Saturday, August 18, 2018

Despite slow career start, MMA fighter comes out on top

KO'd in 2015 debut, Josue Del Rios emerges as Primal MMA champ

Josue Del Rios Celebrates his Recent UD Victory Over Brett Floyd
When a fighter gets KO’d in his debut bout—14 seconds into the first round, no less—then suffers defeat in the next two contests—the average human understandably might reevaluate his combat-sports career plans.  

But 25-year-old mixed martial artist Josue “Saiyan Prince” Del Rios, who subsequently won his next three fights—including a lightweight title belt—is not your average human being.

As fight announcer of the Primal Fight Promotions premiere on Aug. 13, this writer was amazed to watch the now 3-3 amateur MMA fighter standing in The Claridge fight cage, title belt raised above his head, smiling exultantly as hundreds of audience members cheered in salute of his victory.

Ring Announcer and Journalist Steve Peacock at Primal Fight Night 1
This scenario was surprising and yet…. simultaneously unsurprising. 

The specific outcome of the title bout was no shock, as Brett Floyd—who otherwise battled tenaciously with Del Rios—nonetheless fell short of securing the judges’ favor, who ruled unanimously against him.

But this writer three years ago also had been a first-hand witness, working as Fight Club Champion announcer, to two-thirds of the Saiyan Prince’s early career losses.

So, The Weigh-In asked Del Rios, among other questions, “How did you succeed in mustering enough tenacity and resilience to break this streak?” 

The Newark, N.J.-born-and-raised Del Rios took the time in a post-event telephone interview to explain that metamorphosis.

Del Rios admitted that along the path toward victory, there had been moments—even if just briefly—when he himself had been unsure whether to continue pursuing the MMA life. 

The Debut and Reprise Contests

Del Rios knew right away that he wanted to compete. 

After initiating training with Jerry Jones MMA of Bloomfield, N.J. when he was about 16, he first gained experience through North American Grappling Association, or NAGA, events in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

He then began training (and continues to train) at Rare Breed MMA, also of Bloomfield, and by the summer of 2015 was ready for his first public fight.

Rob “Billy” Fletcher, whose bout against Robert Cerebona had been cancelled in that Aug. 29 Fight Club Champion 5 event, became Del Rios’ opponent. 

Though not much more experienced, the 1-0 Fletcher was seeking to build upon his competition debut victory seven weeks earlier in FCC 4: an astounding five-second, round-one KO of Byron Sierra. 

As Del Rios in the past had trained with Fletcher and was familiar with his style and ability, he entered the cage prepared to win.

Nonetheless Fletcher KO’d him 14 seconds into the bout.

On the way back to the dressing room, Del Rios was puzzled as to what just happened. 

“I trained with him,” Del Rios thought. “How did he get the best of me?”

Fortunately he had a strong woman beside him: one who provided the necessary encouragement to help him pick up the pieces in this post-loss period. 

His then-girlfriend Melissa (now his wife) emphasized that the debut defeat was already behind him. Getting beaten in that bout was simply that: he lost that one bout. It did not mean he was beaten forever, Melissa told him.

Del Rios soon resumed training, ready for victory and simultaneously willing—as any great athlete must do—to risk the possibility of defeat. 

Though aiming for victory, his attitude toward future opponents was, as he put it, “If you’re going to beat me, you’re going to beat me by decision.”

Reflecting on the Fletcher-inflicted KO, he continued, “No one is going to beat me like that again.”

Josue Del Rio Enters the Cage Last Weekend

Road to Recovery 

A little less than a year later, Del Rios made plans for a reprise appearance via FCC 6 against Anthony Rosamilia, a newcomer.

Observers via, a website where MMA fans discuss their favorite fights and make predictions, were not hopeful for a Del Rios victory. Indeed, 92 percent of respondents predicted that Del Rios would lose—and the vast majority of them saw it coming by way of KO/TKO.

Though Rosamilia ultimately emerged victorious by way of unanimous decision, Del Rios indeed went toe-to-toe with the debut fighter and battled until the end of the three, three-minute round contest. 

Not the outcome for which Del Rios had hoped, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

Six months later, however, when he lost his next fight at Dead Serious 23 to Phumi Nkuta—also via unanimous decision—struggle with self-doubt dangerously crept in.

“When I got my second loss, I got discouraged,” Del Rios said. “But when I lost at [DS #23 on December 10, 2016], I was devastated.” He wondered whether he could fight anymore.

One again, Melissa told him not give up.

She exhorted him to leverage those losses as a means of fueling, rather than destroying, his dreams.
Del Rios listened. 

He would take one month off, but after that he was “Training twice as hard,” Del Rios said. 

In addition to strengthening his body and sharpening his fighting skills, “The people I surrounded myself with were key,” he added.

Though still training at Rare Breed, he extended his efforts by also preparing with Miller Brothers a few days a week. He even began training at UFC Gym-New Brunswick, but cut that short solely due to a burdensome and counterproductive commute. 

“Time to push myself,” he said. 

His efforts began to pay off.

He beat James DeLillo by way of 2nd round arm bar at Ring of Combat 23 AM, about seven months after loss #3 (July 15, 2017).

Two months ago, by way of 1st round, rear naked choke, he defeated George Melendez at Extreme Cage Fighting 21.

Then on Aug. 13, Del Rios became Primal lightweight champion.

The Primal Fight Promotions Lightweight Title

The Future? 

Despite occasional doubts, Del Rios had developed habits and established a positive work ethic early on—and therefore is better prepared and eager for future growth.

“I always wanted to show that I was the best out there,” he said. “I was humble, and yet I was also filled with a competitive spirit.”

In high school, for instance, no matter if it was baseball or water polo, Del Rios was driven by a desire to perform as excellently as possible.

“My attitude was ‘I can block more shots than you can shoot,’” he explained.

He applies that competitive spirit to MMA—though admittedly needs a push from time to time. 

“Melissa has to deal with me, and help me get focused,” he said. If he’s on the computer for too long, for instance, he can count on Melissa to get him back on track.

“She always helps me focus on getting a step ahead,” Del Rios added.

Intermittent computer usage aside, Del Rios lives a life of martial-arts immersion: rather than squeezing in training when he is not earning a living elsewhere, he instead pays the bills by working as a trainer.

“My whole life revolves around training,” he said. “It always involves fitness and fighting.” He thanks pro MMA fighter Sean “Shorty Rock” Santella for encouraging him to take that training-centric approach. 

He is likewise inspired by fighter Frankie Edgar, whose entire life focuses on the sport and business of MMA. He noted how Edgar, when not fighting in the UFC, works as a trainer and also is proprietor of the Iron Army sports-nutrition and athletic-apparel company.

Del Rios now intends to “collect [title] belts” and make the transition from amateur to pro MMA fighter.

“I know I’m going to become a UFC superstar,” he said.

Primal Fight Promotion's New Lightweight Champion, Josue Del Rios

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