Thursday, March 27, 2014

10 Questions With Rich Cantolina

Pennsylvania is quickly becoming a breeding ground for elite MMA fighters. There are several promotions throughout Pennsylvania providing opportunities for fighters to compete against top-level competition. Like the saying goes: "Steel sharpens steel" and that seems to be true here in the "Keystone State".

Even though MMA has been allowed in Pennsylvania for several years some fighters, especially at the amateur level, chose to fight in other states because Pennsylvania used to have rules limiting the contact of a fight. Since then this has been changed, and a two-tier system is now in place. Amateur fighters with enough fights can fight under the "advanced amateur rules" which are more similar to professional rules for MMA.

But before this was the way things are fighters routinely chose to fight in states like Ohio, Virginia, and even Indiana. Before this most recent boom of popularity for MMA the pool of fighters available was limited, and it is not uncommon for fighters to face each other more than once, especially if one organization was known for being the premier MMA promotion in the area.

Now it is common for fighters to face each other multiple times on fight cards for different promotions here in Pennsylvania and also in states like Ohio when rival promotions try to put the best fighters against each other to make the most exciting fight cards for fans to enjoy. This is one of the benefits of MMA becoming so popular, and when the best fighters face each other the level of competition gets better.

Pittsburgh's own Rich Cantolina is one such fighter. He spent alot of his early amateur career fighting events in Ohio, mostly for Yankee Lake Brawlroom. Cantolina had varied success in Ohio, and his reputation for being a tough fighter led to Complete Devastation MMA choosing him to replace an injured Cody Karlheim to face Zachery Shutlz for the vacant CDMMA Featherweight (145lb ammy) title at CDMMA 8 back on March 2nd of 2013. It was an action-packed fight and Cantolina ended up winning the fight by Unanimous Decision. Then in November Rich faced Central Pennsylvania's Ethan Goss for the Pinnacle Fighting Championships Featherweight (145lb ammy) title at Pittsburgh Challenge Series 5. This fight was an all-out war resulting in a Split Decision win for Cantolina - earning him his 2nd championship title in less than 9 months.

These past two wins have elevated Cantolina's status, and many people consider him to be one of the best (if not THE best) amateur Featherweights in Pennsylvania & the surrounding area, along with fighters like Goss. If there was an Ohio counterpart to Cantolina, it would have to be 10 - 1 Jerrell Hodge. While Cantolina was fighting for Yankee Lake Brawlroom Hodge was tearing up the scene for Ohio based promotion NAAFS. Back in December of 2012 Hodge defeated Central PA fighter Shane Valko at NAAFS: Night of Champions 2012 to win the NAAFS Bantamweight (135lb ammy) title. Then earlier this year in January Hodge faced Ethan Goss at Caged Madness 27, winning the Featherweight title by Rear Naked Choke over Goss in the 3rd round. 

Prior to that, in October of 2013 Hodge defeated Cheyne Jenkins at NAAFS: Combat Challenge 25 by Arm-triangle Choke. Jenkins is a fighter from Cantolina's past, and both times Cantolina faced Jenkins (both times for a title belt) it was Jenkins who came out on top. So, with two common opponents between them some people might think that Hodge having the better performance in those 3 fights might mean that the match-up between Hodge and Cantolina this Saturday equals a huge advantage for Jerrell. 

But that would be too simple, and doesn't take into account intangibles like heart, determination, hard work, or the fact that this fight will take place in Cantolina's hometown of Pittsburgh. Sure, Hodge's hometown of Cleveland is about 2 hour's drive from Pittsburgh... I am willing to bet that the Greentree Sportsplex is going to be filled with fight fans cheering Cantolina on as he attempts to defend his Pinnacle FC title. 

Still, there are people who are saying Rich is the underdog. Over at StandThemUp.Org many people are picking Hodge to win this fight. I like both fighters, and have interviewed them both. Trying to remain neutral, I did a long, hard study of these fighters and their records. Both have two titles, both are considered to be very tough fighters, and both are known for exciting fights. 

I have called this fight a "Clash of Titans" awhile back, and I stand by that assessment. This fight pretty much determines who the top dog of the 145lb ammys in the area. I expect these two to face each other again, especially when they both turn pro... but for now, this Saturday decides who the best is at Featherweight. If I had to pick a winner, I would say that I am leaning towards Cantolina. Even though he only defeated Goss by Split Decision when Hodge won by Unanimous Decision & even though Hodge defeated Jenkins while Cantolina lost both times he fought Cheyne - I'm predicting that IF the fight doesn't end early by TKO/KO then it will be a Decision win for Cantolina. I honestly feel that Rich's hard work & determination plus the home crowd advantage will result in Cantolina successfully defending his title. .

We will find out for sure this Saturday. But before Hodge & Cantolina step into the cage to figure out who is the better fighter Rich took time out of his busy training schedule to answer a few questions for me. I am grateful and I hope you enjoy reading this as I have putting this interview article together. I must admit that I had been guilty of underestimating this tough fighter originally from Ambridge, PA. Back when he was calling out Cody Karlheim as he was recovering from a knee injury I was firmly backing Karlheim. But I am glad that I looked beyond the surface and learned more about Rich. There is more than meets the eye here, and I definitely feel that once Cantolina turns pro it might not be long before a regional or national promotion signs him to fight for them.

Until someone like Bellator, WSOF, or the UFC snatches him away, do yourself a favor and go see this exciting fighter fight locally. If you don't already know who he is, here's your change to get to know him better. Here's 10 Questions With Rich Cantolina.

Me with Rich at CDMMA8 before he won the CDMMA Featherweight (145 lb ammy) Title

1. Tell us a little about yourself. 

I hope eventually I get to the point in life when I do not have to introduce myself but for now I am Rich Cantolina. My current record is 10-6 and I currently fight in the Featherweight division (145lbs or 66KGs for you overseas folks).  My title defense fight March 29th will be my last amateur fight as I will turn pro after this fight and head to the 135 pound division and if my body permits the 125 lb division.  I do currently have 2 titles.  I am the Featherweight champion for both Pinnacle FC and Complete Devastation MMA.

2. How did you get started in MMA?

I got started in MMA through my high school wrestling coach, Coach Fitzpatrick.  His son was a boxer and worked out at the gym nearby and he said they were starting a MMA program and that I had a little too much aggression and that it might be a good thing for me to check out.  So I started out with Coach Dan Roppo at World Class MMA along with Adam Milstead.  Coach Roppo was one hell of a coach and the word spread fast of the gym and team of killers he was putting together.  I was at World Class for a long time. I loved the gym atmosphere, my coach, and my teammates.  Coach had me fight as soon as I turned 18 which was back in 2008 at Yankee Lake Brawlroom.  World Class Gym was getting bigger and bigger so we moved a few times to bigger gyms as I continued my amateur career.  I was timid to leave World Class because I’m a very loyal person and Coach and I had an amazing relationship.  The only reason I left is because I felt that I had reached that point in my career where I needed to become a little fish in a big pond again and Pittsburgh Fight Club was more like an ocean not a pond.  It seemed that Mic and company at FCP were assembling an elite squad of killers and coaches for each discipline so I jumped on the opportunity when it came about.  I left on good terms with World Class and I’m still friends with Coach Roppo and the World Class Fighters like Travis List and Jason Bailey and James Reddick.  I’m very thankful for everything that Coach Roppo did for me, he literally took me from a kid who couldn’t throw a jab to a complete mixed martial artist.  But FCP was my new home and I embraced the ass whopping that awaited me there every day.  Over the past two years FCP has become one of the elite gyms in the country producing top notch amateur and professional fighters.

3. What gym(s) do you train at and what is it like training there?

Well I guess I answered this one already but I am training at Fight Club Pittsburgh.  Like I said they have assembled the best fighters in the tri state area into one elite squad.  I’ve been there for 2 years and every day of training since I started has been hell.  I get murdered on a daily basis but it’s what I needed it keeps me in my place and makes me stride to get better, actually I don’t have a choice if I don’t get better I’m going to get hurt because of the talent in that room.  Our fight team record speaks for itself and the biggest names are fighting out of our gym.  Mark Cherico, Cody Garbrandt, Justin Steave, Khama Worthy, Anthony Durnell, Shane Chojnacki, Ryan Arreola, Jake Schilling, Matt Conahan are all names I’m sure everyone recognizes as the best of the best.  It’s not only the fight team that makes FCP what it is, it’s the way everyone there leaves their egos at the door and treats every person the same way.  I have never been to another gym that treats people the way everyone is treated at FCP.  Mic and Melissa have made FCP into a family and I’m just thankful to be a part of it.

4. What do you feel your strengths are as a fighter? What do you feel you need to work on to be a more complete fighter?

I believe my greatest strength is my intelligence.  I have a way of picking up my opponents tendencies by watching videos of them and from the first step they make in the cage I take it all in, and then BOOM I exploit them.  I have the ability to slow things down and think three moves ahead but many fighters don’t do that they just go out there like an animal.  I like to call it controlled aggression that I have, I think of each fight as a chess match. Obviously my reach for being 6 foot 1 inches at 145lbs is a big advantage so I use my reach to keep my opponents at bay until they make a mistake after they are frustrated.  I’ve been working on my weaknesses and I think they all have improved to the point now that I have confidence no matter where the fight goes.  People underestimate my wrestling ability but if you look back I did make it to WPIALs my senior year in AAA in PA which is no easy task, I just have a tendency to not use my wrestling because I like to stand and bang to give the crowd their moneys worth.

5. You have won titles for two different promotions in your last 2 fights. What is it like to have such success and to become a fighter some people are calling the best/toughest amateur Featherweight in the Pennsylvania area?

I never imagined in a million years when I walked into the gym on the first day that 6 years down the road I would hold two amateur belts in two of the best organizations in the state.  I remember when Coach Roppo told me a long time ago there will come a time in your career where you just become so comfortable in there and can slow things down and that’s when you know you have turned the corner.  I have finally reached that point in my career now which is why I’ve hit my stride.  Many people ask why I haven’t turned pro yet and why I have so many fights well the answer hasn’t changed.  I started so young that I had the luxury of waiting to turn pro where many ammy fighters have to turn pro due to their age or financial situation.  I wanted to make sure I fought the best around and tested myself before making that jump.  I am very humbled that many people speak so highly of me and to honest its quite surreal but I couldn’t imagine my life any other way right now.  I don’t want to only be known as a great fighter I want also want to be a good ambassador of the sport.  Many people hear cage fighter and automatically think that you are some convicted felon or a bar brawler.  I want to change that stereotype and have people think of mma fighters as contributing members of society.

6. You are set to fight another highly rated Bantamweight, Jerrell Hodge, this Saturday at Pinnacle Fighting Championships Pittsburgh Challenge Series 6. What is your expectations for this fight and what does this fight mean to you?

This fight is the fight that could change my life forever.  Jerrell is a kid who has beaten the best of the best and is out there on everyone’s radar as one of the best up and comers in the game today.  I don’t like Jerrell as a person at all but I do respect what he has done in his career which is why I feel this is my ultimate test to see if I’m ready to turn pro.  I’m tired of everyone skimming over my name in the best featherweights around conversation and once I beat Hodge and keep my title people will finally recognize that I am the real deal.  March 29th will be a date I talk to my kids about someday.  It’s the ultimate underdog story, no one gave me a chance to make it this far but I proved all those people wrong, now people are saying I don’t even belong in the same cage as Hodge and all the journalists are predicting hes going to beat me.  Someday my kids will be able to tell all their friends that their dad beat up Jerrell Hodge back in 2014.

7. If you could play match-maker, who would you like to fight? Is there a fighter you would like to fight again? 

Phew this is a tough question, but if I could fight anyone right now I would honestly choose Jerrell Hodge.  He’s the biggest name in my division in the featherweights and I always want to fight the best.  I would rather be 15-10 and have fought the best there was then to be 7-0 and have only fought bums.  I am no bum hunter that’s for sure.  If I could fight anyone again It would be Cheyne Jenkins and no this is not a call out.  Cheyne bested me 2 times and I hate losing, hell I threw my guess who board as a kid when my mom would beat me that’s just how bad I hate losing.  Cheyne is a good kid and a talented fighter so I don’t have any regrets of fighting him two times, it made me better and drove me to get to this point.  I would also love to fight my friend Ethan Goss again.  Those 9 minutes in the cage with that terminator were the most fun 9 minutes of my life.  I have nothing but respect for Ethan and I know he will be the next king of thefeatherweights in the ammy division.  Ethan is just one of those kids that shows up ready for a war and those are the fights I love to be in.

8. You have talked about turning pro. What are your plans for the future? When will you fight again & who will it be against?
After this fight I am going to take a break for a bit and try to figure out a schedule on how to manage being a professional fighter with also being a safety engineer. It’s tough as an amateur but as a pro you really have to dedicate your life to fighting so I would need to find a way to work, train, lift, and still find time to spend with my family and friends.  I also have always dreamed of a being a father and hopefully in the near future that is in my plans.  I would love to come back as a pro 135 lb fighter for Pinnacle FC and make my run to the big show.

9. Who are some of your role models?

My parents and my sister are my biggest role models.  There are not many families like mine, we are all very close, we live on the same street, we eat family dinner every Sunday together as one big family, and we all go to church together.  My dad has never missed any of my sporting events from the time of teeball to this Saturday's fight, he would go into work at 3AM just so he could get off early to come whether it was a home or away event.  My family is neither rich nor poor but my parents worked their ass off every day to give me and my sister the best possible life they possibly could and for that I’m thankful.  They are the ones that showed me it doesn’t matter what anyone says about you as long as you work hard and follow your dream anything in this world is possible.  I know this sounds funny but I really do not look up to that many big name fighters of course I have my favorites like Jose Aldo but none of them are my role models.  My role models are actually local fighters.  I have been inspired by many local fighters but 4 of them really have touched my life in different ways and they all should be recognized for what people fail to see, the behind the scenes, their true identities.  First Mark Cherico,  Mark is one of the biggest names in MMA right now because of his undefeated record and his ability to finish his opponents.  People only know and see the Mark Cherico in the cage, the bright shorts, the flashy entrance, and the definition of a true mixed martial artist.  I see a different Mark Cherico, I see the father Mark Cherico.  Like I stated earlier its very difficult to be a professional fighter and have a full time job and add in a family and boy do you have a tough life.  Mark has showed me that its possible, he works full time at FCP, fights as a professional against the very best, and still finds time to raise his daughter and have a great relationship with his wife Nicole. People do not see the amazing father that Mark is.  The first day that my girlfriend April was at the gym, Marks wife Nicole had brought Aubree into the gym to hangout.  April's first comment after leaving was how cute their family was and how great of parents they were.  Ask any fighters girlfriend or wife and they will tell you how difficult it is to date or be married to a fighter between never seeing us, the miserable mood swings from cutting weight, and the stress of watching us live makes a relationship near impossible.  Nicole Cherico is one of a kind and has proven that its possible, she is a great person and an even better mother, if any girl who dates a fighter is looking for a role model, she is the one.  Yes I look up to Mark for his abilities in the cage but I am inspired to live a very similar life to his in the future.  Next Cody Garbrandt, Cody is the biggest name right now after his win over Dom and now its easy to for everyone to see that "No Love" is on the fast track to the big show.  I have gotten to become very close friends with Cody over the past year and I look up to him for many reasons. First, I know in college how hard it was for me to be away from my family and I was only an hour away, Cody is very similar to me in how close he is with his family so I know how hard it was for him to pack up and move to Cali to train with Team Alpha Male, but that’s how driven this kid is to reach his dream, the sacrifices he makes are very inspirational.  Next is his relationship with Maddux who is a young boy battling cancer, and at his last fight I got to witness that relationship first hand.  At one point I actually had to leave Cody's locker room because I was starting to tear up a bit and I did not want to affect Cody's preparation.  These two make the perfect team,  to watch the smile on Maddux’s face from just being around Cody was life changing, it was easy to see the positive effect that Cody has had on this child's life.  At one point right before we walked out Cody asked Maddux to pick which hand he wanted him to knockout Dom with, and Maddux without hesitation chose the right hand!!!  I want to take that kid to Vegas with me because he was spot on with that one.  Everyone in Stage AE got to see the relationship of Cody and Maddux that night as well when after his victory Maddux ran into the cage and jumped into Cody's arms.  I'm pretty sure if everyone wasn’t brawling in the stands there would have not been a dry eye in that arena.  Anyways at first glance many people would be intimidated by Cody because of the tattoos but he's living proof not to judge a book by its cover.  I also have two other role models, Justin Wilcox and Anthony Durnell.  Both of these gentlemen have inspired me in many ways also.  I am inspired by both of them because they are both great fathers, professional fighters, and they both live out their religious beliefs in their everyday lives.  Like I stated before I am a religious person, I do attend church with my family but both of these men have shown me even though its difficult at times its possible to live our everyday lives according to our beliefs.  I still remember the first day I met Justin Wilcox at FCP, I was like holy shit that’s The Silverback from Strikeforce and Bellator.  He treated me the same as everyone else, you would have never known he has fought for the biggest promotions out there.  He left his ego at the door and was eager to assist any of us in any way possible.  I know that was a long answer but I give credit where credit is due and those men need recognized for being great ambassadors of our sport.

10. Is there anyone you'd like to thank?

First I would like to thank all my coaches past and present for making me the fighter I am today.  Thank you to my teammates at FCP for being my second family and pushing me to get better every day.  Thank you to Mic and Melissa and everyone else at Fight Club for all that you do behind the scenes for all of us!  Thank you to my girlfriend April.  There are not many girls like this one!  She comes to the gym everyday with me and supports this dream.  It’s not easy dating me because of my busy life but somehow she puts up with me.  Thank you to my family for always supporting me and showing me that hard work pays off.  Thank you to my sponsors for treating me like family and helping me make this dream a reality.  AutoEffects Monaca, Beemac Trucking, Lionheart Tattoo in Lawerenceville, NOLAC, MetCon Photos, The Unseen Armada who have supported me since day 1, Boze Kennels, and Chippewa Chiropractic Clinic for keeping my body in fighting shape. Thank you to Pinnacle FC for providing me an opportunity to fight for one the best promotion in the world. Thank you to Jeff and others who give us a chance to get our names out there.  Finally thank you to God, for blessing me with everything that I have in my amazing life.  Philippians 4:13

With FCP team-mate Jaime Chesney

The New Pinnacle Featherweight Champion (Ammy)

Pinnacle FC & Complete Devastation Featherweight (Ammy) Champion

Rich Cantolina Vs. Zachery Shultz for the Featherweight Title at CDMMA 8

(If you can't make it to Pittsburgh this Saturday to see the fights, you can purchase the iPPV over at StandThemUp.Org)

(Some photos by Christopher Nolan - MetCon Photos - visit

Sunday, March 23, 2014

10 Questions With Jaime Chesney

If you don't already know, women's MMA is blowing up here in Pennsylvania! I remember seeing the first women's fight in Central Pennsylvania when Cortney Kern fought Maggie O'Neill at Complete Devastation 7 back in November of 2012. It wasn't the first women's MMA fight in all of Pennsylvania, but for the Central region it was something new. Maggie won by unanimous decision, but it was pure action from the first moment to the final bell. The women in MMA have a reputation for bringing it, and eight months later one of the biggest fights in women's MMA for Pennsylvania went down in Pittsburgh between two amateur fighters.

At Gladiators of the Cage: North Shore's Rise to Power 2 on July 20, 2013 in what G.o.t.C announcer Dan Bogen called "The Cat-fight on the Turnpike" (not the best choice I say, but that's what he called it at the time) because it was between Philadelphia fighter Jessica Richman (1 - 0 when this fight happened) and Pittsburgh's own Jaime Chesney. (making her amateur debut)

It was a knock-down drag-out brawl, and the crowd was roaring the entire time. In the end the judges scored the fight as a unanimous decision for Richman. During the fight Chesney either split or broke Richman's nose, and Jessica was bloodied in the process.

Four months later on November 27th Jaime fought Annie DeCrescente at Pinnacle Fighting Championships: Pittsburgh Challenge Series 5. Again it was another war that went to a decision, and unfortunately again it didn't go Chesney's way. DeCrescente won the fight by unanimous decision, but she knew that she had been in a fight because of the punishment she took from Jaime.

Some amateurs might lose hope after starting their MMA career with back-to-back losses, but Jaime Chesney isn't most people - or even most MMA amateurs. She has been a fighter for years, and if you count her Muay Thai fights with her MMA fights, at the time she would have had an 8 - 2 combat sports record. Jaime is not someone to give up easily, so she went back to the drawing board and trained harder with her Pittsburgh Fight Club team-mates.

She is a humble woman who definitely has a good head on her shoulders. I have spoken with her several times since that first fight, and I saw how she dealt with people who chose to make fun of her & her MMA record and kept moving forward with a positive attitude as she was set to fight again in the MMA cage - this time for Gladiators of the Cage: North Shore's Rise to Power 4 and the opponent would be Christina Cherkes. Jaime defeated Christina quickly, winning by Rear Naked Choke after just 1 minute 28 seconds of the very first round.

I am glad to see that Jaime got into the win column after some adversity in her MMA career. I have seen the video of her fights, and this is someone worth paying attention to. I honestly believe that big things are in her future, and if you don't already know the name Jaime Chesney you need to find out quick. This time next year you might be seeing her fight for a promotion like Invicta or even the UFC... so do yourself a favor and see her fight while she is still at the local level.

Awhile back I was lucky enough to be able to ask Jaime a few questions. I apologize for not getting this interview article posted sooner. It should have come out before her fight earlier this month, but at least you have the opportunity to learn more about this amazing person & exciting fighter. I want to thank her for taking the time to participate in the interview process. She is a daughter, a mother, and she is absolutely a fighter and a winner! I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have putting it together.

Here is 10 Questions With Jaime Chesney.

Jaime Chesney (l) Vs. Jessica Richman

1. Tell us a little about yourself. 

My name is Jaime Chesney, 33 years old. 135 bantamweight, Amateur, International Amateur Muay Thai Federation Champion

2. How did you get started in MMA?

As child, martial arts intrigued me. I didn't have any formal training until I was a teenager. I had no choice, but to learn how to protect myself. I was jumped pretty badly when I was 16 by 3 complete strangers. They surrounded me when I was coming home from work. I knew something was going down, as they were all dressed in back. The one girl pushed me… it was on, I threw the first punch. I had to get my hits in while I could. They hit me in the face with high heels and kicked me until I was in fetal position. Luckily, it was broken up by someone driving by, or I would’ve been in the hospital. With 2 black eyes, a bloody nose and a swollen face, I had to walk through my front door to see my mother. She called the police. I found out who they were and wanted my revenge. I heard they were going from neighborhood to neighborhood jumping random people and were bragging to a mutual friend about having my blood on their shirts. They weren’t done yet, a couple of weeks later they were driving around with 2 cars full of people with baseball bats looking for me, because they heard I wanted my revenge. I was afraid to leave my house for a while. That is when two friends from school asked if I wanted to go to a boxing / kickboxing gym with them. I did and was hooked. I am thankful for those thug chicks, because if it weren’t for them, I could be dead or on drugs, like half of the people I grew up with. I trained and fought all over for 8 years and was undefeated as a Muay Thai fighter. Then I stopped fighting to promote with Joe Cosentino (Beast of the East -April 2005 at Rostraver Ice Garden), raise my family, to finish my degree and to work. Fast forward 9 years to last spring, I was teaching private Muay Thai lessons, when I had an offer to fight MMA at Gladiators of the Cage. I had zero ground experience… but figured what the hell, why not?

3. What gym(s) do you train at and what is it like training there? 

I train at Fight Club Pittsburgh… “The Dark Side”. I love it! I have an amazing team, everyone wants to help each other to improve. My coaches, Anthony Durnell, Mark Cherico and Khama Worthy are experienced, talented and all around great people. They each add their own flavor to the mix. I am extremely thankful and honored to learn from and work with each of them and the team. The great thing about training there is the team camaraderie. We are all in each others corner. The support is amazing. I am still in disbelief at times when in the Monday night fighter’s class. I look around to see Tony in Mark going at it in one cage, Khama and Dan (Master White Fang) in the other, and numerous other teammates going at it round for round on the mats. I can’t believe I am a part of this. To me, it’s total greatness.

4. What do you feel your strengths are as a fighter? 

Punching people in the face and if I have to, I’ll get down to the nitty-gritty.

5. What do you feel you need to work on to be a more complete fighter?

Well, I am a striker and feel like a mentally challenged monkey on the ground… I do think wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu are fun! In hindsight, I have taken those last two fights prematurely. I fought 2 great wrestlers, and although I lost, I learned so much about the gaps in my game and what I need to improve upon.

6. You lost an epic battle against Jessica Richman at Gladiators of the Cage, what is next for you?

Yes, that was an epic battle for me, but it was so much fun I want to do it again! It was my first fight in 9 years, my first MMA fight with just 3 months of jitz and some take down defense training, and also my first loss ever. That fight was supposed to be my “One &Only” MMA fight, hence that’s what it says on my shirts, but I planned on a win. I won’t go out like that. My daughters, Alexis 10, Sophia 5, said “Mom, you just have to win”. I can’t disappoint my girls! I teach them the age old saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. And they used that saying on me. I have to practice what I preach.

My next fight is on March 15th at Stage AE on Gladiators of the Cage’s promotion against an unknown. It’s a big deal to me… a make it or brake it fight. I went from being undefeated 9-0 in Muay Thai to 0-2 in MMA. I don’t plan on being 0-3 that is for sure. I have so much support, that this fight is not just about me anymore, it’s bigger… I want to win for those who believe in me, my daughters, family, my team and the crazy amount of friends and fans that have been coming out of the woodwork to support this 0-2 fighter. I have never felt the faith people have in me like this before, and I am forever grateful for this.

UPDATE: Jaime won her fight against Christina Cherkes at Gladiators of the Cage: Rise to Power IV by RNC at 1:28 of the 1st Round.

7. Women's MMA is growing in popularity with the UFC & Invicta showcasing female fighters. The UFC has is adding a Straw-weight division to the roster after the success of the Bantamweight division. What do you think of this and women's MMA becoming more mainstream?

I believe the added weight class is a great thing, because it will give more opportunity for female fighters in that class to be able to advance and show their skills. As for women’s MMA becoming mainstream, I find it incredibly exciting! Some women are born fighters, and are great martial artists, just as men. It is interesting to see the softer sex go to battle with a strong skill set, and a lot of times even more brutality than men. We can let our inner bitch out and it’s OK, LOL. I'd also like to see a flyweight class (125lbs) added to the UFC roster as well.

8. Who are some of your role models?

In Life, my wonderful firecracker of a mom and Pat Kelly Lee. She is more than just a mentor, she is my friend. She kicks my ass when I need it. Her daughter, my friend, Mara Kelly Slack, a true survivor that is now thriving. She gives back with everything she has. In MMA? My coaches are my heroes. Tony, Mark and Khama… their talent, skill, dedication and humility is unmatched and inspiring.

9. What are your plans for the future?

In life, I want to show my daughters the importance of following their dreams, and they are worthy and capable of making those dreams a reality. My girls and I plan on building a self-sustaining living community. It will show them the importance of respecting others and nature. Staying close to nature can be grounding, especially with the technology overload we are faced with daily. I want to raise them to give back to society, and starting this community will be a huge initiative to help people to live more fulfilling lives. As for MMA, I originally planned on just having that one & only fight, but I am a fighter at heart, and fighters fight. I was bitten by the bug! I can only say that I will approach MMA as I do life, day by day and fight by fight.

10. Is there anyone you'd like to thank?

I will be more detailed than usual here as I am blessed by the amount of people I would like to thank. My mother, she never gives up on me, even when I want to give up on myself. My daughters… 2 starry eyed girls that look at me like I can do anything. My fight family (Fight Club Pittsburgh, Anthony Durnell, Mark Cherico, Khama Worthy, Cody Garbrandt and Robert Meese), you have taken me in as one of you and sacrifice your time to help me improve. Master Joe Cosentino, Josh Erdner, and Cairan Wolfe all great friends, martial artists, mentors and supporters. Master Boon and the U.S. Muay Thai Academy, where I fell in love with Muay Thai. Jimmy Cvetic and 3rd ave. with coaches Rick Manning, Joe Mullen and Lee. (for always rolling my hand-wraps R.I.P) Master Toddy - thank you for that summer in Las Vegas. Mark Miller, Alex Beck and Jim Gardner for the time we trained together at Iron City Gym. Pat Kelly Lee, my lifelong mentor, friend and supporter. Toolkit LLC. Russell A. Watson. Both Pinnacle Fighting Championships and Gladiators of the Cage for having me as their first female fight, I am grateful for these opportunities, even though I lost both fights. My sponsor the Boilermaker’s Union. Ray Ventrone, Bernie Duffy and Mark Angle, you came out of no where, like guardian angels. Our chance meeting turned into the union’s interest in me and the MMA community. Let’s see where this goes! The MMA community, not only have you supported my magazine, but many of you believe in me. I am grateful to be back in this fight world with each of you and hope to make you proud. My friends and fans here in Pittsburgh. I want to live up to what it means to be from the City of Champions.

UPDATE: For more of Jaime Chesney - tune in this Friday at 11:00 AM Eastern Time when Jaime joins Ted Czech & I for the first episode of The DaMMAge Report LIVE over at

Jaime and Tony Cousins

Jaime with team-mate Cody Garbrandt
Jaime with Anthony Darnell (l) and Mark Angle Jr.

Fight Club Pittsburgh
Jaime Chesney (l) Vs. Jessica Richman
With FCP team-mates Mark Cherico (l) and Khama Worthy
With Coach Cvetic

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

10 Questions With Lauren Murphy

10 Questions With Lauren Murphy


Lauren Murphy didn't plan on being a mixed martial arts fighter. She came to the sport by accident. Originally she found martial arts and MMA when she took her son to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class back in 2009. As a way to encourage her son Murphy took lessons with him, and even though he ended up not liking BJJ Lauren basically fell in love with it from the beginning, and she began attending on a regular basis. About 3 months into practicing BJJ Lauren also started training MMA. After about three more months (6 months total from first starting training BJJ and MMA) Murphy made her professional debut without having any amateur fights.  In June of 2010 she defeated Kloiah Wayland by TKO (punches) 17 seconds of the 1st round, and 2 fights later Lauren became the Alaska Fighting Championships Featherweight (145 lbs) Champion. Her next fight was 9 months later for Alaska Cage Fighting, where she defeated Julia Griffin by TKO (punches) at 4:26 of the 2nd round to become the ACF Featherweight Champion. Murphy was undefeated after 4 fights with 4 TKO finishes and winning 2 titles. 

After moving to Florida, Murphy stepped in on short notice to face Jennifer Scott in a Bantamweight (135 lbs) bout at Legacy Fighting Championship 18 on March 1, 2013. She defeated Scott by TKO (elbows) at 4:10 of the 1st round. This win got her noticed by Invicta Fighting Championships, an MMA promotion exclusively for women fighters. One month after her Legacy FC fight Murphy made her Invicta FC debut as a replacement opponent against Kaitlin Young at Invicta FC 5, winning by unanimous decision. Three months later Murphy faced Sarah D'Alelio at Invicta FC 6, winning again by unanimous decision. 

After this fight Murphy was still undefeated at 7 - 0 with 2 wins in Invicta. This earned her an opportunity to fight Miriam Nakamoto that December for the inaugural Invicta FC Bantamweight Championship at Invicta FC 7. Murphy became the Invicta FC Bantamweight (135 lbs) Champion when Nakamoto suffered a knee injury in the fourth round.   

Recently Murphy became a part of the rivalry between UFC Bantamweight Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey and Invicta FC Featherweight Champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino. The rivalry between Rousey & "Cyborg" goes back to when both fighters fought at Featherweight for the now defunct promotion Strikeforce. Rousey dropped to Bantamweight & is the current UFC 135 lb champion. After serving a suspension for testing positive for steroids "Cyborg" signed with Invicta FC and is the current 145 lb champion.
"Cyborg" announced her intention to drop from Featherweight to Bantamweight part of her plan to eventually fight Ronda Rousey meant proving she could successfully make the cut to 135 lbs. "Cyborg" said she wanted to fight for the Invicta FC Bantamweight title "this Summer" and then would ask for the fight against Rousey in December at the UFC's end-of-the-year event. This means that "Cyborg" is calling out the current Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion, which happens to be Lauren Murphy. This is speculation because so far Invicta FC match-maker Julie Kedzie hasn't confirmed that a fight between "Cyborg" and Murphy is even a possibility for their next event.

Recently I was lucky enough to get to ask Lauren a few questions about how this girl originally from a small town in Alaska became the undefeated Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion. From finding her love of martial arts & MMA by accident to becoming the Invicta FC Bantamweight champ, from juggling being a mom & wife with being a MMA fighter - I hope you enjoy reading about this amazing fighter.

Here's 10 Questions With Lauren Murphy.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Lauren Murphy. My record is 8-0 as a pro. I never had any fights as an amateur. I fight at bantamweight, which is 135lbs. I hold three titles, one for the Alaska Fighting Championship (145lbs), one for Alaska Cage Fighting (which is now defunct), and one for Invicta Fighting Championships (135lbs).

2. How did you get started in MMA?

I never played any sports before beginning MMA. I had always wanted to learn a martial art, but figured I was too old (I was 27). I have a son who was 8 or 9 at the time, and I took him to a Jiu-Jitsu class. I didn’t even know what Jiu-Jitsu was, I just wanted to take him so that he would have the opportunity to learn a martial art. A sport like that can do wonders for a kid, it teaches them self-confidence, social skills, integrity, responsibility, sportsmanship - the list goes on and on. I didn’t realize it teaches all those things to adults as well! So I took my son to a class, and figured I would try it with him. He ended up not liking it, but I absolutely loved it. So I stayed. A few months in, I started meeting fighters and was really fascinated by them. I started taking some boxing lessons and working out with the MMA team and before I knew it, I took a fight. I was very curious about what it would be like to fight. I wanted to have a war with someone

3. What gym(s) do you train at and what is it like training there?

I train at Gracie Barra Katy, currently. It’s amazing. I really love my coaches and team mates. My coaches have taught me so much in every area. I feel like I am ten times the fighter I was a year ago. My team mates there are really committed to helping me as well. They show up even when they don’t want to, or have better things to do. I also stop by Gracie Barra Westchase, Champions, and Texas (Draculino’s school) to work with the athletes there. Each school has a different feel and I go for different things.

4. What do you feel your strengths are as a fighter?

First and foremost, my work ethic is unmatched, as far as I can tell. I never waste time in a camp. I am always working at 110% to make sure I am improving at as fast a rate as possible. Other strengths about me are: I am hard to break mentally. I never give up. Also, I’m really physically strong. So, I’m strong and I’m tough, and I made it pretty far on just those two attributes alone, really. Now that I have started adding some skill to the mix, it makes for a pretty awesome fighter.

5. What do you feel you need to work on to be a more complete fighter?

I just really want to keep improving my game in all areas. I’m fairly well rounded, so the only thing really missing from my game is time.

6. You recently defeated Miriam Nakamoto at Invicta FC 7 to become the inaugural Invicta FC Bantamweight champion. What is next for you?

I have no idea when my next fight will be, or against who. I am just training and trying to practice things I am not really comfortable with in my off time. My goal is to be the very best I can be and give this sport my all. I want to look back when I am in my 40’s and 50’s, and be proud of what I did during this time

7. Women's MMA is growing in popularity with the Invicta FC, the UFC & WSOF showcasing female fighters. What do you think of this and women's MMA becoming more mainstream? 

Well of course I think it’s great!! Women are very talented and tough fighters. We like to put on a show.

8. Recently UFC fighter Matt Brown made some 'interesting' comments on his podcast regarding women in MMA and you responded publicly to his comments... what are your thoughts on what he had to say?

I think Matt Brown said some stupid crap that he thought was going to be funny, which turned out to just be incredibly sexist. I think that’s the first rule of being a comedian: Know your audience. It’s the kind of joke you make with your closest friends, in a setting where maybe you and they think it’s absolutely hilarious. You don’t say that kind of stuff in a public forum where everyone is going to hear it and be offended. In all honesty, I have made some pretty tasteless, raunchy, horrible jokes around my friends and husband, that for whatever reason, we found just hysterical. But I would never repeat them around anyone else, and certainly not in public. Usually, later on, they aren’t even funny anymore. Ya gotta know your audience. As far as women not having knock out power…tell that to "Cyborg" (Cristiane Justino), Alida Gray, Jihn Yu Frey, Holly Holm...

9. Who are some of your role models?

My husband, first and foremost. He’s a great guy. Not only is he very talented athletically, he’s also very kind and always tries to do the right thing. My son, he always makes me want to be a better person. In MMA, it changes often. I like Jose Aldo a lot because he is so fast and technical. And I like Forrest Griffin, because he was a normal guy who worked super hard and made something of himself.

10.Is there anyone you'd like to thank?

I’d like to thank my team at Gracie Barra Katy, especially my coaches, Pat Applegate, Alex Cisne, and Aaron Pena. All my team mates who helped me get this far. I really want to thank my husband for supporting me in all this and being the man that he is.

(photos & video used with permission of Lauren Murphy)


With Son, Max & Husband, Joe
Face-off with Nakamoto Invicta FC7
Response to Matt Brown's comments
With son, Max
With husband, Joe

Women's MMA Round-up Post-fight Interview - Invicta FC7

MMA Mayhem Post-fight Interview - Invicta FC7