On November 17, Derek Holly (2-2) steps back into the cage against Jordan Fowler (1-0) at Pyramid Fights 9 in Batesville, Arkansas. The 26-year old hotel manager started his mixed martial arts career with a strong base, one that has helped many of the sport’s biggest stars get to where they are at today.
“I was very fortunate, having started in wrestling,” Holly said. “I wrestled in high school and college. A couple of MMA fighters were friends with one of my coaches. They ended up coming in to get some help with their wrestling for a fight. I was a heavyweight at the time and these guys that came in needed a big guy to work out with. That was my first exposure to mixed martial arts. After wrestling season I decided to give it a go. I actually had my first MMA fight while I was still in high school.”
“I’m always, 100 percent of the time, a takedown threat,” Holly said of his wrestling experience being used to his advantage in MMA.
“If you are going to stand in front of me for any amount of time, you cannot deny me a takedown. I will get there sooner or later.”
Dropping down two weight classes from heavyweight to middleweight came after Holly realized that he was not going always going to be the bigger man in the cage.
“I was a very out of shape, fat guy in high school,” Holly said. “When I decided that I would start fighting, that’s when I decided that I needed to start losing some weight. I didn’t want to fight at heavyweight. One of the heavyweights I worked out with was Daniel Gallemore, and he’s like 6’6″ and about 250 pounds. I’m 5’11” and there was no way I was going to be exchanging punches with guys that have that much reach and range on me. I cut down to 205. Normally I didn’t watch what I ate at all. My coach helped with my diet and getting down. It’s kind of the same thing now as a pro. I want to be at 185. I could even potentially be looking at 170 sometime next. I would be a pretty big 170-pounder. It’s definitely within reach.”
Holly currently trains at Watson Martial Arts which is spearheaded by black belt and former UFC fighter Kyle Watson.
“He has a really great mind for MMA and how things translate into it,” Holly said of his instructor.
That mindset has helped Holly avoid any serious injury and prevented him from showing up to work at the hotel without any significant bumps or bruises.
“My style (of fighting) eliminates a lot of damage taken which I think is key to having a long career and seeing success over time.”
While online records do not accurately reflect Holly’s MMA experience, the St. Louis, Missouri based fighter can be described as a veteran of the sport. With an amateur record of 8-1 and now entering his fifth pro bout, has a mind for the craft.
“I like training for fighters, the game planning aspect of it. I’m a very cerebral fighter. I do watch film and try to get information. I think for me it helps deal with anxiety. If you know you have a strong game plan it just adds to your confidence. I have looked into him (Jordan Fowler) quite a bit. But not too much. I think I looked into my last opponent a little too much. He was an amateur kickboxing champion and he came from a Karate school. I was expecting stand up from him, and he came out and tried to wrestle me. It didn’t work out for him, but it threw me off a little bit. I want to be able to work on what I want to work on, and open up. I’ve dialed it back a little bit. He (Jordan) comes forward a lot and I definitely want to take advantage of that.”
While a win over Fowler may not propel Holly into the UFC, he knows that continuous improvement will lead to more opportunities for career growth.
“Ultimately I would like to be able to make a career out of this (competing in MMA). I want to be able to have the freedom to just train and be the best fighter I can be. Not have to worry about work and training together. I love the competition aspect of it. This is something my body needs. I want to have this for as long as possible. I think that every competitor believes that in order to be the best in the world, you have to be the best at what you do all the time, and I’m not different than anyone else in that aspect. I want to deal with things one step at a time, deal with what is in front of me. I know that as I grow and mature, I need to get wins but do it in the best way that I can.
“This is the first time I have trained consistently over a year so it has been fantastic and I can’t wait to see the results that it yields.”