From virtual reality to actual reality, undefeated pro fighter Donovan Beard took his early days of playing EA Sports UFC 1 and turned it into a tool to enter the cage himself. He has given new meaning to Shakespeare’s As You Like It comedy in which a famous monologue starts off, “All the world’s a stage.” Beard changed his stage from the television to the cage. On Friday, June 25, 2021, he will co-main event AKA 16’s UFC Fight Pass card in front of a worldwide audience.
Finding MMA-Self Discovery and Early Self Training
Though technology was the key for Beard in advancing his ability and desire to step into an MMA gym, it all started with the old school heavy bag and speed bag. “Fast forward into my twenties, my non-blood brother and I used to live together at one point in time. One day he asked me to help him carry this big box up from the car. He told me it was a punching bag with a speed bag, so I was like ‘oh okay this is going to be a cool thing to have and mess around with.’ So we open it up, take it out the box, put it together, and threw a couple of punches, kicks, and other basic stuff,” Beard told MyMMANews.
Video Game As A Learning Tool
During the summer of 2014, EA Sports released, “EA Sports UFC.” This would be a turning point in Beard’s mindset aside from just punching a bag. “I took a break and went in my room to play UFC. This was when Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafson were on the case. I’m playing the created player mode and I’m throwing combinations. I started thinking to myself the people that are in the video game are wearing green screen suits to reenact the movements and likeness of the UFC and other MMA fighters. If those people who aren’t in the UFC and can do this, why can’t I do this?” stated Beard.
That’s when I started really paying attention to the details in the movements like pivoting your feet when you punch, head movement, and different variations of punches and kicks. I decided right then to go right back to the punching bag to reenact the moves myself. I would then go back to the video game to make sure I’m throwing it correctly. So I started to look up other videos of fighters training to make sure that I’m doing it the same way,” said Beard.
From Self-Training to Training with Professional Coaches
Self-training can only get you so far in the world of MMA. To get the professional ranks, you need a solid coaching staff behind you. Beard was able to find his MMA home at Off The Chain MMA in Arkansas. “ A friend of mine named Luther, who was my neighbor, told me about the MMA gym that I’m currently at right now. Fast forward years later, I ran into another person that I grew up with in the past and he told me about the same gym that Luther told me about. He told me he was going to come down from out of town to train in Hot Springs and I asked him if I could go with him, and man ever since he took me that day, I’ve been hooked like a fish out of water. It’s been almost 3 years now,” Beard stated.
The Guiding Hands
Finding the right coaches is essential to success in this sport. Currently undefeated in his professional career, Beard has found the right crew to surround himself with. “My coaches Dawond Pickney, Bob Edmonds, and Kevin Crutchmer. These men help us thrive to get better, remain coachable, and humble. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for either of these people. They make me better inside and outside of the gym. All my teammates hold me and each other accountable the same way the coaches do. This is more than just an MMA team, this is a family. We look out for one another. I’d rather have few solid hard-working individuals beside me than a thousand ‘half-hearted getting the job done people.’ It’s quality over quantity, and I’m with these guys and my team for life,” stated Beard.
From Hobby to Career
Prior to entering the professional ranks, MMA, Beard’s love and dedication for the sport evolved in stages. “ It started off as something to be entertained by through television, video games, and on the playground for me growing up. Then it became something to do to get in shape and learn about. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, it’s starting to become a lifestyle and career choice. Seeing what it could do for you, watching the fighters like Muhammad Ali, Israel Adesanya, Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell, and George St-Pierre and seeing them so heavily adored and admired by their peers and people in their town, really made me want to be that guy.”
” I never would have thought in a million years I would be doing this, but I’m here now. I’m going to give it my all especially being 31-years-old right now. I don’t have time to waste, so anybody that I plan on facing in the future, you are in my way and you need to move!” said Beard.
Up next for Beard is a co-main event bout with Brandon Shavers. A win in Bossier City, Louisiana at AKA 16 could put him one step closer to winning AKA gold. Currently, Beard sits at 3-0 as a professional with his most recent victory coming by way of rear-naked choke in the second round of his battle with Wesley Ledford in March 2021. Beard has also only been in the pro ranks since November 2020, where he has competed three times in a five-month span.
If he continues to stay this active, and at his winning ways, then you should keep an eye out for Beard on any of the world’s biggest MMA stages. Maybe one day an aspiring martial artist will play as Beard’s character in a UFC game and the cycle will continue of a passionate fan putting in the work to become a dangerous adversary in the cage.
I am a life-long MMA fan who has been a fan since UFC 1. I was born in Illinois but raised in South Louisiana, home of many great mixed martial artists. I started martial arts at the age of 4 and continued into my adult years where I served nearly 10 years in law enforcement. I feel my job is to convey the stories of the MMA fighters we enjoy to watch and share their stories with the world.
Follow me on Twitter @LAknockoutMMA