Amidst great fanfare and international intrigue, South African heavyweight champion, Rico “The White Lion” Hattingh, entered the main event of the XFC “Clash of the Continents” supercard on December 5, 2008 with an 11-1 pro record, ten gold medals won from international wrestling competitions, a submission victory over UFC veteran Trevor Prangley, and universal recognition as the top heavyweight in all of Africa.
The Mixed Martial Arts media on both continents eagerly awaited Hattingh’s XFC debut against the lesser-known 22-year-old American heavyweight, Chad Corvin. Rico Hattingh left the main event on a stretcher – with his nose shattered in four different locations – after being knocked out cold in 19 seconds. But Hattingh shouldn’t feel too disheartened: None of Corvin’s previous opponents have survived the first round either.
“I try to end it quick,” explained the 250-pound Chad Corvin of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. “When the bell chimes and all that adrenaline courses through my veins, it’s almost a Jekyll and Hyde thing. Whatever I gotta do to win, I’m gonna do. I’m out for blood, I guess.”
A much-heralded high school wrestler from Kentucky, Corvin was the state runner-up at 215 pounds his senior year. But any thoughts of wrestling in college were derailed one day prior to his high school graduation, when the school informed Corvin that he lacked the minimum qualifications to graduate.
“I partied too much,” Corvin sheepishly admits. “So when everyone else went to college, I went to work.” And Corvin has worked ever since, operating heavy machinery for a couple of years and later becoming a professional plumber. “I’ve worked so much that – other than the traveling I do for my MMA career – I haven’t taken a single trip outside of Elizabethtown since high school. I’m always working.”
And when he’s not working, he’s fighting. Undefeated as an amateur (6-0) and as a professional (4-0), it’s his unearthly punching power and devastating opening assault that’s leading many MMA insiders to label Chad Corvin the next great American heavyweight. Martin Smith, a writer for the European-based MMA Unlimited Magazine, recently listed Chad Corvin first in his “Ten Fighters to Watch in 2009” list. “I’ve been hearing good things about Chad Corvin for far too long now,” wrote Smith, noting Corvin’s “dominating and brutal” history in the cage.
XFC president John Prisco understands the intrigue surrounding the young heavyweight. “I’m not going to compare any heavyweight to Fedor [Emelianenko] right now,” said Prisco, whose XFC promotion airs nationwide on HDNet and regional cable stations. “But Chad is the first American heavyweight I’ve seen in a long time to have almost a Fedor-esque mystique to him – that quiet aura of invincibility. Look, when you can hit a man with such force that his face literally implodes, people will talk. The doctors wouldn’t even let Hattingh fly out of the country for over a month. Believe me, MMA insiders are definitely talking about Chad Corvin right now. They know he might be the next great superstar in this sport.”
When asked about fellow-undefeated heavyweight Scott “The Bear” Barrett (6-0) of Atlanta, Georgia, who faces Corvin in the main event of XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox” on February 20 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the 22-year-old declined to predict a victory. “I weigh 250; Barrett weighs 265,” Corvin said. “I’m 4-0; he’s 6-0. Because he wrestled at Carson-Newman College [in nearby Jefferson City, Tennessee], I’m sure the crowd will be on his side. He’s bigger, has a better record, and he’ll be the fan favorite. That’s fine. I like being the underdog. And I like my chances. So let’s lock the cage and see who’s the last man standing.”
Scott Barrett, a 25-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai expert, cautioned fans from discounting his prospects: “Me and Chad, we’re both at an early career crossroads. We’re two of the fastest-rising undefeated heavyweights in America right now, but after February 20, only one of us will still be considered a can’t-miss superstar. I respect Chad, but there’s just no way I’m losing this fight. I’ve got dreams of my own and can’t afford a setback. I don’t care if he shatters my face like he did to Rico Hattingh – I’ll just bend back my nose, spit out my teeth, and continue fighting. Come hell or high water, I’m winning this fight.”
Corvin was much more serene when contemplating his long-term future. “I’ve got my plumbing license,” he quietly noted. “I’m a real good plumber, so I have that to fall back on. I’m still with my high school sweetheart, Erin [Culver]. Life is good right now. But fighting is what I love to do. Scary thing is, I’m not even half as good as I’m gonna be when I reach my peak. You’ll see. February 20 will be fun.”
Barrett quickly retorted, “Ask Chad how much fun he had after our fight. I promise you, he’s going to have a very bad day.”
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. Tickets are now available at the Thompson-Boling Arena box office and Tickets Unlimited outlets, including Cat’s Music, Disc Exchange, and Fye Music. For more information about XFC, please visit www.mmaxfc.com.