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.
KEY VICTORIES: Jason Day, Chris Camozzi
WEIGHT CLASS: 185 lbs.
French fighter Francis Carmont had a respectable career from 2004–2008, fighting for various promotions scattered across Europe. Knowing that he needed to kick-start his effort if he wanted a shot on the big stage, he made the move to Montreal, Canada, where he hooked up with UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre and the coaches at Tristar Gym.
Bouncing back and forth between wins and losses from 2006-2008, Carmont is now on a five-fight tear, clawing his way into the most prominent mixed martial arts promotion on the planet. His first-round TKO of UFC veteran Jason Day for a smaller promotion in Ontario—along with St-Pierre’s endorsement—was enough for the UFC to pull the trigger and put him in the Octagon against Chris Camozzi at UFC 137 in October 2011. Carmont earned a unanimous decision with a balanced attack of striking and takedowns.
At 6’3”, Carmont is a tall fighter whose length and range could provide trouble for many fighters in the 185-pound class. Carmont has a strong base in Muay Thai, and he has started to round out his abilities at Tristar by working on his wrestling and submission skills.
Carmont returns to Europe on April 15 at UFC on Fuel TV 2 to take on newcomer Magnus Cedenblad in Stockholm, Sweden. If Carmont fights with the same tenacity that he did in his UFC debut, he could find himself quickly moving up the middleweight ladder.
KEY VICTORY: Kid Yamamoto
WEIGHT CLASS: 125 lbs.
COUNTRY: United States
Darren Uyenoyama jumped into mixed martial arts by taking a job on the business side of the sport to make ends meet while he trained. He says that both sides of the equation—the business side and the competitive side—are tough ways to make a living.
“They’re both pretty cutthroat, but at least on the fighting side, you can see the person who’s trying to attack you,” he says with a laugh. “On the business side, there are people around every corner who are trying to take your job or take advantage of your hard work. At least in the cage, you can’t hide.”
After making his professional MMA debut in 2002, Uyenoyama didn’t take the big leap into full-time fighting until he debuted for Strikeforce in 2008. Known for his strong grappling abilities, Uyenoyama dove straight into the deep end of the pool, fighting for Strikeforce three times and bouncing around the Japanese circuit in Dream, Deep, and Shooto.
Now, he’s gone all-in, playing in the biggest of the big leagues. Not only did he take a fight in the Octagon late last year, he also went up against one of the most respected Japanese fighters on the planet, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. In addition, it was on the UFC’s first fight card with their new television partners at Fox. No pressure there, right?
“To be completely honest, I never dreamed it was really possible,” says Uyenoyama. “I never thought I’d actually be fighting in the UFC cage. Having a victory over Kid Yamamoto hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
The road isn’t getting any easier for Uyenoyama. Initially eyeballing a bantamweight bout against former title contender Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in late winter, he instead has decided to drop to the UFC’s newly minted flyweight division. Continuing to live the dream, Uyenoyama will square off with The Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson on May 5 at UFC on FOX 3 in New Jersey.
KEY VICTORIES: John Maguire, Matt Thorpe, Fabricio Nascimento
WEIGHT CLASS: 170 lbs.
NICKNAME: The Grin
Simeon Thoresen began his athletic endeavors as a young boy by taking karate classes. He then switched to gymnastics, where he spent several years bouncing, balancing, and tumbling. As he got older, Thoresen returned to martial arts, training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Thoresen competed in numerous grappling competitions and won his only amateur MMA fight. That’s when things got serious, and Thoresen’s path took a turn destined for the UFC spotlight.
Accepting his MMA calling, Thoresen, who lived and trained in Sandefjord, Norway, pulled up roots. He moved to the country’s capitol, Oslo, to train with Joachim Hansen, the most successful fighter to emerge from Norway.
It didn’t take long to see the results of the move. Within his first two years as a professional fighter, Thoresen captured the Adrenaline Welterweight Title in Denmark by winning two fights in one night. He continued to toil and train, stumbling a couple of times en route to his current 16-2-1 record, but the successes have far outweighed the failures. Despite feeling most at home as a striker in his early days, Thoresen has become a prolific submission artist, forcing 14 of his opponents to tap.
Fighting in England for the majority of his career, including wins over John Maguire and Matt Thorpe, Thoresen put himself on the road to the Octagon when he captured the UWC Welterweight Title in July 2011, defeating Nova Uniao fighter Fabricio Nascimento. He defended the belt in October, with a 34-second choke-out of Manuel Garcia.
When the UFC decided to make the trip to Sweden for UFC on Fuel TV 2 in April, it was a no-brainer to add European prospect Thoresen to the card. Thoresen will make the short jaunt from Oslo to Stockholm to take on UFC newcomer Besam Yousef.