Sports Strength

The 20 Best PFL Fighters to Watch

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is launching their NFTs so you might want to know a thing or two about some of their fighters fighting this year in their sports season format.

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is about to close out its 2021 season in June. Then, the fighters with enough points to advance to the playoffs in the PFL’s season format of MMA will make it to the finals to be the 2021 champions. Being the PFL champ comes with a $1-million-dollar prize and an invite back for next year.

Recently, the PFL just announced the launch of their own NFTs. So, anyone interested in grabbing these collectibles will likely want to know about some of the fighters in the league. Here are 20 PFL fighters you should watch.

1. Kayla Harrison (9-0, PFL 8-0)
  • 2019 PFL women’s lightweight world champion
  • 2x Olympic judo gold medalist (2012, 2016)
  • Undefeated in her MMA career
  • 7 of 9 wins came by stoppage (4 knockouts, 3 submissions)

Harrison has been the catalyst for the women’s lightweight division in the PFL. The Olympic Gold medalist in Judo made the transition to mixed martial arts in 2018. She is the PFL 2019 lightweight champion and currently number two in the women’s lightweight standings.  She’s a favorite to win again this year.

2. Rory MacDonald (22-6-1,PFL 1-0)
  • Top-15 Welterweight In The World
  • Former Bellator Welterweight Champion
  • 14 Wins By Stoppage (7 Knockouts, 7 Submissions)
  • Wins Over Nate Diaz, Tyron Woodley, B.J. Penn And Douglas Lima

The former UFC welterweight contender and former Bellator MMA welterweight champion was one of the first big signees for the current season when the PFL closed out the 2019 season. COVID-19 delayed his debut but he picked up a first-round submission over Curtis Millender.

3. Ray Cooper III (21-7-1, PFL 9-2)
Photo by Ryan Loco/PFL
  • 2019 PFL Welterweight World Champion
  • 14 Career Knockouts
  • 6 Knockouts Over The Last 2 Pfl Seasons
  • Has Made The Pfl Welterweight Finals In 2018 & 2019

Cooper went from underdog when the PFL began to one of its top welterweights. He fought Jake Shields twice in 2018, avenging a loss his father had against Shields while cementing himself as one of the PFL’s top fighters. He is currently ranked number one, above MacDonald.

4. Brendon Loughnane (21-3-0 PFL4-0)
  • Winner Of 6 Straight Fights
  • 11 Career Wins By Knockout
  • 2-0 In Pfl Showcase Bouts In 2019

Loughnane fought his heart out on The Contender Series in 2019 and won a unanimous decision that many felt should have gotten him a UFC contract. It didn’t, but it certainly got him on the radar of anyone looking for new talent, so the PFL grabbed him up as soon as they could and got him into some fights. He secured his spot in the playoffs at PFL 4.

5. Bubba Jenkins (16-4-0 PFL 2-0)
  • Former Brave Featherweight Champion
  • 6 Career Knockouts
  • D-1 Ncaa Wrestling Champion

Jenkins is the man just behind Loughnane in the featherweight standings. After his first win this season, he said the final fight of the year would likely consist of him and Loughnane. The win he picked up was against the 2018-2019 champion, Lance Palmer.

6. Lance Palmer (22-4, PFL 10-1)
  • 2-time PFL Featherweight World Champion (2018, 2019)
  • 4-time All-american Wrestler (Osu)
  • 2-time WSOF Featherweight Champion

Palmer has been grinding through the PFL since before they rebranded. Before that, they were known as the World Series of Fighting and he held the featherweight title then as well. While his first fight this season did not go his way, Palmer has shown in the past losing is not something he ever takes lightly.

7. Antonio Carlos Júnior (11-5-0, 1 NC, PFL 1-0)
  • 9 Wins Via Submission
  • The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Heavyweight Tournament Winner
  • Multiple Time Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Champion

Known by hardcore MMA fans as Cara de Sapato (Shoe-face), Carlos Júnior is another signee that came from the UFC where he picked up wins over Marvin Vettori, Tim Boetsch, and Eddie Gordon. Most of his wins come by way of submission and with the first-round submission he picked up this season, he’s definitely a light-heavyweight that should be on the fan’s radar.

8. Emiliano Sordi (23-8, PFL 7-1)
  • 2019 PFL Light Heavyweight World Champion
  • Most Dominant Season In Pfl History (5-0 With 5 Finishes In 2019)
  • First Fighter From Argentina To Win A Major Mma Title

Sordi was the 2019 PFL Champion and he used his $1-million-dollar prize money to help those in need in his home country of Argentina. Virtually unknown before then, when he got closer to the finals and won the season, he became a fan favorite at the PFL. He currently sits at number four in the PFL light-heavyweight standings.

9. Clay Collard (20-8-0, 1 NC ,PFL 2-0)
  • 10 Career Knockouts
  • Former UFC Contender
  • 2020 Boxing Star

Collard was an MMA fighter, turned boxer, then returned to MMA when he signed with the PFL. His first fight was against Anthony Pettis where he was the underdog. The fight was tough, but Collard showed his time away in the sweet science of boxing helped make him a better mixed martial artist. He’s currently the number one lightweight in the 2021 lightweight standings.

10. Anthony Pettis (24-11, PFL 0-1)
  • Former UFC Lightweight Champion
  • 18 Career Wins By Stoppage
  • 11 Career Knockouts
  • Former WEC Lightweight Champion
  • First MMA Fighter Featured On A Wheaties Box
  • Coined The “Showtime Kick”

Pettis has fought everywhere. WEC, the UFC, and now the PFL. He has held the lightweight titles in the last two promotions he fought in and has made it known he wants the PFL gold for 2021. His first fight did not go as planned but that does not mean he’s out yet. Keep an eye on Pettis.

11. Chris Wade (19-6, PFL 7-3)
  • Former Ring Of Combat Lightweight Champion
  • 2018,2019 PFL Semi-finalist

Wade recently picked up one of the most spectacular knockouts of his career at PFL 4 this season. The New Yorker is a favorite in the northeast region and his PFL and UFC fights are fun to watch. The win he picked up in Atlantic City will keep him atop the current featherweight standings, putting him on track to challenge for the title if he keeps the momentum going in the playoffs.

12. Natan Schulte (21-4-1 PFL 10-1-1)
  • Two-time PFL Lightweight World Champion (2018, 2019)
  • Unbeaten In Two PFL Seasons (9-0-1)
  • 9 Career Wins By Submission

Schulte is a two-time PFL lightweight champion that has always found a way to get to the main event on New Year’s Eve. While he lost to  Marcin Held this season, like Pettis, he still has a chance to get back in the mix if he picks up a win while the season is still going. He’s lost one before and came back to win the prize, so it can certainly be done again.

13. Genah Fabian (3-1, PFL 2-1)
  • 2019 PFL Playoffs Qualifier (#3 Seed)
  • 2018 Muay Thai World Champion
  • Both MMA Wins Came By Knockout

Fabian’s record seems green for MMA given the small numbers but so was Harrison’s when she began and became champion. In the 2019 season, she was supposed to face Harrison and had to pull out due to illness. That’s a fight that could still be in the future depending on how things go.

14. Claressa Shields (1-0, PFL 1-0)
  • Holds Multiple Titles In Multiple Boxing Weight Classes
  • 2012, 2016 Boxing Olympic Gold Medal Winner
  • Considered Pound-for-pound Best Active Female Boxer

Shields is new to MMA but 11-0 as a professional boxer. She is the only boxer to ever hold all four major boxing titles (WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO). She really has nothing left to prove in the world of boxing and, at 26-years old, is looking to have the same success in MMA. The PFL is a good place to start, and since fellow Olympian and 2019 champion Kayla Harrison started the same way, the move makes complete sense. She won her debut against Brittney Elkin at PFL 4.

15. Bruno Cappelozza (11-5-0 , PFL 1-0)
  • All 11 Wins Have Come Via Knockout
  • Former Jungle Fight Light Heavyweight And Heavyweight Champion

Cappelozza made a statement in his first PFL fight by scoring a first-round knockout in his debut over Ante Dilija in a fight where he was the underdog. The quick finish shot him to the top of the 2021 heavyweight standings making him the man to beat thus far in the PFL.

16. Tyler Diamond (12-1, PFL 1-0)
  • 7 Of 12 Wins Came By Stoppage
  • Member Of Team Alpha Male

There’s something about mullets and MMA that make for some scrappy fights and probably a pretty cool NFT. The young featherweight is definitely someone that brings the fight to all of his opponents. Even though he lost he fought one of the best fights of the season against Loughnane at PFL 4.

17. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-5, PFL 0-0)
  • 8 Career Submission Wins
  • 12 Of First 16 Career Fights Came In The Ufc

Aubin-Mercier made his PFL debut against Held on June 10 at PFL 4. The former UFC fighter holds wins over Drew Dober and Anthony Rocco Martin. What he brings to the PFL seems to be the same traction of success he had when he was in the UFC. He fights out of Tristar Gym, the same gym that brought fans Georges St-Pierre.

18. Larissa Pacheco (14-4, PFL 3-2)
  • 2019 PFL Women’s Lightweight Runner-up
  • Defeated #1 Seed Sarah Kaufman In The 2019 Pfl Playoffs

If any woman in the PFL women’s lightweight division knows Harrison, it’s Pacheco. Her two losses come from Harrison, which means she beat everyone else to get to her. She seems to be gunning for a rematch this season since she picked up a first-round finish, and sits at number one in the women’s lightweight standings.

19. Kaitlin Young (12-10-1 PFL 1-0)
  • Former Invicta Fc Title Challenger 
  • Of 12 Wins, 8 Come By Way Of Knockout

Young beat a very tough Cindy Dandois in her PFL debut. She’s built most of her MMA record fighting in Invicta FC, the all-women’s MMA promotion where she fought for a vacant title not too long ago. She currently has enough points to repeat the same opportunity in the PFL if she picks up some more wins.

20. Denis Goltsov (26-6, PFL 4-1)
  • 2019 PFL Heavyweight Semifinalist
  • First PFL Fighter To Secure An Ezekiel Choke
  • Combat Sambo World Champion

Goltsov accumulated most of his wins in his native Russia before coming to the PFL. The average MMA fan might not have known much about him before then, but since he has come close to winning before, and currently looks to get closer to the million-dollar grand prize in 2021. Of his 26 wins, 10 are by submission with 11 knockouts. 

Grind Money

What Is Nate Diaz’s Net Worth?

There have been a lot of conversations about fighter pay in MMA in the past couple of years, spearheaded by fighters like Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal at times. In the past week or two, Paulo Costa and current UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou have commented on the difference in their purses to that of Logan Paul in his recent fight against Floyd Mayweather. When Nate Diaz was asked about Ngannou’s “what are we doing wrong?” comment, his response was, “what is he doing wrong?… I’ve been doing more right than all these motherfuckers for years and years. They should have been spitting all that ‘I need money’ shit a long time ago like I was… and what happened? The stock just raised anyway.” He’s not lying. Today, Nate Diaz boasts an estimated net worth of approximately $8 million.

Fight Earnings

But of course, it wasn’t always that way.

Diaz first debuted in the UFC on the TUF 5 Finale, fighting Manvel Gamburyan. He was given a check for just $16,000. If he had lost the fight, he would have made just $8,000 before taxes and paying coaches. A couple of fights later when he stepped into the octagon against Alvin Robinson, he had graduated to a $15k/$15k contract. He won the fight but also earned a bonus for Submission of the Night, which bagged him an extra $40k, totaling $70k for that fight.

The first time that Nate earned six figures in a fight was just over three years into his UFC career. It was at UFC 118 which was headlined by Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn’s second scrap. The younger Diaz brother tapped Marcus Davis in round three, earning his $30k show money, $30k win bonus, and a $60k Fight of the Night bonus. Over the next few years, while he traded wins and losses, Diaz’s purses would fluctuate massively. In 2012 when he beat Jim Miller, Nate pocketed $147k but just under a year later after he was stopped by Josh Thompson, Nate made just $15k. That’s even less than his debut. This is just one of the issues that people have with the UFC’s show money/win bonus structure, it means that fighters get punished for losing in a sport where losing is far more acceptable than boxing, for example.

How Much Did Nate Diaz Make Fighting Conor McGregor?

When Nate Diaz filled in for Rafael dos Anjos against Conor McGregor, his purse for it versus up to that point were night and day. For the short notice fight against the then-Featherweight Champion and undefeated (in the UFC) Irishman, for the first time in his career, Nate made a flat fee of $500k. On top of that, his two bonuses for Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night earned him $50k each and Reebok paid him $20k. That’s $620k in total, a massive rise from his previous years with the company. That doesn’t include the PPV points that he might have gotten either. Now, with a win over the company’s biggest star, the ball was in his court.

Nate earned himself a flat fee of a whopping $2 million for the rematch five months later, easily his biggest purse to date. The FOTN bonus and his Reebok sponsorship made him $70k on top, and with PPV points included, he undoubtedly made an extra few million too. Nate’s total career earnings from his UFC fight purses add up to nearly $5 million.

Endorsements & Ventures

In terms of endorsements, Nate Diaz has been with some brands that are close to him. He’s had deals with Represent Ltd and Lodi Vintners. There’s also Game Up Nutrition, which is a CBD brand founded by Nate and his older brother Nick. They offer organic hemp-based products which match up with the disciplined lifestyle they both live.

Next Fight

Nate’s next fight takes place this Saturday at UFC 263, live from the Gila River Arena in Glendale, AZ. He fights Leon Edwards at 170lbs, by all accounts a very tough fight for him. There’s no word yet on what his purse could be, but in terms of the matchup, Edwards is on a big win streak and is one win away from challenging the dominant champion, Kamaru Usman. Nate is coming off of the loss to Jorge Masvidal in late 2019.

Interestingly, this fight is already historic long before it takes place. It’s the first UFC fight ever that is scheduled for 5 rounds despite not being the main event or a title fight. Some would argue that this suits Diaz and the way he weaponizes his cardio, but perhaps it only gives the Birmingham fighter more time to impose his own will. Only time will tell.

Sports Strength

Drew Dober Fights With a Smile, Previews UFC 263

When most people think about fighters, they imagine a tough, rugged figure. Drew Dober is not that.

Dober fights with a smile. He is in that octagon to provide the audience with a show. He doesn’t view the rankings as some end-all, be-all type of system. He simply wants to give fans some entertainment. It’s refreshing, but he will be the first to tell you that he didn’t start this method of fighting.

Dober: “I think it is the mentality that (Justin) Gaethje and Donald Cerrone carry. Anywhere, anytime. But it is not reckless. It is sheer enjoyment. It is contagious. I think people really enjoy watching these fighters enjoy themselves… win or lose – we are still watching them fight.”

Dober is a member of one of the best fight teams in the country in Colorado. The Elevation Fight Team is elite. From top to bottom the team is full of studs: Justin Gaethje, Cory Sandhage, Curtis Blaydes, and plenty more…

In addition to being great fighters, they are also performers.

Dober: “I think it is just the enjoyment and fans put you in the zone to perform the best. Some people have different ways of using it, like with Cory and Curtis. But coincidentally, Justin Gaethje and I just so happen to have the same mindset, on the same team, on the same mat. I love bouncing, not only ideas but techniques and skills. It’s a sheer coincidence that the two most entertaining men in the lightweight division are in the same camp.

When Dober entered the UFC, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Dober’s time in the UFC started with two losses and plenty of people have been cut by the company for less. Of course, Dober is an incredibly positive guy. But trying times can get the best of anyone.

Dober: “The first fight was a struggle… Man, it was just tough. And I went out there and I gave my best. I didn’t get the decision win. Giving your best, no matter the outcome, giving your best is the only thing you can do. Giving 100 percent of something and it not going your way, it doesn’t hurt as bad.”

Dober’s positivity and mentality are contagious. He takes a very unique perspective and outlook on life.

Check out Dober’s fight against Brad Riddell on Saturday night on ESPN+ at UFC 263.

Sports Strength

Muhammed Ali’s 10 Best Fights, Ranked

61 pro fights. 56 wins. One unforgettable career. Out of all those incredible fights, it’s hard to pick which may be the best, but we took a crack at it. Let’s look back at Muhammed Ali’s 10 Best Fights. 

10) Muhammed Ali vs Henry Cooper 2

May 21, 1966

Arsenal Stadium, London, England 

One thing you have to admire about Ali was his willingness to perform anywhere, anytime. There are a ton of variables that need to be accounted for when fighting out of the country. And Ali took every single one of those fights in stride. 

I had a hard time deciding what would take the final spot on this list. I ultimately decided on a fight in the first half of Ali’s career, because that’s where I believe the magic was. Every description you have heard of Ali’s style was true. He did float. He did sting. 

When Ali rematched against the British champion, Henry Cooper, the crowd was backing Cooper hard. With every thrown punch by Cooper, the crowd roared. But Ali remained laser-focused. After a few rounds of effective jabbing, Ali started to land on the courageous Cooper. In round six, Ali landed a nasty right hand that cut open the left eye of the Brit. It was graphic. The fight was called off shortly after.

9) Muhammed Ali vs Jerry Quarry 1

October 26, 1970

Municipal Auditorium, Atlanta, Georgia 

This fight meant more than just a win or loss. Ali hadn’t fought in three years due to his stance on the Vietnam war. People were wildly curious about how Ali would look after the long layoff. Would he be the same fighter? Would he experience ring rust? 

No. He looked sharp as ever. The snapping jab was still there, and it did the damage. By the end of the third round, Quarry’s right eye was busted up, and the fight was stopped. 

This proved… Ali was back.

8) Muhammed Ali vs Brian London

August 6, 1966

Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London, England

I have tons of respect for anyone who enters the ring. The possibility of humiliation and severe physical damage is daunting. 

However, Brian London brought nothing to the table for Ali. While he was game and tough, Ali proved there are levels to this profession. It is also commonly known that taking on a fighter on their home turf can be costly if the fight goes to a decision. 

Well, Ali didn’t let it go that far. In round three, Ali provided one of his most sensational moments in the boxing ring. After hurting London and pressuring him into a corner, Ali threw a barrage of punches all in a matter of seconds. It is a combination straight out of a movie. London went down and couldn’t recover.

7) Muhammed Ali vs Joe Frazier 3

October 1, 1975

Philippine Coliseum, Quezon City, Philippines

It might not have been one of his “best” performances, but this fight is a landmark moment in Ali’s career. Until October of 1975, Frazier gave Ali trouble. After losing the first fight, and only edging out Frazier in a close decision in the rematch—Ali still needed to prove that he was the better man.

 One of the most fun dynamics of rematches and trilogies are the adjustments made by the fighters. In the second fight, Ali lessened the number of straight right hands thrown. For Ali, he wanted two things in this fight. The first thing was a larger ring size. This allowed Ali to dance and use his supreme footwork. The second thing was to capitalize on Frazier’s notoriously slow starts. 

Again, this was not Ali’s most dominant performance. But it may have been his most impressive. This match was violent, bloody, and brutal. Ali said it was the closest to death he’d ever felt. After a grueling 14 rounds, Frazier’s corner called off the fight. And although Ali had asked his corner to do the same, they ignored his wish. This was a fight of mythological proportions.

6) Muhammed Ali vs Zora Folley

March 22, 1967 

Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York 

The biggest bummer about Ali’s career was that we most likely missed the prime years of his career. So this bout is interesting because it was the final fight before he served time in prison. At 25 years of age, and a few years of experience as the champion of the heavyweight division, it is possible that this was the fight in which Ali was at his peak. 

And it showed. Ali’s speed was as prominent as ever. He was developing a savviness in the ring. In round four, Ali delivered one of his patented over-the-top counter right hands. Folley hit the canvas as Ali stood over him. Folley made it back to his feet for the ten counts, but Ali knew he could hurt him. In the seventh round, he would deliver a similar punch that would put Folley out for good. 

Aside from the fight itself, this is a really cool match because of the high-quality footage available online.

5) Muhammed Ali vs Cleveland Williams

November 14, 1966

Astrodome, Houston, Texas 

There are a few things that standout in this fight. 

Like the last entry, this could have been Ali’s physical prime. He looked in incredible shape for this bout. He had defended his belt a few times by this point and was now gathering experience in the ring. 

From round one, this was a matchup nightmare for Williams. Ali’s footwork and speed was almost unfair. Williams appeared stiff as stone, missing almost every punch that he threw. For most of round one, Ali spent his energy processing Williams’ timing and habits. By round two, the story was already written. Ali peppered jabs and left hooks until Williams dropped. The Ali shuffle was on display on multiple occasions and Ali appeared to be enjoying himself in the ring. With just seconds remaining in the second round, Ali landed a sensational blow that hurt Williams badly. He was saved by the bell, but was finished shortly after in the third round. 

Many people recall the image of Ali standing over Sonny Liston as the most iconic photo in his career… but this fight may have given us the runner-up.

4) Muhammed Ali vs Floyd Patterson 1

November 22, 1965

Las Vegas Convention Center, Winchester, Nevada 

Ali was coming off of back-to-back, career-defining performances against Sonny Liston. You know what they say, right? “It is easy to get to the top. It is harder to stay there.” And this fight proved Ali wanted to stay.

Some of the footage from these fights aren’t great. Most of it is in black and white, but even then, Ali’s flair and style is undeniable. His footwork was so ahead of its time, it is mind boggling. 

These old-school, 15 round affairs were no joke. And Ali knew that. He took his time and waited for the perfect opportunity. In round 12, it was nothing but cruel and unusual punishment. Ali’s speed stayed with him, while Patterson faded. To my surprise, the referee actually did the right thing and stopped the bout after Patterson ate numerous unanswered punches. 

3) Muhammed Ali vs Sonny Liston 2

May 25, 1965 

Civic Center, Lewiston, Maine

Oh yeah. It’s *THAT* fight. 

You know… the one. 

Sure, there is plenty of controversy surrounding the fight. It is called the “phantom” punch for a reason. Do I think it landed? Yes. But you can’t watch that round one and not have some suspicion. 

The results are the results. Ali delivered an iconic first round knockout in the rematch against Liston. 

Hell yeah, I am putting it in my top five.

2) Muhammed Ali vs Sonny Liston 1

February 26, 1964

Convention Center, Miami Beach

Sometimes in fighting, there is a feeling-out process in the first couple of rounds. Sometimes, a fighter’s strategy is hidden until they feel their opponent let their guard down. However, during the first bout between Ali and Liston, the two strategies were obvious from the get-go. 

In round one, Liston pressed forward. Ali did as he often did… dance. And oh, was it beautiful. Liston continuously missed on big, looping left hooks. Ali’s head movement was next level. 

In round three, Ali cut Liston. From that moment on, the great one took complete control. It really did look like fighters from different generations. Liston was trying to grit his teeth and swing wildly. Ali peppered Liston with a snapping jab for every attempted punch. Ali had trouble in the middle rounds with his eyesight, which was attributed to a substance placed on Liston’s gloves. 

Ali was 22 years old. He won his first heavyweight championship. He delivered an iconic performance. Considering all of those dynamics, it would be hard to not to consider this to be one of the greatest performances in Ali’s history.

1) Muhammed Ali vs George Foreman

October 30, 1974

Stade du 20 Mai, Kinshasa, Zaire

This fight is full of great mythology. 

Ali disobeyed his corner. 

He did the opposite of what people thought he should do. 

He trash talked Foreman for the duration of the bout, asking the power puncher if that was all he got. 

And… although it may have existed before this fight, this bout was THE textbook example of the “rope-a-dope.” For most of the fight, Ali welcomed the power puncher to lead the dance. He would lean against the ropes, hoping Foreman would punch himself out. And it worked. By the sixth, seventh, and eight rounds, Foreman was gassed. After a few wild punches from Foreman, Ali fired back a series of punches from off the ropes and Foreman collapsed. Too tired to get up, the fight was over. 

There are many great performances in his history but this stands out among the rest.

Sports Strength

Get to Know Michelle Waterson aka “The Karate Hottie”

It is easy for fighters to talk to the media after they win. They get a lot of easy questions that are fun to answer.

After a loss? Not so much.

Michelle Waterson was kind enough to come on In the Fight and talk about her most recent loss to Marina Rodriguez.

In addition to her last fight, Waterson talked about life lessons, social media bullies, and what her life might look like after her fighting career.

Waterson is known for having a very open relationship with her daughter when it comes to her fighting career. Her daughter has seen every fight that she has been in, something that is somewhat rare in the fight game.

Templin: If your daughter’s memory was wiped clean, and she could only watch one fight of yours… which would you choose?

Waterson thought about it for a second.

Waterson: Good question.

We talked about her time working at Hooters, being a stuntman for a Marvel movie, appearing on the classic MTV show Bully Beatdown, and what she has in mind for life after her career.

Sports Strength

Meet Jerald Spohn, the Emerging Fighter With a Unique Mind

Listen, let’s be real for a second. 

If you want to fight, you’re probably different from most people. 

Fighting comes with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and by the nature of the sport, you need to be willing to take risks. 

So what draws fighters to the sport? Is it the highs? Is it the thrill of the lows? 

For MMA up and comer Jerald Spohn, it is both. 

“I think it is the upside. I’ve always been a go-big or go-home kind of guy. Even in football, I was allowed to call audibles as a WR, and I would do it if I could beat the man… even if it failed, I would get my ass ripped. I’m willing to bet on myself on anything and everything,” Spohn says to ONE37pm. 

I could tell you that Spohn trains at the infamous Strong Style gym with one of the GOATs Stipe Miocic.

I could tell you that he has an abundance of nicknames that we workshopped and some of his teammates call him “the Ginger Riff Raff and the Neon Don.” (I am pushing hard for “The Albino Rhino.”)

I could tell to you that Spohn is a deep thinker who understands life at a very worldly level.

But fight fans generally want one thing: someone who will bring a fight. 

Bo Templin: What stands out when you fight?

Spohn: It is chaos man. I come forward. I pride myself on being a well-rounded but creative fighter from walkout to after. I look at this as a big party.

Templin: OK, so how do you balance entertainment and effectiveness? How do you know when to say “fuck it” sometimes… and know when to dial it in? 

Spohn: I probably lean towards the “fuck it” side. If this is a fight to get to a title, I might be more cautious. But who knows… maybe I hop into character for each fight. I have had an idea for doing an “old” movie theme for each walkout. Ace Ventura, for one, Wesley Snipes as Blade, or Zoolander, and it would be a fun wrinkle to what I do. The way I look at it is, the fighting is why I am here. But why not have a blast? I can’t control things, but for as much as I can control, why not be exactly how I want it?

“The Neon Don” bases his MMA with wrestling. It is how he got started and he knows it is his bread and butter. But he can’t just look to one person as his model. He is trying to take a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, to make his own secret recipe. 

“I always wanted to fight. I wrestled for wrestling… but as soon as I started doing MMA—I realized my wrestling is phenomenal for MMA. My wrestling caters to MMA, it is a high-paced, unorthodox, scrambling type. A lot of movement and positions. I only have split seconds to secure something. I don’t need perfection…I wanted to wrestle like Ben Askren but fight like GSP. I want to add a few more elements, but I love his approach to his sport,” Spohn elaborates.

We continued to talk about the early days of his career for awhile. 

Spohn: I came into MMA, not just wanting to be the wrestler who only wrestles. So I spent my first few months only doing boxing and kickboxing. I took two boxing matches before MMA. The balance for me is I try to seek out things I don’t understand. 

Templin: How do you remember boxing? 

Spohn: I just remember it being different from wrestling. You could win spectacularly and still get injured. Once you accept that death is inevitable… then you stop worrying about it. It will happen at some point… whether in the cage or 28 years. I carry that mentality in my everyday life… I’ve had many deaths in my life. You aren’t guaranteed shit. I wake up every day, and I say, “what can I get out of today?”

Spohn knows what he wants, and he knows the cost. He sees what it takes to accomplish his goals, and he intends and grabbing them, and even in defeat, he will take something away from the day. He is just that kind of guy.

Spohn fights on May 28th. If you like bright minds, a unique perspective on life, and a chaotic entertaining fighter, tune into the UFC fight pass and watch Spohn go to work.

Sports Strength

One Thing That MMA Does Better Than Boxing

Winning is easy. Can you turn a loss into a lesson?

It is one of my favorite things about MMA. The sport is so unpredictable, a loss is bound to happen eventually. I don’t feel that boxing treats losses the same way and it’s really a shame.

Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal, Conor McGregor, Michael Chandler, and Charles Oliveira have all suffered an L along the way.

On December 11th of 2010, Charles Oliveira suffered a submission defeat to Jim Miller. Oliveira would go 8-8 in his next 16 fights. People questioned whether or not he could hang with the elite competition of the UFC. But then, things changed.

Oliveira went on an eight-fight win streak and challenge for the lightweight belt. Last Saturday, after a shaky first round where he was clearly hurt and knocked down, Oliveira knocked out Michael Chandler in the second round and captured UFC gold. This wasn’t a superstar getting a big “push.” This wasn’t even an underdog story. This was the story of a fighter.

The joy on Oliveira’s face was unmatched. It was a decade’s worth of work all coming together.

Even Drake knows that it is not about the W’s and L’s.

Over the year’s it seems that we have seen a change in how fighters immediately respond to losses. McGregor infamously says, “gracious in victory and defeat.” Dustin Poirier was written off after losses to McGregor and Michael Johnson.

I talked with Randy Costa this week about his teammate, Michael Chandler. We discussed how gracious Chandler was after being knocked out.

Again. Winning is easy. Losing is hard. But turning that loss into a lesson… a chance for growth… is what really matters.

Sports Strength

Randy Costa Discusses UFC’s Marijuana Testing Policy and UFC 262

On this week’s episode of “In The Fight,” Randy Costa returns to the show. This time, Costa reacts to the mayhem of UFC 262 with Bo Templin and they look at the new king of the lightweight division.

Bo asks Costa a few questions about the fights over the weekend, specifically about Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira. They also discuss the savagery displayed by Jacare Souza, during what could have been his final bout.

Costa is set to take on Adrian Yanez in July, but the two wanted to sneak onto the UFC 262 event in Houston, which is Yanez’s hometown. It wasn’t able to happen and Costa explained how Texas’ marijuana regulations were part of the reason why.

After that, they have some fun and play matchmaker for some potential future fights.

Costa and Bo have built nice chemistry with each other and continue to build upon the previous conversations they’ve had.

Sports Strength

A Closer Look At The One Thing Boxing Does Better Than MMA

So many times, you will hear people talk about the differences between MMA and boxing. I truly do love both. And recently, you have probably heard a lot of people say that MMA is surpassing boxing as the elite combat sport. Each has pros and cons, but there is one thing that boxing does better than MMA.

Last week, fight fans got an incredible high-level championship fight between Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders. It was skillful, it was action-packed, and it felt like the world’s attention was captured for that time. After some quality back and forth rounds, Canelo eventually landed a sensational uppercut and hurt Saunders.

Saunders pushed through the remainder of the round but failed to answer the bell. His corner waved off the fight, citing a broken bone near his eye as a concern. And while Saunders never said to stop the fight, there seem to be some fans who are saying he didn’t vocalize his desire to continue.

Now, there is some context required with the Saunders situation. Earlier this year, he criticized Daniel Dubois for “quitting” in the ring. In summary, he said he would have to be dragged out of the ring before quitting.

This just feels crazy to me. This is a career-threatening injury. The primary job of the cornermen is to protect their fighter. That is their job.

And if I’m honest, I think we should see more of this in MMA. There are so few examples of corners throwing in the towel in MMA, and it is a shame. One of the only ones I can think of is Nick Diaz throwing in the towel for Nate Diaz when he was head kicked by Josh Thompson.

With everything considered, I find it bizarre when fans criticize or coach from home.

ESPECIALLY, in the moments right after. Once we found out it was an orbital fracture, how could you justify continuing?

I think the lesson to take away is that stopping these fighters might be frustrating at the moment, but we fans at home have no business voicing our opinions. Pulling a fighter from a match can save careers and create longevity for some of our favorite warriors.

Isn’t that the most important thing?

Sports Strength

4 MMA Fights in May to Keep an Eye on

There are many great days during the month of May: Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, to name a couple. However, this year we will add fight days to that list considering the amount of quality MMA bouts occurring in the 31-day span. Ranging from places like Kallang, Singapore to Uncasville, Connecticut, there are hundreds of
high-level MMA cards taking place this month. 

Some of May’s biggest scraps will include a UFC lightweight championship bout between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler on May 15th, a sequel Bellator featherweight title fight between champ Cris Cyborg and Leslie Smith on May 21st, and a bantamweight clash involving Rob Font and Cody Garbrandt on May 22nd.

Although we’ve had a few fights fall through, Anthony Johnson vs. Yoel Romero and Nate Diaz vs. Leon Edwards, it’s safe to say MMA fans are in for a treat this month. 

The big-name fights are always the most anticipated ones, and for a good reason. However, many fights aren’t headliners that will leave your eyes glued to the screen and force you to the edge of your seat. These four fights are ones that might be flying under your radar.

1. Tony Ferguson (25-5) vs. Beneil Darisuh (20-4-1): May 15th at UFC 262

Stylistically, this could be the fight of the year. Two crafty jiu-jitsu black belts with somewhat conflicting striking styles make this quite the chess match, not to mention the abundant amount of violence each brings to the octagon every time they appear. This was originally the third fight to last on the UFC 262 card until Diaz vs. Edwards was postponed; now it is the co-main event. 

Tony Ferguson will go into this fight looking to end a two-fight skid. As arguably, the most unorthodox fighter in the UFC, Ferguson brings things to the cage most fighters rarely see. From his sneaky iminari rolls to his vicious elbows, fighting Tony Ferguson is a whole different ball game. The 10-year UFC veteran, former interim UFC lightweight champion, and TUF 13 winner is being written off after two tough losses. Considering his durability and his legacy, Tony Ferguson should never be ruled out of a fight.

Dariush is an absolute beast as well. Aside from his crafty submission skillset, Beneil Dariush is a savage on the feet and is definitely not afraid to stand and bang. In 25 pro fights, Dariush has been to just seven decisions. Training out of Kings MMA with coach Rafael Cordeiro and teammates like Kelvin Gastelum, Marvin Vettori, and Giga Chikadze, Dariush is well equipped for just about any battle. Dariush’s striking gets occasionally overlooked as well. Although he throws every strike with the intention to end his opponent’s night, he’s technically sound on the feet. 

As he’s on a 6-fight win streak, it’s obvious he will be a tough matchup for Ferguson. However, there is just no way this isn’t an awesome fight come May 15th.

2. Aviv Gozali (5-0) vs. Sean Felton (5-2-1): May 21st Bellator 259

Aviv Gozali is one of the most highly touted prospects in Bellator. The 20-year-old Israeli native is one of the craftiest submission specialists on the Bellator roster. Not to mention he is the owner of the fastest submission in Bellator history, with an 11-second heel hook in August 2019 against Eduard Muravitskiy. Also, all five of Gozali’s wins come by way of first-round submission. The Renzo Gracie product, and New York resident, does his training at LAW MMA with the likes of the legendary Ray Longo. It is safe to say Gozali may be flying under the radar of some, so jump on the train while you can because he will be a star. 

Sean Felton is a 7-fight KOTC veteran and hasn’t stepped into the cage in over a year and a half. This will cause him to close at quite the sizable underdog. However, he is no slouch. Representing WNY MMA, he fights out of the same gym as Bellator bantamweight contender Patchy Mix. Felton has three of his five wins by finish, two in the first round. Also, he has never been finished. It’s safe to say the well-rounded Felton will be a checkpoint to see where the 20-year-old super prospect is at. If there is a fight that fits the saying “don’t blink,” it’s this one.

3. Austin Vanderford (10-0) vs. Fabian Edwards (9-1): May 21st Bellator 259

This is quite the clash of styles. Vanderford is quite the grappler, and Edwards is quite the kickboxer. This will prove who the better all-around martial artist is. Both these fighters have ties in the MMA world outside of themselves. Vanderford is the husband of former UFC and current BKFC fighter, Paige VanZant and Edwards is the brother of top UFC welterweight Leon Edwards. 

Austin Vanderford is a force in Bellator’s middleweight division. As he is a powerful and dominant wrestler, he’s also a purple belt in BJJ. He trains out of American Top Team with some of the best fighters on the planet and brings the fight to his opponents. Vanderford has finished six of his ten wins and can finish you with whatever, wherever or he can grind you out and make you empty the gas tank early. Overall, Mr. VanZant is a very well-rounded martial artist and gets a good test when he steps in with Edwards on the 21st. 

Fabian Edwards suffered the first loss of his career in his last bout as Sanford MMA’s, Costello van Steenis took him down via split decision back in September of 2020. In fact, that was the first loss of his career, pro or amateur. However, I don’t expect that to phase the quality martial artist. He is a warrior. “The Assassin” has six of his nine wins by finish as well and gets it done by submission and KO. This will be interesting due to the fact that this will be Edwards’ first bout in America in his fighting career. Bellator should and will market this as expected and give these two the exposure they deserve. 

4. Jared Vanderaa (11-5) vs. Justin Tafa (4-2): UFC Vegas 27 May 22nd

Matching up two heavyweights this size is a recipe for a finish. Justin Tafa, the brother of kickboxing force Junior Tafa, is also known for his quality kickboxing. He is the former XFC heavyweight champion in his home country of Australia. The UFC rarely signs prospects that are 3-0 in pro-MMA prior to their UFC debut; however, Tafa was an exception. 

After a brutal KO loss to Yorgan De Castro in his UFC debut, he got back on the right track by knocking out Juan Adams in just two minutes. Going into this fight, he’s coming off a controversial split decision loss to the streaking Carlos Felipe. Tafa needed to improve his gas tank and takedown defense a bit from the last bout, and Vanderaa is the perfect opponent to prove that against.

Vanderaa is good just about everywhere. He has solid wrestling, good striking, and heavy leg kicks. When getting a shot on Dana White’s Contender Series against Harry Hunsucker, it was pure domination from Vanderaa, finishing him in just three and a half minutes. However, Vanderaa’s UFC debut didn’t go very well at all, as Sergey Spivak gave him a taste of his own medicine. Training out of Team Quest with the likes of Dan Henderson and Sam Alvey, it’s fair to say Vanderaa is someone who flies under the radar. Vanderaa has a very underrated skillset and is always in entertaining fights. I generally like this matchup, and there’s no way this isn’t a war on May 22nd.