Ex-University of Tennessee linebacker to fight in state’s first-ever pro MMA event

The XTREME FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP will be holding XFC 7: SCHOOL OF HARD KNOX this Friday, February 20 at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. One of the local stars who will appear on the card is former UT Vols linebacker and special teams ace, Ovince St. Preux. The XFC sent PRO MMA (promma.info) the following press release this morning regarding St. Preux:

Ovince St. Preux Goes from the Gridiron to the Steel Cage at XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox” on Friday, February 20 at Thompson-Boling Arena

Knoxville, TN: One of the lesser-known specialties in football is “wedge-busting” on special teams. Considered by The Sporting News the most violent position in all of football, the “wedge-buster” takes the field on punt and kickoff coverage, sprints at full speed, locates the wall of blockers trying to protect the returner, and then – boom! – sacrifices his body to take down the wall, allowing his defenders to tackle the returner. It’s arguably the most underappreciated aspect of the game, and often the cause of football’s most teeth-rattling collisions.

“You don’t have to be crazy to be a wedge-buster,” laughed Ovince St. Preux, formerly the wedge-busting special teams ace for the Tennessee Volunteers. “But you know, sometimes a little craziness helps. My mission was to smash through that wedge and collapse the wall by any means necessary. Whatever it took to ensure a Volunteer victory, that’s what I did.”

His willingness to sacrifice his own body and absorb obscene amounts of punishment is now serving him well in his new sport, the Mixed Martial Arts, also known as cage fighting.

On Friday, February 20 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville Tennessee, Ovince St. Preux will battle CT Turner in a light heavyweight showdown between rising prospects at XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox” – the first-ever professional MMA fight card in Tennessee state history. And for Ovince, it’s the opportunity to bask in the cheers of the home crowd one more time.

Originally from Immokalee, Florida, Ovince was one of the nation’s most sought-after athletic prodigies in high school sports. He went 26-1 his senior year as a wrestler, taking second in the state at 189-pounds, but it was his prowess on the football field that earned him full scholarship offers from the top schools in the Southeast, including Miami, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Clemson, Louisville and Georgia.

One trip to Knoxville was all it took for Ovince to sign with the Volunteers in 2001. “I felt at home here,” he recalled. And he made it his home, too; after graduating in 2004 with a double major in sociology and criminal justice – and a minor in political science – he’s remained in Knoxville ever since.

On the football field, Ovince quickly learned that the differences between SEC football and high school competition were considerable. “I came to Tennessee as a 195-pound defensive end,” he said. “They moved me to linebacker because I was so undersized, but the position was never a natural fit. I managed to build my body up to about 240-pounds after living in the weight room for a few years. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the frame to support it. Today I fight at 205 and that’s where I’m at my athletic best.”

Instead, he made his living as the Volunteer’s special teams ace and wedge-busting specialist. “You didn’t read a lot about what I did in the Sunday morning stat sheet,” noted Ovince, “but if I didn’t do my job on Saturday, the Vols couldn’t win. And I know it sort of looks like raw brutality, but there’s actually an art to the violence. You need to maximize your leverage and body position to blast through a blocker who might outweigh you by 50-pounds. Otherwise you’d get your head knocked off.”

For the most part, Ovince managed to keep his head intact. Over the course of his entire football career, he missed zero games and just two practices due to injury.

“The best part of playing at Tennessee was joining an exclusive football fraternity comprised of all past and present Volunteers,” Ovince said. “One of the things that really impressed me back in my playing days was the undeniable connection the old Vols felt towards their school. They might be NFL superstars or Super Bowl champions in other cities, but once they come back to Knoxville, they’re just another member of Vol Nation. Peyton Manning used to come back to campus and practice against us in seven-on-seven drills. Man, Peyton’s release sounded like a cannon! And the ball got to the receiver so fast, I couldn’t get close to breaking up the pass. But the way the old Vols like Peyton would relate to us, you could tell that their time at UT really meant something special to them. Once a Volunteer, always a Volunteer.”

After his days on the gridiron were over, Ovince’s life went in a new direction when a friend announced that he was taking a kickboxing class. “I wanted to tag along because I was curious what it would be like. Plus, I missed competing in sports and I thought it sounded pretty cool. Once I got there I realized that it was less about kickboxing and more about MMA. And it was love at first sight. The competition, the aggression, the violence – almost immediately, MMA became my one true passion.”

Ovince started training with local MMA expert Eric Turner, owner of the Knoxville Mixed Martial Arts Academy. But back then, Eric didn’t own a gym. “We used to train in his garage,” smiled Ovince. “And if it was 20 degrees outside, it was 20 degrees inside the garage. No complaints. When you’re passionate about what you do, you just block everything else out and focus on elevating your game.”

Early into his new career as a Mixed Martial Artist, the same athletic talents that once captivated the Southeast’s top college scouts – and his willingness to sacrifice his own body to achieve victory – has started to turn heads in the MMA industry. Ovince traveled to Mississippi to fight in the “King of the Cage” tournament in May of 2008, winning his first fight by first round submission with a rear naked choke, and his second fight by first round knockout. He’ll bring a record of 11-2 as a pro and amateur into his fight against heavy-handed CT Turner, originally of Louisville, Kentucky but now fighting out of Tampa, Florida.

“I’ve never worked harder to prepare for a fight than this one,” said Ovince, taking a break between pounding the heavy bag. “CT is real aggressive and has strong jujitsu. He’s 5-1 as a pro and 3-0 as an amateur, so I know he’s gonna be confident and look to force the action. Plus, he’s been running his mouth for a long time – saying he’ll destroy me like the Gators destroyed the Vols. Whatever, man. Now I’m hearing he’s gonna wear a Tim Tebow jersey when he walks to the cage to try to get under my skin. I find that stuff more funny than anything else, but yeah – it’s a motivator, too. That’s my school you’re talking about.”

Ovince paused briefly before returning to the heavy bag, grumbling under his breath: “Like I said before, once a Volunteer, always a Volunteer. And he’s just another wedge that needs busting.”

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.

About Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC): Xtreme Fighting Championships – better known to MMA fight fans worldwide as XFC – is the Southeast’s leading independent MMA promotion, and stages the largest live shows in the entire sport this side of UFC. Dedicated to launching the careers of the next generation of MMA superstars, XFC’s next mega-event, XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox” will take place on February 20, 2008 in Knoxville, Tennessee. XFC 7 will make history as the first-ever pro MMA event in Tennessee state history. For more information about XFC, please visit www.mmaxfc.com.

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