By Mick Hammond // MMAWeekly.com
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: Alexandre Pimentel, Tristan Johnson
Weight Class: 145 lbs.
Country: United States
Nickname: The Gladiator
After putting together an impressive 10-fight winning streak, including two TKO finishes in the Score Fighting Series, Roufusport featherweight Rick Glenn made the jump to World Series of Fighting in March.
At the WSOF 2 in Atlantic City, NJ, Glenn faced undefeated and highly touted Alexandre “Pulga” Pimentel in front of a large crowd, both in person and on NBC Sports Network. Glenn entered the fight as an underdog to the BJJ black belt, but it was a position he was used to.
“My first fight for Score FS, I was supposed to be an underdog to Tristan Johnson or whatever, but I went up there and made a statement,” says Glenn. “Being an underdog doesn’t bother me. I train for everything.”
Underdog or not, Glenn took care of business on fight night, knocking out Pimentel less than two minutes into the third round. The KO derailed Pimentel’s undefeated streak. Glenn credits his performance to his preparation.
“I’ve been working with great coaches, including Duke Roufus on my striking, and Ben Askren on my wrestling,” says Glenn. “I’ve just got to stay consistent with my training. I’m now with the right people, so I think that will continue.”
Glenn knows that getting in on the ground floor of a growing promotion like World Series of Fighting and his solid performance could set him up to become a major force in the company over the coming year.
“There’s a handful of goals I have for the year,” says Glenn. “It would be great if I could get in four fights this year and stay with the WSOF.”
Key Victories: Chidi Njokuani, Drew McFedries, Tom Speer
Weight Class: 185 lbs.
Country: United States
Following a perfect 3-0 campaign in 2012, Colorado middleweight Jeremy Kimball kicked off 2013 with a solid decision victory over UFC veteran Drew McFedries in January.
“I wish McFedries would have come to fight a little bit more, but it was good to start to the year with a win over a big name,” says Kimball. “My cardio went well, and I pushed the pace. I did pretty much everything I wanted to do, other than get the knockout.”
The win over McFedries opened the door to the co-main event at RFA 7 in Denver, CO, on AXS TV, challenging Chidi Njokuani, one of the top prospects in the country and the younger brother of UFC fighter
Njokuani was the favorite, and he fought like it. In the opening round, Kimball took Njokuani to the mat, but the plan backfired as Njokuani controlled the fight on the ground. However, Kimball stuck with his strategy, and he finished Njokuani with a rear naked choke less than two minutes into the second round.
“It was the most adversity I’ve ever had to go through in a fight,” Kimball says. “I’m finally putting things together in the cage and performing the way that I do in the gym.”
The national exposure in RFA should help take Kimball to the next level. He spent the first couple years of his career building up a solid base, dominating the regional circuit in Colorado. At RFA, he was thrust into the national spotlight. Kimball has now won nine of his last 10 fights, following back-to-back losses in his first two pro fights. Currently on a five-fight win streak, the door is wide open for Kimball.
“I definitely feel like the next step is right there,” he says. “I’ve just got to keep winning. I’m always focused on the next guy I fight. I’ll fight whoever, whenever, whatever show. I love to fight, so I’m always ready for who is next.”
Key Victories: Nick Macias, Doug Jenkins
Weight Class: 145 lbs.
Following a successful 4-0 start in the amateur ranks, featherweight prospect Mirsad Bektic has taken his game to a new level, winning his first six pro fights in convincing fashion.
“I moved to Coconut Creek to American Top Team, and it’s just been a humbling experience being with the quality of coaches and teammates I have around me,” says Bektic. “I’m literally living my dream, and I’ve just become a whole new fighter since making the move. In all my fights, I’ve learned and taken something from each of them.”
Perhaps no fight has been more productive for him than when he went the distance at RFA 5 against Doug Jenkins, which was the first time Bektic had not finished one of his opponents.
“When the 15-minute fight ended, I wasn’t feeling any different than I had in other fights,” says Bektic. “I always know I’m in great shape, so going three rounds gave me a lot more experience in how to handle myself and control myself. I definitely matured.”
Bektic’s performance against Jenkins was enough for the RFA to invite him to fight at RFA 7 against local up-and-comer Nick Macias in a featured bout on AXS TV.
“Macias has fought tough guys like Tyler Toner, and he’s gone to decisions more than I have,” says Bektic. “He’s had more ring time than me.
Bektic didn’t need to worry about decisions or ring time, as he immediately planted Macias on the mat and hammered right hands into his face until the referee stopped the fight. It was the first time Macias had been finished in nine fights.
Already a fighter on the radar of many promoters, Bektic feels that the pressure to live up to expectations is always there, but is not as prominent as the pressure that he puts on himself to achieve his own lofty goals.
“Moving to Florida and doing this full-time, I’m not doing it to see how far I can go,” he says. “I’m in it because I know where I’ve come from and where I’m going. I see the end result, and I believe I’m going to be a UFC champion, so I guess the pressure is always there. I push myself because that’s what I expect out of myself.”