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: Nam Phan, Jorge Gurgel, Waachiim Spirit Wolf
WEIGHT CLASS: Lightweight (155 pounds)
COUNTRY: United States
“I feel that I’ve been doing well in Strikeforce, and I should be getting up to the bigger shows after this,” says Billy Evangelista to MMAWeekly.com prior to his most recent fight against Waachiim Spirit Wolf at Strikeforce Challengers 11 in October. And who could argue with him?
He walked out of a tough, close fight with Spirit Wolf, improving his unblemished record to 11-0. Evangelista has paid his dues, fighting the majority of his career for Strikeforce on the untelevised preliminary bouts and in its developmental Challengers Series.
The victims on his hit list include some of the toughest fighters in the sport. With wins over Jorge Gurgel and Nam Phanon his resume, main card fights should be in his future. He is an exciting fighter who has shown that he’s unafraid to stand and bang with anyone. Just ask Gurgel or Luke Caudillo. But he has also shown an evolving ground game that makes him a legitimate threat to anyone in the upper ranks of Strike force’s lightweight division.
“I want to get to the bigger shows and start fighting opponents that will give me a shot at the belt,” says Evangelista. “I want to continue my winning streak and hopefully get a crack at whoever the champion is at the time.”
KEY VICTORIES: Will Kerr, Dave Jansen
WEIGHT CLASS: Lightweight (155 pounds)
NICKNAME: Prince of Persia
Kamal Shalorus, born in Khalkha, Iran, comes from humble beginnings. He grew up in a small village and does not even know when he was born or how old he truly is.
“The government of Iran says I’m 37 years old, but I’m not,”says Shalorus, who estimates his actual age is closer to 29 years old, which he told WEC’s Frank Curreri before his first WEC bout in 2009. “Maybe I was born in 1978, maybe 1979, maybe 1975. I don’t know. I said, ‘Mom, what happened?’ She said, ‘Oh yeah, we had another son before you and he passed away. We could not go to the city [to the hospital] because we had no money and it was snowing, so we just gave his birth certificate to you.’ It’s very common where I come from.”
He may not know his age, but Shalorus knows that he loves to fight and is good at it. He made his way through the ranks of the Iranian national wrestling squad, and after traveling to train and compete in countries such as Turkey and Russia, he realized that there was much more to the world than his small village in Iran.
Shalorus moved to Britain, attained citizenship, and competed on the country’s Olympic qualifying wrestling team in 2004. Soon after, he met his future American wife while training and moved with her to Austin, Texas. He then began training mixed martial arts and hasn’t looked back.
Like many wrestlers who turn to mixed martial arts, Shalorus has utilized his grappling background and size and strength to fuel an aggressive, controlling style that dishes out a brutal dose of ground-and-pound.
He quickly tore through all opposition in front of him in Texas, capturing regional titles for King of Kombat and Superior Warrior Championship. He emerged in the WEC after just five bouts, amassing a 4-0-1 record.
Shalorus trains often with Relson Gracie black belt Phil Cardella and Strikeforce fighter Tim Kennedy, as well as spending time at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas with Neil Melans on and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture.
He is 2-0-1 in the WEC, rolling over Will Kerr in a minute and a half, before winning a unanimous decision over formerly undefeated Dave Jansen. He made it all the way to a number one contender bout, facing former WEC Lightweight Champion Jamie Varner, but the two ended up in a split draw that left neither with a shot at gold.
Shalorus will now look to get back on track by facing Bart Palaszewski in what will be the final event in WEC history. After WEC 53 in December, the promotion will be folded into the UFC, and Shalorus will gain entry to the most prominent stage in the world for MMA.
KEY VICTORY: David Marshall
WEIGHT CLASS: Welterweight (170 pounds)
COUNTRY: United States
Training in the long shadow cast by former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Cung Le, James Terry is a fighter who has climbed his way through the ranks with workmanlike precision, stumbling at times, but righting his course.
Terry has only faltered twice in 10 bouts, both times to other rising stars Jeremiah Metcalf and Tarec Saffiedine. After losing to Metcalf, he scored back-to-back wins over Zac Bucia. And when he stumbled against Saffi edine, he returned in October to defeat an 8-1 David Marshall on the undercard of Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons II.
The fight against Marshall was the last on his Strikeforce contract, and he likely needed that win to sell himself to a new deal with the promotion.
Beginning wrestling at the age of 5 and traditional martial arts at age 8, Terry had the strong base of amateur wrestling from high school and college to build upon when he decided to continue his post-college athletic aspirations by fighting.
Training under Cung Le—one of the most dynamic strikers in mixed martial arts—has helped him round out his style. He also trains with former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson, who has helped shape his BJJ game. All of this has led to a style that makes him a dangerous ground-and-pounder with a strong ability to strike.
Perhaps the biggest element he has improved on recently, however, is the mental aspect of fighting, paying more attention to his coach’s instructions during a fight and following the game plan.
“I was happy about the fight with Marshall, because in my previous fight with Tarec, I didn’t follow my game plan,” he tells MMAWeekly.com. “I just went with what I felt was instinctual for the moment. It’s not that I don’t want to follow instructions, it’s that I get so intensely focused on the moment and what I’m doing that I forget to listen to my corner.”
He hasn’t yet worked out a new deal with Strikeforce, but following the win over Marshall, Terry is confident that he will be back.
“I would like to think that Strikeforce would like to keep me and resign me,” he says. “I’m 3-1 in Strikeforce, and they had me ranked in the Top 10 of their welterweight rankings, so I’m very optimistic.”