KNOXVILLE, TN – After breaking the bones of his last two opponents, the 26-year-old former high school wrestling standout vows to also break into the MMA championship picture.
Shane Matchette’s last five opponents mysteriously dropped out at the last minute, and the 26-year-old ex-high school wrestling phenom has a theory why.
“I’ve developed a reputation for snapping arm bones,” explained the highly-touted MMA prospect. “And once an opponent hears what happened in my last couple of fights, he always seems to come up with some excuse for dropping out at the last minute. Maybe he got injured during training camp, or maybe his grandmother is sick, or maybe his cat ran away. It’s very frustrating ‘cause I love to fight and want to stay active.”
But that’s the price a young fighter pays for locking his last two opponents in arm-bars – and before they could submit, breaking their arms in half.
Matchette will finally be able to fight again, this time in front of thousands of his hometown fans, at XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox,” the first-ever professional MMA fight card legally permitted in the state of Tennessee, on February 20 at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. And to prevent history from repeating itself, Matchette’s opponent, Gerardo Julio Gallegos of Lexington, Kentucky, might want to practice arm-bar defenses in his training camp – or be prepared to tap-out quickly, lest his arm also be fitted in an oversized cast.
A graduate of Heritage High School in Maryville, Tennessee – where he founded the school’s wrestling team and finished 40-2 his senior year (2002) – Shane Matchette credits his newfound penchant for breaking arm bones with his trainers’ visit to the lumberyard.
“Earlier in my career I lacked a killer instinct,” Matchette recalled with a grin. “I’d lock someone in a hold and then ease up a bit. To shake me out of that habit, my trainers showed up at the gym one day with a big pile of two-by-fours. They said, ‘Shane, I want you to grab every last piece of wood from the truck, lock each one into an arm-bar, and don’t stop squeezing ‘til every single one snaps in half.’ And that’s exactly what I did: one after another – crack, crack, crack! All afternoon I was cracking through two-by-fours, pretending they were arms. It sort of numbed away the squeamishness.”
Prior to cracking arm bones and lumber, Matchette was a multi-sport star at Heritage High School, where he competed on the varsity football, wrestling, soccer, track, and swim teams. His wrestling and football prowess netted 17 full-scholarship offers and countless partial-scholarship offers from some of the leading colleges, including the University of Tennessee. But Matchette turned them all down, opting to enter the workforce right out of high school.
“Not going to college is one of the biggest regrets of my life,” said the young fighter, who recently relocated to Knoxville. “But I wasn’t ready at the time. I saw so many of my friends go off to college and party ‘til they puke. I mean, I know myself pretty well, and that just wouldn’t have been the right environment to put myself in at the time. Plus, my family ran a construction company and I wanted to help them out. I came close to signing with the University of Tennessee, but they had a wrestling club, not a wrestling team, so I rationalized not going there. My parents finally talked me into attending the Maryville College summer football camp, and I lasted two-weeks before walking away. I just wasn’t ready.”
While working long hours at the construction site during the day, Matchette began training to be a Mixed Martial Arts champion at night. And the same athletic talent that was once coveted by the nation’s top colleges was soon commanding the attention of MMA promoters throughout the industry.
“He’s a rare, blue-chip athlete; more than anything, it’s his athletic ability that just jumps off the tape when you review his fight footage,” said XFC president John Prisco. XFC is the largest independent MMA promotion in the Southeast, with fight cards airing nationwide on HDNet and regional cable stations. “But it’s much more than just his athletic ability. Matchette is absolutely fearless – the kid will fight anyone. You’re talking about someone who weighed maybe 200 pounds – and kept repeatedly climbing into the cage to battle super-heavyweights, sacrificing 50-plus pounds at a time. He once tapped out Shane Howard in the first round – and Howard was 6-foot-5, 280! In fact, one of his few amateur losses was to undefeated heavyweight Chad Corvin, a 250-pound monster who’ll be fighting in the main event of XFC 7. Believe me, even the biggest heavyweights are terrified of Chad Corvin because of Chad’s punching power. But Matchette didn’t just stand toe-to-toe with Corvin – he even challenged him to a rematch! With his athletic ability and innate fearlessness, Matchette has a real opportunity to be someone special in this sport.”
Asked about his 2007 fight against Chad Corvin of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Matchette shakes his head and sighs. “The promoter couldn’t find anyone to fight Corvin, so I volunteered. And I had him in the guillotine choke, too – I think he was maybe three seconds from submitting in the first round. But I let up just a tad and he escaped. ‘Course, that was before I started snapping two-by-fours in half. Oh, I’d love to fight Corvin again one time! I know I can take him.”
As for his current opponent, Gerardo Julio Gallegos, Matchette was purely complimentary: “He’s a stand-up brawler and a real tough guy. He’s definitely not someone who’ll run from you – and neither am I. We both dream of becoming world champions, and we’re ready to prove it in Knoxville. Basically, on February 20 you’ll see an irresistible object meet an immovable force – and something’s gonna have to give.”
And what happens if Matchette catches Gallegos in an arm-bar? The young fighter shrugged his shoulders.
“Then what’ll end up giving is his arm bone,” Matchette replied. “So for his sake, I hope he taps out quickly.”
XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox,” the first-ever pro MMA fight card in Tennessee state history, takes place on February 20 at Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena. Undefeated heavyweights collide in the main event when Scott “The Bear” Barrett battles Chad Corvin in a showdown between two of the fastest-rising prospects in the sport. Tickets are now available at the Thompson-Boling Arena box office and Tickets Unlimited outlets, including Cat’s Music, Disc Exchange, and Fye Music.
You can learn more about the XFC 7: SCHOOL OF HARD KNOX event by visiting the XTREME FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP website at www.mmaxfc.com.