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By Alvin Benjamin Carter III, MMA Torch Specialist
In recent months the issue of fighter pay has been discussed on television, the blogosphere, and on just about any MMA website you might frequent. Fighters have stated their cases for how fair or unfair their wages are, and promotions have been able to give their side of the story as well.
While this debate has been going on, I thought it interesting to look at how amateur athletes approach the sport even though they are not getting paid at all. These fighters are the people that eventually populate undercards if they are successful and sometimes move on to main card stardom. Some MMA fans might write off amateurs because of lack of name value, but the truth is they are the future talent pool and they are currently doing it for free.
No matter your personal stance on how much fighters should earn, all combat athletes should be respected for entering the ring or cage. Amateurs should not be any different.
I recently sat down with Tim Leary who trains with MMA coaches Paul “Lefty” Rosado and Eric Grossman at Redline Fight Sports in Cambridge, MA to discuss his amateur career and his future as professional mixed martial artist. He is fighting for the Amateur 170 lbs. Title at the American Fighting Organization’s Night of Champions on Friday, April 13 in Mansfield, MA.
Here is a link to clips from Tim Leary’s most recent fight in January to give you an idea of what this young man from Massachusetts can do click here.
Now that you have seen that, I welcome you to the life of an amateur mixed martial artist.
Alvin: How long have you been competing in mixed martial arts?
Tim: I just finished my second fight, and my first fight in 2010.
A: Have you trained any other combat sports prior to entering mixed martial arts.
T: Yes, I have a few years experience with Muay Thai, and I have always been practicing martial arts.
A: Right now you are currently an amateur. Do you have any plans to go pro?
T: Yes, definitely. I plan to hopefully debut as a professional early next year.
A: I really want to flesh out what it means to be an amateur fighter. What are some of the difficulties of having a regularly scheduled life, and at the same time making fighting your top priority?
T: It is tough. It is tough to be in school, but I am fortunate enough to just have to worry about school. I do not work on top of that besides a little bit of personal training here and there, so I am pretty fortunate to be in the military and get paid to be a student. I can focus in on the sport.
A: You mentioned being in the military. Can you tell me more about that?
T: I have been in the Army National Guard since 2007, and I recently deployed to Afghanistan and I returned in August of 2011.
A: Thank you for your service to the Country.
T: You are welcome.
A: There seems to be a trend of veterans competing in mixed martial arts. Did you see that meet a lot of people that were into MMA when you were deployed?
T: Yeah. My unit only had a couple of guys that were interested in this type of sport, but I do know a lot of soldiers who compete in MMA. They actually have a combatives team for the army called the All Army Combatives Team, and it is actually a sanctioned sport now in the military. They have a big competition every year.
A: That is interesting. I did not know that.
T: Yeah, they actually wear their uniforms and belts. They fight it up. It is pretty cool.
A: So when is your next fight?
T: I am fighting April 13 for the Amateur 170 lbs. Title for AFO.
A: That’s the American Fighting Organization. A lot of great fights come through there. What is your record right now?
T: It’s 2-0 as an amateur.
A: Both of those fights were in the same organization.
T: Yes, both of those fights were in the AFO.
A: How did you win your first two fights.
T: I won my first fight in the first round via rear-naked-choke, and the second one was a knockout due to ground and pound.
A: Can you give me a glimpse of what your training is like because a lot of times it seems that amateurs making excelling and making the transition pro and professional fighters is if they are getting paid or not for the fight.
T: I do not see amateurs as a different level of competition, though it usually turns out that way. I always prepare for an amateur fight the same way I would prepare for a UFC main card fight. It does not matter to me. I always want to put on the best performance I can. I train usually at least twice a day five or six days of week. One day of just to rest, maybe an extra day of rest if I feel a little too beaten up.
A: Do you tend to mix it up with different styles. Are you more a Muay Thai guy even though you are training at Redline Fight Sports which has its stand up base in Chinese kickboxing?
T: Now that I am training at Redline Fight Sports, I am trying to open up my game a little bit more. Coming from my last gym I had a very of a strict Muay Thai background. I was practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and working on boxing and wrestling, but I definitely consider myself a Muay Thai technician. Now that I am here, a lot of the trainers here have helped me open up my game so I can adapt better to MMA and really be a more well rounded fighter.
A: Where do you see MMA going in the next couple of years, and where do you see your place in it?
T: I think the sky's the limit for MMA right now. It is pretty clear that it has gained complete acceptance by the mainstream. Maybe there are a few groups of people out there that are extra conservatives who are still opposed to it, but I think it is here to stay. I think in the next few years I will be a pretty well known name in the sport, hopefully.
A: When you were getting into MMA who was your favorite, and who do you think is at the top of the heap now?
T: Georges St. Pierre obviously. I really idolize him, his work ethic, his mentality towards the game. Everything about him is exactly where I want to be, but maybe a bit better kickboxer though.
A: I agree with you on Georges St. Pierre, but he often gets flack for leaving it to the judges even if he won thirty-three rounds straight until his fight with Jake Shields. Do you think not finishing fights should tarnish the perceptions of somebody’s ability?
T: No, I can see where people are coming from. The fan base wants excitement because they paid money to see a show, but if they don’t like watching someone like that fight then do not watch the person fight. That is his style; that is how he dominates and everyone has their own way of winning and he is doing that. Don’t Hate.
A: Well said. Historically, fighters got into MMA with a specific base like BJJ, a form of stand up, and now wrestling is a popular and effective base. Do see more people coming into the sport with MMA is the base rather than one specific martial art?
T: I think there is a certain group of people who are coming in like that, and those are people really helping the sport. Those are true athletes and they are going to progress mixed martial arts farther and farther. I think to a certain level that people coming from a wrestling background through college and high school wrestling are as well. There are people that say they are ruining the sport, but I do not agree with that at all. [Wrestling] is a solid athletic base for progressing through other martial arts. It gives a certain level of athleticism definitely through all those years of intense training, but I think I would much more like to see people coming in much more open minded and practicing other disciplines before they compete because nobody likes to see a lay-and-pray.
A: One last question. What is your pound-for-pound dream matchup?
T: Jon Jones and Anderson Silva at 205. That could definitely happen. It is either that or GSP moves up for Anderson but I do not think that would happen. But, I think two tall lanky athletes lack that (Jones and Silva) would make for a great fight.
A: Sounds good to me. Thank you so much for your time.
A rundown of Tim Leary’s AFO Title fight will be posted in a Local Scene article later on Friday evening.
You can follow me on twitter @awwwsnap
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