If there's one indisputable truth that every mixed martial artist could agree upon, it's the fact that there is no road map on how to become a professional fighter.
Some competitors transition from college wrestling, others try their hand at reality shows like The Ultimate Fighter, but there is no set path or set of rules a hopeful can follow to try to one day walk in the shoes of those who currently tread ground in promotions like the UFC or Bellator.
The biggest trend lately in MMA is the route of the amateur circuit with promotions like Tuff-N-Uff in Las Vegas, where fighters like UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey got her start.
Now two former amateur wrestlers turned successful mixed martial artists are doing their best to help look out for the next crop of athletes looking to make their way into fighting while also giving them a self-promotion platform for fans, media and promoters alike to discover them.
UFC bantamweight contender Urijah Faber and light heavyweight fighter Phil Davis recently partnered up on a new website called MMADraft.com. The idea behind the website is to give amateur fighters a knowledge base for what they need to know coming into MMA, get their questions answered about important issues and also showcase their talents to a much wider audience.
"It's about helping the amateurs, helping them build a platform for them to be seen, find their way around the sport. Kind of a matrix of how to become a professional fighter, some helpful hints, some techniques through their training and a bunch of cool stuff, it's really neat," Faber told Bleacher Report recently.
Faber, who started his pro career back in 2003 before the amateur ranks were what they are today, says it's all about fighters and those who back them to understand this sport and how it works. No one will know all the ins and outs on day one, and that's what he hopes his new site can provide.
"It's definitely an education process, but it's also an opportunity. Just like football, baseball and basketball, there's a whole generation of parents that want their kids to be fighters and try to push them in that direction and don't really know how to start. It's one thing to have an idea that you want your son or daughter to do something, it's another thing to know how to do it, how to start and who to look up to, who is already doing it and getting hints to get in the right direction; that's what this site is all about," Faber stated.
Phil Davis, who was an NCAA champion in wrestling at Penn State, started his MMA career at the amateur level. He actually ended up with three amateur fights before turning pro as he transitioned from wrestler to full-time fighter. Even though his move was just a few years ago, Davis says the days of coming into MMA with only a single fighting discipline are gone and more and more fighters are born and bred as pure mixed martial artists.
That's where the amateur levels become so important.
"Whether it's amateur MMA, boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu or wrestling, these people and honestly the kids now are doing all of it. They're not just doing wrestling or jiu-jitsu, they're doing everything at such a young age. Pretty soon there are going to be people that are just straight mixed martial artists," Davis commented. "Some of us, myself included, are learning martial arts as we go along and pretty soon that's not going to be the case.
"You're not going to bring in a boxer to get ready for a guy who is a pretty good boxer. If you don’t already know boxing, you're going to lose. If you don’t already know wrestling, you're going to lose. If you wait until you get to the big stage to learn jiu-jitsu, you're going to lose. The kids that are coming up right now are so awesome at everything and it's unbelievable."
It's a big part of why Faber and Davis felt compelled to start this site to give amateur fighters a place to go and learn all the intricacies of the fight world. When someone says they want to be a mixed martial artist, there isn't a pamphlet they are handed at the door or a college program that leads them in that direction.
It's all trial and error, and in some cases, fighters are being taken advantage of whether it's promoters, managers or trainers.
Faber hopes his new business endeavor will help to weed out some of the bad people through word of mouth, and point potential fighters in the right direction for their careers.
"There's all sorts of wolves in sheep's clothing out there," Faber warned. "We have forums on there as well so people can bounce ideas off of each other. We have a state by state sorting system for which competitions are in your state. It's really something that needed to happen. Something that needed to be dedicated to the amateur level because participation at the amateur level is huge. It's doubling and tripling, and they're going to keep moving forward in terms of participation in MMA."
The education process will also go beyond where to fight and who to train under. It also helps out with some knowledge that just can't be found until a fighter is a day away from stepping into the ring or cage.
"When people want to know how do I cut 15 pounds? This kid who comes from a karate background and his coach has never cut 15 pounds, it's a legitimate question," Davis stated. "I want to ask a pro; I want to ask other kids who do it. It's a good informational site for everyone."
In the age of the Internet, Faber and Davis are both aware that being visible can sometimes be everything for recognition. Whether it's a YouTube video that gets circulated or a buzz that's started on Twitter, everyone is looking for the next big thing.
"There's a video of Tiger Woods going on a national television show as a little kid hitting on a little golf green, and how interesting is that? We're going to find the next Tiger Woods, the next LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and all these top athletes in their own world and we're going to have a history of where they came from and create opportunities for them," Faber said.
Both Faber and Davis recognize that every amateur fighter out there won't make it all the way to the UFC just like every college basketball player won't ever shoot a basket in the NBA. The desire they both have is that everyone in and around fighting can benefit from their new site, whether it's a kid who just wants to try out MMA or the serious competitor whose ultimate desire is to compete in the Octagon.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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