Making the trip to Jenkins, KY was an experience to say the least. It is in the deep eastern most part of the state nestled in the hills and mining communities. Eddie Trotter and Gladiator Fighting Championship have made it a home for MMA in the area by putting on some exciting fights. It had a very different feel to it as it was a very low key production. No fancy lights, no fancy displays and a four sided cage converted from an old boxing ring. Several hundred people from the area flooded the gym with what had to be at times the loudest most rowdy crowd of any show I have attended. Several hometown favorites were on the card and there was not doubt who they were when they walked into the cage.
Some things about this show were good, some not so good. When the dust settled 11 fights took place. Out of the 22 men that took the cage I would only assume that maybe 8-10 were true mixed martial artists. The bright spot on the card was the well represented gym of Butch Hiles BJJ and MMA out of Charleston,WV. Other than that there were a few that looked to have really been training and preparing for this fight. Others just showed up and wanted to bang. Hats off to all the competitors though, they got in front of the crowd and put on a show.
What disappoints me is this. No doubt Eddie Trotter worked hard putting this card together and if a fighter says he will fight…he should. No excuses. The co-main event was scrapped as one of the “pros” backed out. One fighter walked all the way to the cage door and forfeited because his wife would not let him fight. Some guys could barely breathe after the first round. I find all of that highly disrespectful not only to Gladiator but to the fans that came out to watch.
What was left after that was some battles, wars and true MMA fights. So here is my run down for a couple awards.
KO of the Night – There was no true clean knockout. Several TKO’s to strikes and a couple of verbal submissions. Write this name down. Wess Hanson. Wess is the Featherweight Champion for GFC. He defended his title against Dustin Elam. It took less than a minute for Wess to unleash a brutal assault and actually it could have been ended way sooner than the offical time of 00:56. Out of Butch Hiles BJJ and MMA Wess has trained with Urijah Faber and it will not be long before he moves out of the area to fight in bigger shows.
Fights of the Night – Two fights stick out to me that were incredible. These two bouts would have both been fight of the night on any card in the state. First Jerel Dickinson and John Shellhammer put on maybe the best round I have seen this year. Shellhammer dominated early but just as I thought referee Greg Maynard was going to stop it Jerel flipped the script and climbed up the very tall Shellhammer for a bit of domination himself. The crowd at one point was deafening. It very exciting and as a fan it was a fight that I will remember for awhile. Both Shellhammer and Dickinson exerted a tremendous amount of energy. It wasn’t long into the 2nd round when Shellhammers gas tank went empty and Dickinson used a heavy dose of ground and pound to finish the fight. The crowd erupted. I have so much respect for those guys. Shellhammer was carried off by his team as he was exhausted.
In what ended up being the co-main event Michael Cockerham and Sean Beller went 5 rounds in a championship fight that was all but boring. It was very back and forth with Cockerham really pushing the pace all 5 rounds. What was so memorable is that when you thought it was about to be over, Beller mustered up spurts of energy to keep the fight going. This was not your typical 5 rounder. No lay and pray here just constant ground work. Neither seemed to be very technical fighters but both had the heart of a lion. Before the judges decision was announced, in a sign of true sportsmanship, Beller walked from his corner to the corner of Cockerham to raise his hand in victory. What was shocking is the decision. Two judges scored it for Cockerham with one judge giving it to Beller. I don’t know what planet the judge was on or if he even knew who was who. It didn’t matter Cockerham retained his title and Beller retained a massive amount of respect.
GFC returns to Jenkins in October.