fight I'd like to keep going with it and become really active again. Start climbing the ranks! I'd just like to take this time to thank all the fight fans, promoters, coaches, and other fighters who have made the fight game in Utah what it is. I hope to see all of you at the fights come May 13th, I promise this is one you won't want to miss. Win loss or draw I promise to give you a show! Big thanks to my family, friends, teammates, and girl for all of your support of me living the dream!

Thanks Daniel, and good luck on May 13. Now, let's chat with James Russell Francis.

How the opportunity arose: My last fight was against Daniel in January 2015. Due to my job, my training had really been hindered to be at a competitive level. Last year my schedule got to a point that I could be consistent and get in shape. I finally feel in shape and was offered a fight by my manager Jen Howe over at Elite Performance. Initially I was not aware who the opponent was when I accepted, when I saw it was Stratton, I still accepted because in my mind, nothing had changed... I want to fight.  

My fighting style:  I've been in this game for a while now. Not saying I'm not improving, but when I first started I was a striker. At this point I am no longer just a pure striker. I am an MMA fighter who can strike and grapple and combine the two quite effortlessly. But... I still do prefer striking. To nutshell though, I'm a fight finisher... I don't like decisions. I go with every intent to live with or die on my sword about your opponent? Stratton is another cat who has been in the game for a while. For our first fight I would have sworn that his background was wrestling (especially growing up in Vernal), but I learned that he is a striker. He has fought in some big shows locally (Showdown for example), so he can handle the pressure of the fight game. He has my respect in that he is a dangerous fighter that if I ignore his skill, he can and will beat me. 

About training: I train over at Jeremy Horn's Elite Performance. We have an awesome group of guys that have always helped me. Jeremy Horn, Josh Tyler, Mitch Thompson (who is fighting on this same card), Tommy Le, etc. Unfortunately due to my work schedule I don't get to see them regularly. For this fight though outside of my usual help, I am getting help from my friend and Elite teammate Kenneth Scott (former U of U wide receiver), Eric Wahlin (former 205 Steelfist champion), Angel Ortiz (fighter/friend/coworker from California, Jordan Clements (former 155 Steelfist title challenger), Ryan Whipple (cardio nut who knows how to push my buttons to push myself) and last but definitely not least, my biggest cornerstone for training, my wife, Giselle Martinez. My teammates from the evening randomly come through in the mornings and help when their work schedule allows them to. I have a solid group of people to help prepare and no stone will be left unturned. (Photo below is of Francis (right) with MMA pro Jordan Clements)

What's next if I win: Like almost all MMA fighters (I only know one person whose goal is to end up not in the UFC but over in Japan), it is to fight in the UFC. That is the pinnacle of my goals. I have small goals to attain that will help me reach my final goal. After I win this fight I would like to fight the winner of Jon Neal vs Skyler Frazier (Neal) for the Steelfist 145lbs belt in June or July, or fight a contender fight if that is what will be required for that title fight. I also would like to fight internationally, I heard Nicaragua (where basically all my cousins, aunts, and uncles are at) has started to promote MMA events there. I'm from New York and have friends and my dad out there and would love to fight in Long Island. I would love to fight in both locations in front of my family and friends who have never had the opportunity to see me fight live. In the end, it will be a little over 28 months when we have our rematch. The result will be the same. It will be exciting, and I will come out victorious. He trains hard, and I anticipate he will train hard for this fight because he is dangerous. But I think it is overall what we have done in the last 28 months that will be the difference. I train to evolve, not just train hard for the sake of training. I evolved, I cannot say with guarantee he has.

Thanks James, and good luck to you too.

Here is more information about the card and promotion. It starts at 7 on May 13 and is at 3351 South Sand Hollow Road in Hurricane. For ticket info, 801-427-2020. Next week we'll have an interview with MMA amateur Bryce Edminister, who is on the card.

Some boxing news: Professional Jose Haro will not be fighting this month in Tijuana, but he says an Iowa bout is likely in the future. ... Several local Utahns, including Jon Bryant and Gabriel Chairez, are heading to Golden Gloves open nationals in early May. ... Utah Junior Olympics is this weekend in SLC. We'll try to get some results. ... All Heart Boxing is planning an amateur card on June 3 at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington.

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