When Myron Dennis (3-0) first walked into the Academy of Martial Arts in Oklahoma City, he didn’t plan to become a professional fighter.
A former collegiate football player at Southern Nazarene University, he needed an outlet for his natural athleticism; just something to stay active and keep in shape. But three wins, one local promotion championship, and several Thai boxing and grappling competitions later, and Dennis is now one of the more promising young MMA prospects in the Midwest.
“At first it was just something to do to keep in shape when I finished playing college football,” Dennis told ProMMAnow.com. “All I was doing was lifting and eating, and I was getting big.”
Although Dennis’s early combative moments didn’t go smoothly, he took to it almost immediately.
“My first time sparring I got my nose broken and two black eyes,” said Dennis, a 21-year-old hailing from Midwest City, Okla. “But two months later I had my first amateur Muay Thai fight. My first fight, it was an adrenaline rush.”
He added, “Other sports you dread going to practice. With MMA I actually look forward to it.”
Rather than jumping straight into MMA competition, Dennis tried his hand at grappling and Muay Thai.
“It’s kind of getting cliché, but I think it’s good to be a martial artist before you become a mixed martial artist. That gives you an advantage over other guys that just start training MMA and don’t really master checking leg kicks and stuff like that. The good thing is, with my coach Kentrick Coleman, he’s trained us in Brazilian Jiu Jitus, Muay Thai, boxing … everything.”
Dennis began competing at heavyweight, even picking up a win over Gary Frazier on June 25.
Up until recently, Frazier was the only man to take Strikeforce contender Daniel Cormier beyond the first round. Dennis stopped Frazier by TKO in less than one minute.
“The one thing I was looking at was not the skill level, but the heart,” Dennis said. “When I watched the Cormier fight, not to rag on him, but [Frazier] was showing a little lack of heart. He managed to come back a couple of times, but he didn’t respond well when he was getting pushed. That’s one thing I look for is confidence. For the Gary Frazier fight I came out confident and really took it to him.”
Now that he’s down to light heavyweight and competing with opponents closer to his size, Dennis is ready to make a run at the big stage. He submitted Brandon Lyons (5-3) in 53 seconds to win the Xtreme Fight League 205-pound title. The XFL has also helped launch the careers of UFC fighters Johny Hendricks, Daniel Roberts, and Shane Roller.
Of course, talent and athleticism don’t guarantee success. Top professional fighters need a sense of fearlessness. Not arrogance, but the willingness to step up and fight whomever is put in front of them.
It certainly seems like Dennis has that attribute. And in case you need proof, Dennis is hoping to face kickboxing legend Rick Roufus in a K-1 rules bout sometime this February.
Sure, Roufus’s glory days are well behind him. But it takes some serious cajones for an MMA up-and-comer to step into Roufus’s world and go toe-to-toe in a striking battle.
“I don’t have a lot of experience, but the main thing is confidence,” he said. “I never really worried about [being the underdog]. I mean, yeah, I’m cautious and know who’s going to be dangerous. But if you do fight someone with the wrong mindset, you’re going to get hurt.”
Even though he didn’t step into a martial arts gym hoping to become a superstar, Dennis has developed a passion for MMA. And like any other competitor, he wants to eventually test himself against the best.
“Right now the sky’s the limit,” Dennis said. “I want to get as good as I can and do it the right way. I want to be the guy on TV people are watching.”
Dennis continued, “Even if I wouldn’t make it big, I love the martial arts. But I want to be in the big leagues. That’s my goal.”