In a pro lightweight bout on July 28 in Salt Lake City, Troy Dennison will meet AJ Garcia in an intriguing match. Garcia defeated Rowdy Akers in his pro debut and Dennison has enjoyed a successful pro career that included a shot for a SteelFist promotion title. (Above is, at top, Garcia after winning a bout, and below, Dennison (at left) with others at Victory MMA.)
We've chatted with both fighters and share the conversations as a preview for the bout:
1) What motivates you about the bout. What drives you to get out there and train daily?
Dennison: What motivated me to compete in MMA is (SteelFist promoter) Pat Patton. I was a street kid fighting in the streets almost every day in my life, got real good at it and was in and out of trouble all the time wuth the law. Pat Patton took me under his wing, helped me get my life right and got me my very first MMA fight way before SteelFist was around and I feel in love with all the positives that came with it. I was so used to negative in my life; it was a big difference, gave me a reason to stay out of trouble and work and fight for something worth fighting for.
I'm looking for a title shot again for SteelFist after this fight. That has been my main goal is getting the belt. In today's world the fighter that inspires me is Connor McGregor; to see him getting welfare checks one day and a few years later a self-made millionaire shows me anything is possible if you work hard enough and truly believe you can do it. The thing that is most important to me bout this fight is winning. It is just another fight, nothing too important, just a other day doing what I like to do. And the thing that pushed me the most to train and keep in shape is to prove all the doubters that I still have it. I feel there is alot of people who have forgot who I am and are doubting me on this fight.
1) How is training going? Any changes based on learning from your first bout?
Garcia: Training is going great. My fight with Rowdy was my first pro fight so it was the first time having five minute rounds along with a few other rules that are different. Now that I know what that feels like I feel I'll be even more ready for this fight and in even better shape.
2) What's your fight style and how do you hope to neutralize your opponent? (Dennison seen below)
Dennison: My fight style is most definitely striking. I'm known as a stand up fighter with power in both hands. Out of my 8 wins 6 of them are TKO in the first round. The key strength of my opponent is his wrestling. I feel he will try to get me to the ground and control the fight there.Of course he will try to pound me out or submit me. The way I neutralize that is by footwork and sprawl, get in and out and not stand right in front of him.
2) What do you know about your opponent and what does this fight mean to you?
Garcia: Troy is a tough guy that's been around for a while. He has over 10 pro fights compared to my one, but I had a lot of amateur fights and fought the best guys around here so that I could be ready for anything when I went pro. Getting a win over a vet like Troy would be a big deal for a guy with one pro fight. I feel solid everywhere but always know that I can fall back on my bread and butter which is my ground game.
3) How goes training? Who trains you and who do you train with?
Dennison: My training is different this time around than my last fights. I am mostly focusing on strength and conditioning. I have not been to the gym much this fight camp due to work but I'm always training every day, whether it be in the gym sparring and working take down defense. If I'm not there, (I'm still) hitting the bag and running in high altitude, always doing something every day to keep my cardio up. When I do go to the gym it's Victory MMA. The coaches are Kam Tuller, Jake Paul, Cole Rose, and Kyle Herrera. My two favorite people to train with and spar with is Cole Rose and Kyle Herrera.
3) How is training going and who are some of those helping you, both in the gym and outside? (Below, Garcia on top in the bout versus Rowdy Akers).
Garcia: The guys at The Pack MMA are getting me ready along with Anthony Lobato. Digital Smoke has also helped me a ton and just bought me a ton of new training gear for this fight as a bonus for winning my pro debut. I honestly wouldn't be able to train the way I do if it wasn't for them so big shout out to them. I can't wait for this fight and will be ready to bring it when that cage gets locked.
4) How has MMA changed your life and what are your future plans in the sport?
Dennison: I have been competing an MMA for the last 7 years and it has changed me into a better man in all ways of life: respect honor discipline, things that I have never learned as a kid it has completely changed my life. I was into gang,s heavy drugs by the time I was 13 years old, stealing cars and just really going down a dark road. I feel if it was not for MMA I would be dead or in prison. It changed me in every way; took all that negative and turned it into positive. I have a 4 year old now and a beautiful woman that I may not have (today) if MMA did not change my life.
We wish both Garcia and Dennison the best later this month in the cage. We appreciate all they do for the sport.
The entire SteelFist card is here.