Gameness spotlight: Ed Clay – a ProMMAnow.com interview

“Gameness Fighting Championship VI”  takes place this weekend in Nashville, Tenn., at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds Sports Arena. It will be the most stacked non-UFC event the state has ever seen. Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com) felt this was  the perfect time to talk to Gameness promoter Ed Clay about this weekend’s show, and what the future holds for GFC, Tennessee’s largest and most successful MMA promotion.

We talked to Ed about his Mom, Regina, who seems to be just as involved and well-known in the MMA world as Ed. We also discussed Ed’s academy, Nashville MMA, and the high level talented fighters that call it home. And we covered a lot more, so check it out. He’s too young to be this damn successful… Mr. Ed Clay.

Hey Ed, thanks for speaking with us at Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com). How’s it going man, you guys got a big show this weekend in Nashville with “Gameness Fighting Championship VI.” You got Team Lloyd Irvin coming in, you got Josh Schockman fighting. This is definitely GFC’s biggest card to date. Can you talk a little about what you got going on this weekend?

I think it’s an amazing opportunity for us to showcase to Nashville all the talent we have coming out of Nashville MMA and Team Lloyd Irvin. Josh Schockman is fighting in the main event, Dustin West just moved to Nashville from Vegas and this will be his first fight with our team, our head BJJ instructor, black belt Pan American BJJ champion Shawn Hammonds is fighting, Dustin Ortiz is making his pro debut, one of my recruits, Chris Camacho is fighting and my coach and mentor Lloyd Irvin is bringing four guys from Maryland to fight and is going to be cornering the guys with me, it’s going to be awesome! There’s other amazing fights on the card. IMA has a guy fighting as does Bobby McClain. These are no doubt the best fighters in middle Tennessee are fighting guys from all over the country. Nashville MMA and Team Lloyd Irvin alone have six of our pros fighting!

I think you have about eight pro fights on this card. Is this a one time thing, or can we expect this level of professional talent from now on with Gameness? What can we look forward to in the future with GFC and how many shows are you trying to do this year?

We are going to start doing pro shows for every GFC event. Our Silverados card will be ammy but we have so many guys that are ready to turn pro that we have to have pro cards. You can only hold them amateur for so long. Look at Dustin Ortiz for example; the guy is 7-1 as an amateur with his only loss he fought two weight classes above where he’ll fight pro. He beat Thomas Campbell who was Pro MMA Now’s Amateur Fighter of the Year and that was at 145. We were having him fight at 145 just to get him competition and he was still running through those guys. He’s fighting pro at 135 Saturday but that’s only because we wanted a competitive fight for him. At 125 he’s going to be an animal.

You got a couple of guys who have been tearing up the amateur ranks for awhile now making their pro debut on this card. Who do we have turning pro on this card that the fans should keep a look out for?

It’s good experience for the guys I have to fight amateur, but for my full time fighters, it’s really not much competition out there for them for experience and I like them to be able to fight amateur boxing and Muay Thai matches to sharpen their standup. We have one of the best BJJ schools in the country so on the ground it’s easy for them. Plus we set up gameplans for every fighter and when you’re fighting ammy’s a good gameplan is many times all you need to win.

As far as guys to look out for, Dustin Ortiz for one. He’ll be a top ten 125 pound fighter within the next two years. His job is to train and I take care of his bills. He’s training three times a day right now. He has a great work ethic and has an amazing gas tank. The kid is not messing around. His stand up is looking sharp, he’s trained with Dominick Cruz who’s one of the top 135-pound fighters in the world and he takes his lumps and keeps on coming.

Shawn Hammonds is fighting on this card which is going to be huge. Shawn is one of the top American BJJ guys out there and he’s our head BJJ instructor. Shawn’s a little old to start fighting but he’s got a ton of competition experience and could make a run over the next three years.

Dustin West just moved in from Vegas and the guy is tough as nails. He’s very coachable and has a great work ethic. His manager, Jeff has helped us out a lot and it’s great to have them on the team now.

Josh Schockman is the best local fighter in Nashville, outside of Dave Herman of course. Josh is a UFC veteran and has a 10-2 record. His standup is really slick and his BJJ has been getting a lot better. Plus he’s fighting at 205 and he no longer has to fight the giants at heavyweight. Josh is only 28 and can be a legitimate top 20 light heavy. He’s one of Brandon Vera’s sparring partners and can hang with anyone standing.

Chris Camacho is a recruit we have that moved here in October. He beat Guardian’s Jimmy Hayes with three weeks training. Jimmy has a black belt in karate and a blue belt under Guardian, which obviously didn’t do him any good. But Camacho is tough. He was a college football All-American and played briefly in the NFL. He’s cutting to 155 for this fight and is in great shape. I actually really think the kid has a bright future. He’s got a good attitude, great work ethic, and amazing athletic ability.

Right now our training room is ridiculous as far as talent level. The only serious people in the area are training at our gym. On any given day you can have 5 BJJ black belts, 20+ fighters, world and Pan American medalist in BJJ and pros that have fought on the biggest shows in the world including the UFC, Strikeforce, Sengoku, and Dream.

That is sick. Now that you have these top level guys, does Nashville MMA get a lot of fighters from around the area coming in who want to work with these guys who have fought on the big shows, and do you have other fighters from around the country coming in and training on a regular basis?

Well we have a lot of guys from around the country training on a regular basis. The best fighters in the world stop in on a regular basis to say hello and train. The other fighters in Nashville pretty much stay away. I think it’s one of those things where they’re a big fish in a little pond at their school and when they come into Nashville MMA they’re a small fish in a big pond. Someone who is average at our gym will make them look bad and that’s a hard pill to swallow for some. But really it’s the only way to get better. So I’d say we get more guys coming in from all over the country than the area. To me it just proves my point that the other gyms would rather talk about being this and that but really have no aspirations of fighting at a high level. It’s hilarious to me, some of the local fighters who go around talking about how they’re “UFC” fighters when they’ve just won small local amateur shows against guys who don’t train. They have a false sense that they’re actually good. Truth is they’ve been fighting tomato cans and wouldn’t last past the first round with anyone that had real skill or trained real MMA.

I even have some guys that train with me that are 4-0 or 5-0 that have a false sense that they’re good. I have to keep them in check because they think they’re a lot better than they really are. There’s a whole other level out there of fighters that they just don’t understand. There’s guys like Dave Herman that will make them look bad. I mean, Dustin Ortiz is a perfect example, he’s a real fighter and he just plays with guys at the amateur level. That said, I know he’s got a long way to go to be at the top. Other schools would already think that he’s ready. What do I do, I send him to go train with Dominick Cruz to see where he’s really at. Dominick of course beat him, but I was able to gauge the reality of where Dustin was really at. The next gauge will be when I send him to train with Mike Easton who is the UWC champ at 135 and is ranked in the top 15 in the world right now. No one else around here has access to that. No one has access to go train with Brandon Vera, Phil Davis, Rhadi Ferguson, or anyone on that level. They think it’s good when some TUF veteran comes in and trains. We just have a whole other level of training that people around here don’t understand because they don’t know any better.

That is smart to test them against established guys. Now with some of your guys turning pro on this card, I know you must be proud to see someone you have worked with for so long, and put so much time into, take the next step in their career, and really start their career, to where now they can make some money and start receiving compensation for their hard work. They have to be very happy, and you must be very happy for them to see how far they’ve come, and excited about where they are headed. How does that feel?

It’s a great feeling watching their hard work pay off. These guys train hard. It’s their job to train and they take it very seriously. The greatest part of my job is seeing someone make a goal in the beginning and be able to fulfill their goal. I have four guys right now who’s goal it is to become UFC champion. We have a set plan and we’re working toward it every day. It’s a team effort. We have people who move here from all over the country and they know up front what is expected of them and we work towards the same goal. I’m very goal oriented, so seeing these guys do well is the best part of the job.

Talk to us about Shawn Hammonds. He’s the jiu-jitsu coach at Nashville MMA. We interviewed him the other day and he said he taught you your very first armbar. The guy is a country singer with a record deal, he’s getting ready to make his MMA debut. He seems like a very interesting and talented guy… what kind of influence has Shawn had on you and how do you think he’ll do in his MMA debut; he said he is rusty in his stand up, but will he even need it?

Shawn Hammonds is one of my best friends. Most importantly he’s a great person. His BJJ is sick, he’s got solid wrestling, he’s strong as an ox and he’s mean on the mat. It is really cool that Shawn is fighting and something he’s always wanted to do. Everyone at the school is behind him and you’ve heard me talk about the team, well it’s a team thing so we’re all coming together as a team and rallying behind Shawn. Shawn can sing his ass off too if you like old country music he’s your man.

I do in fact like traditional country music. Of course I have to ask you about Dave “Pee Wee” Herman, one of the top rising heavyweight talents in MMA right now. How’s Dave doing and, I know he has a Sengoku fight coming up. How’s he looking and who is he fighting over there in Japan?

Dave is amazing. His fight in Sengoku just got canceled but he’s doing great. I’ve never met anyone like Dave. He’s the most athletically gifted person I know. I think within 18 months he’ll be considered one of the best in the world. Everyone who trains with him is amazed. I’ve brought a lot of good guys into train with him and they all are amazed. The guy can do things that you’d never dream of. He’s working on getting bigger now. I’d like him to get uo to around 260 and keep the same bodyfat. He kicks hard, knee’s hard punches hard his bjj is good and he has good wrestling. The guys has all the tools to be a champ. He’s just gotta put in the effort at this point.

Talk to us about Rhadi Ferguson, the 2004 Judo Olympian, who just announced he will be fighting in MMA. What can we expect out of Rhadi?

Rhadi is amazing. He’s a world class athlete with a great work ethic. The guy knows what needs to be done to be a champion and win. He’s a judo Olympain, has a doctorate and engineering degree. He’s got everything he needs to be a world champion. I only work with people that I like and think are good people and he’s a great person with good moral values. It’s really an honor to be working with him.

One thing I wanted to ask you about was your mom, Regina Clay. Tell us about your mom. How did she get so involved with the fight game? Did it start out as just a way to support what you were doing, because this lady is pretty amazing with everything she’s into? Give the readers an idea what I’m talking about, what are some of the things she’s involved with?

My mom is a great woman. I can’t begin to explain all the things she does for me, my business and the sport of MMA. Both her and my dad have supported me from day one and are the reason I’ve been able to build multiple multi-million dollar companies. We started with a $5,000 business loan and that was all we needed to build up everything we have today. It’s a great success story and we worked together to build this thing. I know that without my mom none of this would have succeeded. She runs things and deals with me being scatter-brained. I have so many ideas but sometimes it’s hard for me to explain what I want done and she figures it out.

If you look at all my business adventures, she has been a part of all of them. My parents have a belief in me and know what I’m capable of and just support me and let me run with the ideas. People don’t understand how I operate but my parents taught me that it doesn’t matter what people think of you as long as you are doing what you believe is right and are being a good person in your mind by doing this. I can care less what the general public thinks of me because I’m doing what I believe is the right thing. My parents taught me this and they are both amazing people.

That is really awesome. Yeah your Dad is really cool too, I didn’t mean to leave him out but he seems to be more behind the scenes. Thanks for taking time to speak with us today Ed. I know it’s an extremely busy week for you. Was there anyone you wanted to thank or send any shout outs?

I’d like to thank my parents, Lloyd Irvin for all the business support and friendship he has given me, everyone at Nashville MMA whether it be my students or staff, Eddie Bravo, Dan Lambert, Scotty Nelson, there’s just a ton of people who have helped me to get to where I’m at today. And thank you Jack for this interview.

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