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Gladiator Challenge Results: analyst Andrew Richardson wins professional debut

I’ve done a write up for each and every one of my amateur fights — win or lose — but this is probably the most difficult one yet to craft an understandable narrative.

It’s just so bizarre.

Luckily, my sponsorship allowed a videographer to follow me around and record the whole weekend for a documentary, which will be released in a little while. That will tell the whole story, so this will be my abbreviated attempt to just capture the madness and fight night feelings.

Last night (March 31, 2018), I won my professional debut in less than a minute at Gladiator Challenge: Redemption at the Thunder Valley Casino in Rocklin, California. The day before, I attended weigh-ins at a local bar/bowling alley, and this tweet from NorCal MMA pretty much sums up the weigh in-experience.

Throughout my entire eight week camp — which was grueling despite the quick result and expected low level of competition — I had no idea who my opponent was, only that it would be at Bantamweight. However, Gladiator Challenge has a 5 lbs. allowance, meaning I could weigh in at 140 lbs. and still make weight. The Friday previous to weigh-ins, I was given a list of potential opponents but bumped up to Featherweight (AKA 150 lbs.).

I’ve never weighed 150 lbs. in my life. I’ve made Flyweight and dieted down to 135 without cutting water. So after a week of unsuccessfully trying to gain weight back, I weighed in at 141 lbs.

At weigh-ins, I never saw my opponent. I asked if he would be coming and was told that was a no. There will be no face-off picture in this article. What does he weigh? I haven’t the slightest idea.

At the event the next day, I still had no idea who my opponent was. By this point, I had been given a name, one that did not exist on social media or fight websites. I ended up fighting a different person than who I was told anyway, but I nearly walked out to the cage not having any idea who I’d be facing.

Having no idea who you’re going to fight is an odd experience. On one hand, I knew the promotion and expected level of competition. On the other, I was fighting 25 lbs. above my real weight class and had to be prepared for anything.

The fights were supposedly going to start at 7:00, but everyone knows that regional MMA never starts on time. Judging by how disorganized people seemed and how half the fighters hadn’t even showed up yet, we all assumed that the event would start at least half an hour late. Then, 10 minutes to seven, a member of the promotion tells us that the first fight (me!) must be ready to go in 10 minutes.

I didn’t even have my cup in or gloves on yet. I rushed through a warm up and was brought out to a backstage area. We ended up waiting there for a few minutes, and that’s the first time I saw my opponent. Once I saw him, I could tell right away that he was not an experienced fighter, but I did my best to stay mentally sharp as if that was not the case.

Soon, I was walking out to blaring guitars and high energy shouts of The Pixies’ “Debaser,” which I still think is the perfect walkout song for the absurd nature of this contest.

Once inside the cage, the referee/announcer wasted literally no time in immediately beginning the fight. That’s when I found out my opponent was a Southpaw, and I immediately attacked with pretty standard open stance strategy, which is to say that I kicked him hard as hell in the body.

I had taken an outside angle previous to the kick, which meant that it landed cleanly, and I could tell it hurt. I feinted the kick then went high with another right kick, which clipped the side of his head. I feinted a bit more before trying to land another hard body kick, which he blocked with his knee.

Seeing how he blocked that kick, I feinted with my hips once more and came in hard with a couple right hands instead. The first one landed clean but the second missed as he turned away, although that gave good position to grab a body lock and toss him. Once on top, I found the back mount and flattened him out pretty quickly.

Back control and positioning is my specialty. If I flatten out a very good fighter from that position, I know the bout is won. Against my inexperienced foe, I knew the fight was more than over, so I mostly pitter-pattered his gloves and waited for the referee to stop it. For whatever reason, the ref waited a while to intervene, so I had to punch his arms a bit harder to draw the official finish.

My first professional win — the only thing on my record that actually counts for something — came against the least skilled fighter I’ve ever faced. That’s not an attempt to insult my opponent. I have nothing but respect for his guts. Fighting while being heavily trained and prepared is difficult and nerve-racking; I wouldn’t do this shit if I didn’t have years of experience.

The Hurt Business is a cold game. Fighting is a difficult sport with little room for error, which makes building your record and taking low-level fights early on the smart move. It’s not pretty, but it’s necessary if you want to find success in the sport and leave (somewhat) healthy.

Debaser indeed.

Anyway, that about concludes fight night from my perspective. A lot more went on that night — including my team mate and co-host Andrew Coyne’s second professional win and a ridiculous saga about gluing down my goofy hair — but I’ll let the upcoming documentary video detail all the extra stuff.

As for me, I ate Krispy Kreme donuts and Manco & Manco pizza at about midnight after the fight. The pizza is something of a Richardson family tradition; it’s my dad’s favorite food on Earth, and my mom packed a cooler with the stuff straight from the Jersey shore and brought it out to us.

Despite said feast, I woke up at 139 lbs. this morning, because apparently nothing matters and I am destined to be a Flyweight.

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