It took a scare to get A.J. Bryant into a gym and start living a healthy lifestyle. His best friend was diagnosed with cancer in his lymph nodes and it scared Bryant. Thankfully, Bryant’s friend turned out to be ok but it did get Bryant eating better and into a gym. Bryant also got a little bit of help, one of his uncles gifted him a year’s membership to a gym and helped train him. Soon enough, Bryant was living a healthy lifestyle.
At the same time, Bryant would watch mixed martial arts, he’d shadow box with five-pound weights and believed he could beat the fighters competing like the Diaz brothers. He had also played one of the original MMA video games on Dreamcast which featured fighters like Kevin Randleman. One day, his mother told him that she was going to a gym that had MMA classes and suggested he try it and at the age of 25, he found a new passion.
“I walked in tried and it, I loved it.”
“Ever since the first day I fell in love with the sport, I fell in love with training and I haven’t stopped since.”
And he showed natural talent almost immediately.
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Tbt to my last fight feb 17th 2018…s/o to @theclinchreport for the dope picture…i work hard and train hard day in and day out to perform at my best my coaches and teammates push me to be great..there are no limits only opportunities to capture…all my hard work has paid off..i will be fighting april 21st for the cxf featherweight title…thank you @cxf_mma for the opportunities in the past even more so this opportunity…however im not surprised although im humble and grateful i already set a goal to win a belt in 2018..i am confident in myself my skills my team and my preparation..im am faithful in God and all he has shown me..now its time to watch it all unfold…this is only the beginning… #ufc #bellator #lfa #uwfxusa #trainhardfighteasy #mytime #futurechampion #soontobe #cxf12 #champion #nolimits #7-2 #iwillbevictorious #nofear #onmyway #ifinishfights
“I went in the gym literally, I was beating everybody up with no experience. My coach Jaime Fletcher (coach at Xfit gym) had to actually step on the mat and train with me because I was better than a lot of people who had been training for years. He actually kicked me in my face, it was a good learning experience. I’ve always been humble, I didn’t go in there with no cocky attitude, it was just, I had something.”
Bryant didn’t step into Xfit looking to fight. But after a few months and a lot of improvement, it seemed natural that it would be the next adrenaline rush he would pursue. So when his coach suggested it, he was one happy camper.
“In the back of my mind, I knew I could do the sport, but I didn’t have – like I’m going to go in there and fight. It was like the next adrenaline rush, I guess. I was like I worked out, I like working out, what’s the next thing I can do to take myself to maybe another platform. I was training and training and then eventually my coach Jaime Fletcher told me, “hey man, you’re looking good, we might want to try to find you a fight.” I just smiled ear to hear like, “ok let’s do it, I’ll try it.”
It took ten months to a year to get to that point and he went on to face Max Garcia who he defeated by split decision. It was a tough fight for Bryant that made him more tired than he could comprehend. It drove him to never feel like that again but it only inspired him to pursue fighting even more.
“My first amateur fight, I had a bad adrenaline dump in that fight. I remember thinking to myself and telling my coach, like yo I don’t like how I feel., what’s going on? He explained to me, oh no you haven’t fought before, it’s just the adrenaline dump, trust me you’re fine, it’ll come back to you. I remember thinking to myself, I don’t ever want to feel this again. So I would push myself physically past any limitations so that I made sure would I never ever was tired in a fight. Since then I’ve never been tired in a fight. But after my first amateur fight, I knew this is something I wanted to pursue.”
Before he took the fight, Bryant went to his favorite uncle and asked him to come to the fight and support him. His uncle tried to convince him not to do it, as his brother had competed in battle of the badges and got knocked out. His uncle did show up and afterwards told Bryant that he was wrong and Bryant belonged in the cage.
“He came out in support of me, he came up to me and he was like “dude you belong in there, I was wrong.”
After his amateur debut, Bryant went on to win two of his next three fights before suffering a three-fight losing streak. During the beginning of that losing streak, Bryant started cross training with CSW, the legendary camp of Erik Paulson, Ben Jones and Josh Barnett. Bryant’s coach was originally a student of CSW’s and noticed that there weren’t enough training partners at Xfit for Bryant to train with.
That led to Bryant trying a few classes at CSW and his first day didn’t go as he thought it would.
“The first day I went to CSW was like, for me it was like a reality check but at the same time it let me know that I really wanted to do this sport. I got dropped two times by shots to the liver which is like degrading. I’ve never been hit like that before, I didn’t know anything about the liver. I didn’t know you touch it you fall, I didn’t know that pain that feeling. I got suplexed like four times in a row by the Lil Badger, Jacob Rosales.”
At the end of practice Coach Jones went to talk to A.J. about how he thought it went. Bryant naturally felt like he did horribly and felt a bit discouraged but Jones assured him he did well. But at the end of the day he took it as a lesson and knew he had to train there.
“At first, I was a little discouraged cause I’m thinking, I’m gonna in here, I’m gonna do good I’m gonna wash these guys. It kinda opened up like hey, this is not Xfit, this is not some gym where people are trying to fight, this is an actual fight team, professionals and amateurs. If you want to be good at this, this is where you need to be.”
After that realization, Bryant made every effort to attend sessions at CSW. It was hard at first as he lived an hour away from the gym and had a job with a fluctuating schedule. He managed to get a new job that allowed him to train there and began to flourish, winning his last three amateur fights, all by finish.
At CSW, there are several coaches that fighters train under. After a bit of time training there, Bryant felt he trained best under former UFC champion Josh Barnett. But when he initially asked to join Barnett’s group of fighters, Barnett kind of brushed him off. A teammate, Victor Henry had to explain that Barnett wanted to see dedication before making any kind of commitment. So, he proved it and Barnett accepted him to his team. Though they aren’t a part of CSW any more, they are training out of a UFC gym and named their team UWF USA.
After his three-fight win streak, Barnett suggested that Bryant turn professional, so he did. Bryant faced Chase Gibson and lost via a submission, but that fight taught him a lot, it showed him the difference in professional fighting and amateur fighting.
“I lost but that was when I understand the difference between amateur and pro, that margin of error shrinks so much that you don’t really understand, ok I’m good, every situation you have that much time and if you don’t, as a professional, somebody can capitalize just like that. I learned a lot from that fight.”
Since that fight, Bryant has gone 8-1 and captured CXF’s featherweight title. Even though he believed in himself, it’s still surreal to him that he is in the position he is in today.
“To see it all unfold, it’s surreal. To have no experience in any other avenue of martial arts, never wrestled in high school, never did judo or jitsu, never did any type boxing or kickboxing and to be a champion after walking into the gym at 25 years old, it’s crazy.”
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And there you have it…i came out victorious in my title defense tonight…UWF-USA @cmmafitness and @xfitcombatsports went 5-0 this weekend all victories….i wanna thank God for all he has blessed me with and this wonderful journey…thank you to my coaches @joshlbarnett @fleezeytaughtme my UWF-USA teammates my @cmmafitness teammates and my home that always keeps the doors open to me @xfitcombatsports…thank u to my sponsor @ikengasports ….thank you @cxf_mma for all the opportunities you guys have given me and constant test that have landed me with this belt around my waist…..thank u to @ufcgymlamirada for giving my team a facility that covers all of our needs…thank u all those who support me and show love…and last but not least thank you @thrillerdc for a hell of a fight…your a tough guy and i got nothing but love and respect for you brutha… #andstill #ufc #lfa #bellator #cxf #featherweightchampion #hardwork #trainhardfighteasy #mytime #blessed #mma #nolimits #limitless #borntolosebuilttowin #UWF-USA #onmyway #ilovethislife #fightlife #titledefense #nofear #idontgettired #cxf13 #7fightwinstreak #mybelt #humble #pressure
Now it’s time for Bryant to defend his belt. On October 20, he will put his featherweight title on the line against Sergio Perez. The 31-year-old fighter has a lot of respect for Perez as they went through the amateur scene at the same time and saw each other grow. Perez actually mentioned to Bryant at one point that he should switch gyms and he would be even better. Bryant saw Perez again during his current winning streak and told him that he believes he could be the champion of CXF. However, when they step into the cage, there will be no respect for Perez.
“He’s a good fighter, I respect his skill set outside of the cage, but I’ve been here too many times, once we get into that cage, I have no respect for anything you’re going to do. It’s my time, you’re playing my game and I’m going to win this fight. I’m going to be victorious, I’m going to do what I gotta do and I’m looking to finish.”
In terms of the matchup, Bryant is fine with it, he is interested in how Perez will adjust after experiencing his power and pressure.
“Once he feels the power he’s going to try and to take me down. If you watch my fights, I’m not easy to take down and if you get me down, I’m really hard to keep me down. So I’m interested to see the adjustments that he’ll make if he is able to deal with the pressure that I put on people and what he brings to the table.”
In his last three fights, Bryant wasn’t able to get a finish, all three wins were by unanimous decision and he wasn’t happy with it. However, he thinks this fight will lead to an early victory for him.
“I think I’m going to knock him out.”
If he wins this bout, Bryant will improve his record to 10-2 and as much as he likes fighting CXF, he wants to test himself at the next level.
“Whether it be UFC, Bellator, LFA, ACB or in Russia, I just want to fight the best. I want to prove that my skill set goes past the regional circuit. I got love and for the CXF, they’ve done a lot for me, being their champion, but I can’t stay in CXF forever. I gotta elevate, I gotta go to the next level and test my skills against the best in the world. I would love to fight in Japan, I’ve talked with Josh about it. It’s just a matter of people wanting to put me on their card. I’ve done 9-2, seven fight win streak, I feel like it’s time to go to the next level. I’m leveling up in the gym, I’m working hard, training hard, pushing my body as far as it will go. I’ve yet to see the limits of what I can do. I’m game, I’m ready, whether it’s Sean Shelby calling me, or the guys at Bellator or wherever I want to go to the next level and compete with the best.”
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Its official folks!!!! October 20th ill be stepping in the cage defending my title…and the best part is i get to finally whoop some tail on the same card as my teammate @victorhenrymma hit me up for tickets they will go fast…also looking for sponsors for this fight so if you want your logo on my fight gear dm me…i will be victorious #uwfusa #mma #ufc #bellator #lfa #acb #mytime #trainingcampbegins #hardwork #dedication #trainhardfighteasy #limitless #stayready #champion #cxf #cxfchampion #cxffeatherweightchampion #borntolosebuilttowin #9-2 #iwillfinishthisfight #finisher #fightlife #cantstopwontstop #7fightwinstreak
For Bryant, the greatest glory he has achieved in his career is not the belt around his waist, but the ability to let his three young children know their dreams are able to come true.
“I tell my kids, I don’t care if you want to fly, you can do whatever you want, you can design a machine that you’ll be able to fly. Don’t let anybody ever put limits on what you’re capable of doing because literally, anything you want to do is possible. You just gotta work hard, believe in G-d and give it your all and everything will fall into place.”