Discovering the Path from Novice to Champion
From High School Wrestler to Aspiring Fighter
I first started training Mixed Martial Arts in 2006. I was 18 years old and had just graduated high school. I was a very mediocre JV wrestler who was introduced to full contact kickboxing before stumbling onto the UFC on Spike TV. I had always liked getting into fights and being physical as a kid. It’s why I liked wrestling. It’s why I have the nickname Jake Smash. Getting physical was something that I enjoyed and I tested boundaries often.
Now I’m sure you can paint a picture of myself in your head. Getting into fights is not something we as adults condone outside of the ring or the training room. But at 18 years old, I was admittedly a bit of a knucklehead. I knew that I needed direction in my life and I knew that the wrestling room in high school had been a great place for growth. When I spoke to the community college wrestling coach, he welcomed me to work out with the team, but made it clear that I would never see a match in my tenure.
The Virtue of Patience in MMA
I had given up until I found MMA training by accident. I had picked up a driver’s helper job for a major trucking company and was working evening shifts. A coworker started talking about his friend Al Buck, who was a professional fighter training out of Vineland, NJ.
My heart must have skipped a few beats when I overheard him.
That first gym didn’t follow those guidelines and their fighters had average records. That was 17 years ago when the barrier to entry was much lower, and people could make professional debuts without having fought an amateur career.
In modern times the stakes are much higher. The sport has evolved tremendously since I began training. Back then it only mattered how tough you were. Simply being tough was enough to win in 2006. To win in 2023 you need to have high level wrestling, high level jiu jitsu, high level striking, high level scrambles and incredible fight IQ and cardio. Winning a fight in 2023 requires serious planning because the level of skill has increased ten thousand fold since the early days of my career.
Coaching Excellence at Broad Street
I’m writing this article to be up front with potential students who might be looking to pursue a career in Mixed Martial Arts, whether that be amateur or professional. There are other gyms where you will be able to fight faster than if you were training with us. There is no other gym in Philadelphia that will prepare you in the way that we will here at Broad Street Kickboxing. I have been coaching a Head Coach in Philadelphia for the last 7 years with a winning record in competition. I have produced 8 amateur champions who have won 10 different amateur titles in Mixed Martial Arts, Muay Thai and Glory rules kickboxing. Over my tenure, I have developed a world-class network of striking and grappling coaches who run developmental events.
Decoding Developmental Events (“Smokers“)
What is a developmental event?
A developmental event, also known as a “Smoker” is an unsanctioned bout that takes place inside of another gym. There is no state sanctioning body, no ringside doctor and no winner or loser. These bouts are fought in full sparring gear under the supervision of a professional coach.
These events allow a developmental fighter an opportunity to compete against a well-trained opponent in an environment similar to an amateur or professional show. Fights take place in a ring, with a crowd of spectators and each fighter has a Coach in their corner to give advice during the bout and in between rounds.
The Simultaneous Focus on Striking and Jiu Jitsu
A student will be invited to compete in a smoker once they have shown proficiency and dedication in striking classes and in sparring.
If that athlete was focused only on Dutch Kickboxing or Muay Thai, they would simply fight in a few smokers to hone their skills in advance of an amateur debut. The process for them is pretty simple. Show up early, show up consistently, work hard and show good technique. Then a smoker will come to you. After several smokers, you will be able to fight in a sanctioned event and start accumulating an amateur record.
If that athlete was interested in MMA, fighting in a smoker is only one half of the equation necessary. That student would be tasked with learning striking and jiu jitsu at the same time, with an equal level of dedication and proficiency. As a student is fighting in smokers, they should also be training in and competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Once that athlete is able to win a competition at the white belt level and shows that they are able to compete at a blue belt level, they would be able to be considered for MMA. That athlete should also have gone through the smoker system and also had amateur Kickboxing or Muay Thai fights so when they finally do transition towards MMA, they are striking at a level higher than their competition.
Embracing a Holistic Approach to MMA
In conclusion, the path to becoming a successful MMA fighter is not a sprint; it’s a marathon that demands patience, dedication, and a well-rounded skill set. As the world of mixed martial arts continues to evolve, aspiring fighters must adapt and plan strategically for their careers. Broad Street Kickboxing’s unique approach, coupled with participation in developmental events like smokers, offers a comprehensive foundation for fighters to thrive in this ever-changing landscape.
By following this journey from an ordinary beginner to a champion, you can navigate the complex world of MMA and chart your course toward greatness in this dynamic sport.