If I told you there was an undefeated featherweight prospect that won all but one of his fights by first round submission, you’d probably expect him to get the attention of the biggest promotions in mixed martial arts, right? In case he hasn’t already, ladies and gentlemen, meet Brandon Bender (7-0).
Training out of Millennia MMA in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., alongside the likes of WEC veterans Charlie Valencia and Manny Tapia and Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion Darrell Montague, Bender seems to have all the makings of a future champion.
He first took up martial arts at the age of 7, studying Tae Kwon Do, and took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 11 years ago. BJJ has come naturally to Bender, now a brown belt in the discipline.
In fact, Bender started Jiu Jitsu before wrestling in high school. So unlike wrestlers that make the move to MMA and have to break certain habits to stay out of submissions, Bender had to remind himself that it wasn’t okay to stay on his back during wrestling practice.
“It’s definitely a hard habit to break,” Bender told ProMMAnow.com.
But when it comes to sparring, Bender admits he has a preference for the gentle art.
“I love the fact that, theoretically, you can go 100 percent in Jiu Jitsu sparring and you don’t necessarily get hurt,” he said.
That being said, Bender’s opponents shouldn’t assume that he’s one-dimensional.
“I don’t consider myself just a Jiu Jitsu fighter,” Bender said. “I wouldn’t say one part of my game is better than the other.”
In fact, Bender got his first taste of MMA training at the age of 14. Living in California has its advantages, and before he knew it, Bender was sparring with current TPF champion and former UFC fighter John Alessio.
“I was rolling with him and had him in my half guard. He was punching me in the face and I was hooked,” he said. “I’ve been trying to work my way up to the UFC ever since.”
You know you’ve found your calling if getting punched in the face can actually pique your interest.
Bender will get his first taste of the big show on the undercard of the March 5 Bellator Fighting Championships show in Lemoore, Calif., where he’ll face Josh Herrick (6-1). It’s a big opportunity for Bender after winning three fights in 2010, capped off by a submission win over Team Quest student Mike Palo.
However, Bender isn’t concerned about being in the spotlight.
“Nothing really bothers me in the cage,” he said. “I’ve been booed going against guys fighting in their hometown. I’ve taken fights on a couple of days notice.”
With teammates like Valencia, Tapia, and Montague, Bender also knows he’ll be ready for whatever his opponent brings to the table.
“Training at Millennia definitely makes me confident,” Bender said. “I know I’m going to have a hard workout every day.”