Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.
Portland, Oregon’s Dave Jansen found fighting during a stint as a waiter at Gustav’s Pub and Grill in 2004. One of his co-workers, UFC veteran Chris Wilson, trained at Team Quest and convinced him to come to practice. Jansen had wrestled for 15 years, earning a state title in 1997 at 151 pounds, but had burned out on a partial scholarship to the University of Oregon and left school his sophomore year.
Jansen liked what he saw at the venerated gym, but didn’t think he could make the commitment, much less a living in the still-emerging sport. The service industry had sucked him in. It wasn’t until Jansen turned on the TV and saw Wilson fighting in the International Fight League that he was sold. In June 2006, he joined Quest and fought five months later in an amateur fight.
Jansen, 30, won all six of his amateur fights before turning pro in January 2007. His wrestling helped him establish a quick base, but his jiu-jitsu started winning fights, with eight submission victories. In a marathon run, he fought 12 more times in 22 months before catching the eyes of WEC matchmakers.
In an impressive debut, Jansen outworked veteran Rich Crunkilton by unanimous decision at WEC 43, announcing his presence on the national stage.
Jansen bought a moped with his WEC money and cruises the chilly streets of Portland.
“What attracted me to fighting was almost being your own boss,” he says. “What you get out of it is what you put into it. I was never into team sports. It just wasn’t for me if somebody stumbled on the five-yard line and cost you the game, but you played a great game. Another thing, it’s like the base of humanity. Raw aggression.”
Next, Jansen faces fellow up-andcomer Kamal Shalorus at WEC 46 in January. Shalorus has a decorated grappling background and heavy hands, though Jansen doesn’t think much of his standup and plans to beat him to the punch. He’s a long way from waiting tables.
“I’m after the WEC title,” he says. “I don’t think this is the sport that you do unless you’re going to do it to the fullest. I’m in it 100% to go as far as I can.”
Anthony Morrison has made many sacrifices. He was raised on the rough streets of Philadelphia. Growing up, Morrison knew he was meant to do something more. He began training on his own in his grandma’s basement and fought for a better way of life. Morrison trained at various gyms and would sleep on floors and couches for months on end.
“What woke me up was when I was a senior in high school and I had a daughter on the way. I saw lots of my friends get locked up and some killed. I wanted to be there for my daughter,” says Morrison. “The streets don’t care about how old you are. Only two ways out of the streets: judged by twelve or carried out by six. I had to get out by just leaving … period.”
Morrison packed two duffle bags and got on a train to Richmond, Virginia. “Antmo” settled in with Team Combat, home to Ultimate Fighter winner Amir Sadollah, before moving to Las Vegas. Morrison’s time at Team Combat has evolved his game into what it is today.
“I have never been a part of a real team, and being here really feels like home to me. Not only do I get quality training, but Kru and the rest of my boys at Team Combat really look out for me on a professional and personal level … and that’s real.”
At Ring of Combat 27, Morrison defeated Kurt Pellegrino pupil Jeff Lentz to claim the organization’s 145-pound title. The victory was a highlight in his career, but the win was bittersweet.
“When I won the belt I felt good, but the second I got out of the cage it was back to reality. I had to deal with burying my aunt and cousin. So, while I was happy, the family loss was heavy on me,” says the WKA Featherweight Champion.
“I fought that fight with a heavy heart. My aunt had a heart attack, my cousin got shot. The win was kind of surreal.”
Building upon that victory, Morrison is coming off the biggest victory of his career. He defeated UFC veteran and former Ring of Fire Champion Alvin Robinson by TKO in the opening round.
“I felt real confident going into this fight, and I knew in my heart I could beat him,” says Morrison. “When I landed the first leg kick on him I could see it in his eyes, I broke his will right there.”
Morrison has made many sacrifices in his life and continues to do so as he pursues his career. It pains him to be away from his daughter and wife, but he understands the commitment he must make.
“I want my family and teammates to know I appreciate them putting up with everything while I chase this dream. I want to thank Kru and all of you for everything you guys have done to keep this opportunity alive for me. I hope to make everyone proud.”
Daniel Madrid is one of the best middleweight prospects in mixed martial arts. The Gracie Barra Phoenix fighter maintains a great work ethic and is constantly improving his game. A jiu-jitsu purple belt under Marc Zee, Madrid is ready to take things to the next level.
Madrid describes himself as “an unorthodox fighter. I use angles and switch stances often. I will stand-up with anyone or go to the ground with anyone. I train to be an all-around fighter, not just one dimensional.”
Looking up to fighters such Bas Rutten, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and Kazushi Sakuraba, Madrid’s interest in MMA began at an early age.
“I remember a time when I was 14 years old, I went over to a friend’s house to hang out. His older brother was really big in the fighting scene and was watching some Pancrase, and that’s when I got to see Bas Rutten fight for the first time. I knew I was hooked. I started learning jiu-jitsu the next year.”
Every fighter waits for his chance to compete at the next level. When the opportunity presented itself, Madrid made the best of it. He accepted a short notice fight against Daijiro Matsui at Art of War Fighting Championship 14 in China, taking full advantage.
Daijiro Matsui is one of the toughest veterans in MMA. He has faced a who’s who list of superstars and has a very deceiving record. In their fight, Madrid submitted Matsui into unconsciousness with a slick reverse triangle choke. Finishing a fighter such as Matsui isn’t an easy feat; not even a prime Wanderlei Silva could finish Matsui.
“I didn’t see it ending the way it did at all. I thought my hands were going to be my key to success via knockout, but that’s mixed martial arts at its finest for you,” says the Phoenix, Arizona, resident.
“You have to expect the unexpected in fights and have great cornermen who can see the unexpected when you can’t. Luckily for me, I have a great camp that gave me all the tools to achieve this victory.”
Being a full-time fighter is not easy. Despite a difficult road ahead, Madrid continues to remain positive and attributes much of his success to the support of his family and friends.
“My greatest achievement in life is knowing that I make my family proud for having a dream and continuing to pursue it. Without my family behind me, I don’t think that I could have come this far in my life,” says Madrid. “Stay strong and have an undying desire to pursue your dreams no matter what obstacle stands in your way, and don’t leave any regrets in the back of your mind that may hinder you later in life.”
Daniel Madrid lives by those words. Behind this well-rounded middleweight fighter lies a humble man on the verge of making it to the next level. The realization of a dream is his driving force.