Coach’s blog – how to know when a fighter is ready to turn pro

When is a fighter ready to turn Pro? I am sitting here thinking about two of my fighters, Thomas Campbell and Steven Durr, both of whom are 145 lbs.

Campbell came to me as a college wrestler with a 3-1 MMA record. When he first joined us it was after he had fought my guy Durr. Campbell won that fight via decision. He was a pure wrestler at the time. He is now 12-2; both losses have been to decisions.

He had his first Muay Thai match a couple of months ago and won that. He is training in BJJ and is a totally different fighter then when he came to us. Since joining us he has won the SSF Invitational and the KYFC 145 lbs. title.

Durr came to me (SSF in Murray, Ky.) as a brand new guy. He had never trained in MMA, BJJ, or Muay Thai, but he did wrestle in high school. Durr won his first two fights and looked good; and though he was still green, he was hungry and cocky.

I matched him up with Campbell (before he joined SSF) on my card in Ft. Campbell, Ky. I wanted to see how Durr would do with a guy I knew was a good wrestler.

They ended up having a three round war. It was really close but Campbell won the decision. I was proud of Durr for fighting so hard, and even though Campbell wasn’t my guy, I was proud of him because I knew he had what it would take to be a champion.

A few days after that show, Campbell shows up at my gym (SSF in Clarksville TN) and said that he wanted to train. I knew that with the natural talent that they both showed, it wouldn’t be long until they were winning titles.

At first Durr was advancing as a cross-trained MMA guy faster than Campbell. Durr’s record is now 10-3 and he holds the XMMA 145 lbs. title. He lost two decisions counting the one to Campbell and he lost a fight when he stepped up to fight for a 170 lbs. title.

But Campbell has really started to become a well-rounded fighter as well. Campbell and Durr have become great friends and are each other’s biggest fans.

Durr has always wanted to have a rematch because he is super competitive, but since he and Campbell are team mates he has reconciled the fact that Campbell will always have that win over him. Campbell has always stated that Durr has been his hardest fight.

These two fighters are ready to turn Pro, they have strong solid records and train exceptionally hard. Both are workhorses, they push themselves really hard and their records illustrate that. But, when I look around at other gyms I see fighters turning pro with losing records, only of couple of months of training, or their trainers are turning them pro so the trainer can get a cut of their pay.

This weakens the pool of pro fighters and forces the pay down for guys that deserve much more than $300 and $300. Campbell and Durr are ready to go Pro, but if I turn them without having them locked into a big show for their pro debut I risk allowing them to fall in that trap; fighting Pro, but making crap because some asshole turned six other 145 lbs. guys pro the month before, and they’re fighting for $300 or even $150.

It pisses me off. Not every fighter should turn Pro, only the best, only the guys that have really challenged themselves with tough fights and hard ass training sessions. Trainers need to keep their fighters amateur, and independent fighters need to stay amateur until they are truly ready to go Pro. Otherwise, you’re diluting the gene pool, so to speak.

I guess I’m telling you this because I’m very proud of them, they’re part of my family, and these are some of the fears I have for them.

I have decided to enter both of them in the HOOKnSHOOT eight man tournament for the 145 lbs. title on Nov. 28, 2009. HOOKnSHOOT has agreed to put them on opposite brackets so they wouldn’t have to face each other unless they both make it all the way to the final.

I hate to do this but HOOKnSHOOT is a great opportunity for them and it doesn’t seem fair to leave one out when they both deserve a shot at it. I’m looking at early next year to turn them both Pro. Wish them the best, they’ve earned it!

By: Ron Dayley

Ron Dayley is a trainer, manager, promoter, and owner of SSF Submission Academy.