hardknocks365 October 26, 2018

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The name Aung La N Sang may not resonate deeply in the minds of western MMA fans, but for those who follow ONE Championship, the 33-year-old represents one of the promotion’s truly transcendent figures. The reasons for this go beyond his success inside the cage. The current ONE middleweight and light heavyweight world champion has the distinction of being the first athlete from Myanmar to earn a major professional title in any sporting discipline. As a result, Aung La has become one of the country’s most well-known and beloved figures, and whenever the “Burmese Python” competes on home turf it becomes something of a national event for the 53 million citizens of Myanmar.

Aung La is a technically sound fighter with high-level cardio who can end fights on the ground or on the feet. 12 of his wins have come via submission and nine via TKO/KO. For this training camp, he has been based in Florida at Hard Knocks 365, only a stone’s throw away from American Top Team where his upcoming opponent Mohammad Karaki trains.

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Life has changed for the better for UFC contender Anthony (Lionheart) Smith since moving up a weight class to light-heavyweight earlier this year.

Cutting weight to make 185 pounds as a middleweight proved too difficult for a fighter who used to walk around at 230. Not to mention dangerous.

Smith also stopped former title-holder Rashad Evans in the first round in June. The wins over Evans and Rua took just two minutes 22 seconds in total.

Both Smith and Oezdemir finish fights early. Between them they have some 30 first-round finishes.

The 29-year-old Oezdemir, who normally trains at the Hard Knocks 365 gym in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., spent the last two weeks before the fight training at Montreal’s Tristar Gym.

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Volkan Oezdemir has regrouped following a failed bid to reach the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight mountaintop.

Booked for his first appearance since his technical knockout defeat to 205-pound champion Daniel Cormier in January, the Swiss standout will collide with Anthony Smith in the UFC Fight Night 138 main event on Saturday at the Moncton Events Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick. The loss to Cormier snapped a five-fight winning streak for Oezdemir, who operates out of the Henri Hooft-helmed Hard Knocks 365 camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The 29-year-old enters the match as a slight favorite.

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PLAINVIEW – It was only a few years ago that becoming a UFC fighter was a dream for Plainview’s Jonathan ‘The Dragon’ Martinez.

A week ago, Martinez, who got his ‘Dragon’ nickname at age 15 because of the way he wore his hair, got the call of a lifetime.

“I was heading to work at like 6 in the morning and they asked me if I wanted to take this fight in the UFC,” Martinez said.

After waiting a couple of hours and getting in contact with his manager, Wade Hampel, Martinez was signed for the bantamweight fight against Andre Soukhamthath during UFC Fight Night on Oct. 27. Not only will this be a new experience for Martinez as an official UFC fighter, but it will also be his first time in Canada, where the fight will take place.

Light heavyweights Volkan Oezdemir and Anthony Smith will be the headline fight of the night.

Martinez hadn’t had a fight since September 2017 in Amarillo because of injury and opponents backing out, but has been in training at A Different Breed in Lubbock.

“I was already getting ready for a fight. I was supposed to fight on (Friday), so I said yes right away because I was pretty much ready,” he said on Monday. “Right now, I feel good.”

Martinez comes into the fight with a 9-1 record, which includes five knockouts. He trains with Danny Perez, though he has worked with legendary UFC coach Greg Jackson in New Mexico in the past.

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For the biggest fight in UFC history between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, you have a high-level striker with unshakeable confidence facing off against arguably one of the most ruthless wrestlers/grapplers in MMA.

As such, we are going to ask two talented wrestlers and two talented strikers their takes on both the physical and mental keys to victory in the fight.

Related: Check out Mindset Mike’s article about the value of the mental battle tonight.


I chose to focus my questions mainly to fighters at Hard Knocks 365 in Florida.  This is a gym known for two things: world-class striking with Henri Hooft and elite wrestling with Greg Jones and Kami Barzini which has yielded them over 30 UFC and Bellator fighters.

As a result, they attract the gold standard in both disciplines. Today, we sit down with elite strikers like light heavyweights Volkan Oezdemir and Linton Vassell.  We spoke to two wrestlers that spend time at Hard Knocks as well, with four-time Division-1 All-American and 9-0 Bellator Fighter Logan Storley and Chris Wade, NCAA All-American and current PFL Standout.

I also asked Nurmagomedov’s teammate at American Kickboxing Academy, Kyle Crutchmer, his thoughts on the fight. Crutchmer is an undefeated prospect out of AKA and a former All-American wrestler out of Oklahoma State University.

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Carlo Pedersoli Jr. is fine with marching into enemy lands. He just hopes that someday he gets the chance to be the one defending his territory.

Making his UFC debut on less than two weeks’ notice this past May, Pedersoli managed to defeat veteran Bradley Scott in Scott’s home country of England. Up next for Pedersoli is a welterweight matchup with Brazilian finisher Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira in the co-main event of UFC Sao Paulo on Saturday, another booking where he can expect a hostile crowd.

Pedersoli’s last two fights before joining the UFC also came against opponents backed by the majority of the audience. He fought Romanian Mircea Dumitrescu in the city of Brasov, and then traveled to Sweden for a Cage Warriors show where he fought Nicolas Dalby, who hails from neighboring Denmark.

Playing the visiting villain hasn’t been too troubling for Pedersoli (11-1), but he’s making it a point on Saturday not to leave things in the hands of the Brazilian judges after his last two fights ended in split calls.

“I think I have to improve every time. But I think that was a unanimous decision,” Pedersoli told MMA Fighting when asked about the split verdict against Scott. “It’s difficult because Scott was from England, so the judges are from England, so every time you fight in another place that is not your hometown you have to win by KO or submission because the decision will be difficult.”

Pedersoli is going up against a proven finisher in Oliveira, who hasn’t been to the scorecards in his past six outings. He hopes to match the ferocity of Oliveira and steal his spot in the contenders’ rankings.

“I don’t want this fight to end by points, by decision,” said Pedersoli. “I will try my best to finish this fight in my opportunities. But I know it’s a difficult fight, he’s one of the best in the division, but I’m hungry and I want my legacy, so I accept this fight because I think it’s a good moment to put it in the cage. I don’t have fear of anybody.”

Born in Miami to an Italian father and a Panamanian mother, Pedersoli is a man of many nations. Even his nickname “Semento” comes from the Japanese word for cement, a moniker he acquired when he spent time training in The Land of the Rising Sun. Pedersoli was raised in Italy and primarily trains in Rome at the Gloria Fight Center, though he has also made stops at Hard Knocks 365 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Dynamix MMA in Los Angeles.

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Glenn Robinson, the founder of the Blackzillians team and MMA apparel brand Jaco passed away due to a suspected heart attack on Thursday. Robinson had endured financial and health struggles in the year prior to his death, which was confirmed by his former publicist Jen Wenk. Robinson was a prominent figure on the 21st season of The Ultimate Fighter, which featured the Blackzillians Team against American Top Team, a Florida-based rival gym. Welterweight contender Kamaru Usman, then a part of the Blackzillians, emerged as one of the show’s winners.

The team most notably featured Rashad Evans, Anthony Johnson, Michael Johnson, Jorge Santiago, Tyrone Spong and several others. In the years following the show, The Blackzillians disbanded and most members ended up following Henri Hooft to a new gym called Hard Knocks 365.

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Bellator 205 will mark Hungarian featherweight Adam Borics’ third foray into the Bellator MMA cage. It will be a monumental moment for the young fighter as he lives out a dream and gets to perform on American soil for the first time.

For the former personal trainer and massage therapist, fighting in the United States has been a lifelong aspiration. With this important moment just days away, the Budapest native was asked if he had any nervous feelings going into his bout at the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho.

“I don’t feel the pressure, I’m more excited because I have been waiting for this my whole life,” Borics told Sherdog.com.

In just three years, the 25-year-old has amassed a 7-0 record and growing recognition in the sport, much of it earned after his highlight reel victory over Teodor Nikolov at Bellator 196. Originally, he was set to face Ireland’s James Gallagher in the main event. However, an injury to Gallagher denied Borics the opportunity, a disappointing turn of events as Borics had been looking forward to facing the cocky SBG Ireland fighter. “I don’t like Gallagher, he talks too much sh*t,” Borics said.

Despite losing his main event slot, things turned out well for Borics in the end. In the bout with Nikolov, he landed a perfect flying knee that went viral on social media and left his opponent unconscious before he even hit the mat.

“I like the flying knee when I fight against a wrestler, and Nikilov was [a wrestler],” said Borics.

The technique is a favorite move for Borics even in training, though his teammates are not big fans of being victimized with it during sparring sessions. “Other guys don’t like it,” he admitted with a laugh.

Flying knees aside, Borics credits the training and coaching he receives at his current gym, Hard Knocks 365, for his improving skills. A year ago, he decided the only way he could reach his full potential was to leave his home country and find a well-regarded MMA team. From the start, he knew the country the gym would be located in. “It was always my dream to train in the U.S.,” said Borics.

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“As a kid, I liked to act,” Mowry said “My dad played the piano, I was in plays, we watched musicals. It was something I had a lot of fun with. The more I did it, the more I realized I didn’t want to do it full time, especially when fighting came up.”

Mowry is part of a long tradition of MMA fighters who dipped a toe or dove headlong into acting. It makes sense, after all. They have the combat experience and the chiseled physiques to at least lend a presence to the screen.

Gina Carano has probably enjoyed the most success, having a significant performance in Deadpool and a leading-actress turn in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire. It’s hard to forget Ronda Rousey’s various performances, as much as one might wish to do so. MMA fans surely chuckled as they watched former light heavyweight contender Keith Jardine take a dive in a bar fight against Breaking Bad’s Hank Schrader. The list goes on.

Mowry, 26, is fairly new to both games. On the MMA side, he turned pro in 2016. All four of his wins have come by stoppage, two each by knockout and submission. Although he points to jiu-jitsu as his base, he’s more of an MMA native, expanding on his high school wrestling and picking up new striking skills as he goes along.

His 80-inch reach doesn’t hurt, either, nor does the fact he trains with the most famous skyscraper in MMA in 7’0″ Stefan Struve, as well as a slew of others at famed trainer Henri Hooft’s Hard Knocks 365 gym in Florida.

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Bellator MMA has earned a reputation for scooping up talented fighters in the infancy of their careers, and molding them into promotional stars of the future. In June, the organization added once again to its crop of burgeoning talent with 6-foot-8 heavyweight Steve Mowry. At Bellator 205 on Sept. 21, the Hard Knocks 365 product looks to show why training at an elite gym made the decision for Bellator an easy one.

Mowry is only in the second year of an MMA career that has been a success so far. He is currently 4-0 and has earned finishes in each of those bouts. Making the jump from the ranks of Titan Fighting Championship to the No. 2 promotion in the world could be reason for greater pressure. Yet to him, it’s business as usual.

“That’s every fight,” Mowry told Sherdog on the topic of added pressure. “Every fight you want to win, every fight you want to get better, every fight you want to turn heads and have eyes on you.”

The 26-year-old has a unique perspective on why he shouldn’t fret anymore than usual about stepping inside the Bellator cage for the first time. “I’m not fighting Bellator. I am not fighting the Bellator cage, I’m not fighting the Bellator money, I’m not fighting the Bellator contract,” Mowry says. “I’m fighting human beings.”

Read more at Sherdog