Losses in any sport are hard to deal with but in mixed martial arts, one loss can feel devastating. For flyweight fighter Donnie “The Real Deal” Ballou, his loss to Nate Williams in November had many pain points. He had just gotten back to his winning ways before the fight and thought this was his time to make a run to a big show. Secondly, he was winning the fight in a dominant fashion before he made a mistake that led to him tapping to an arm bar. That added up to a lot of disappointment and questioning of next steps in the sport.
“It was hard for me to watch, it was devastating, it was heart breaking. I kinda felt like I was done, that I blew it all. After talking to Liam and Cage Side and my coaches, I was able to reflect on it.”
Donnie Ballou took some time off from the gym and came back to his coaches and manager to discuss his future and whether he should continue to pursue the sport as a career. Those conversations led to honest answers about improvements he had to make such as not having the pressure to finish a fight or making small goals in order to lead to big goals. It was those honest conversations that gave Ballou the confidence he needed.
“I’d say I was at one of the lowest points that I’ve been in my career pretty much ever. It crossed my mind. Like wow, is this what it feels like to be done? Is this it? But in my heart, I was like I I’ve come this far, I can’t give up. So that’s where I felt I needed to have this conversation with my coach, with Liam, with Cage Side and just get some good advice and push me in the right direction. They’re not just going to push me in the direction to fight again, they’re going to do the best thing for me.”
With that fight behind him, Ballou is now looking forward. He has the belief that he can make a run to a big promotion and he plans on doing that with a win over up and coming fighter Nikolai Gionti at HR MMA 117 on February 6. Gionti is coming in on a two-fight win streak but only has three professional fights. For the first time in his career, Ballou will be the more experienced fighter and he is excited at the prospects of that.
“I definitely think it’s a huge advantage, it’s crossed my mind. He’s a tough kid, he went undefeated as an amateur and is two and one as a pro. But coming from an amateur to a pro, it’s a huge step up in competition. You can fight tough amateurs but when you start fighting pros that have won fights, no matter what, no matter who you fight. A win as a pro is a win. It’s a different world. That’s where I’m going to take that experience that I have, take those tough fights, those losses…he doesn’t have any of those heart break, tough losses. I’m fortunate enough to have those experiences and learn from it. That’s where I think as a young fighter he’s going to go through some growing pains. As where as I’ve already gone through them. I’m going to have an edge with the mental game, the experience, just being in the cage, being able to calm my nerves. I think I’m going to have that advantage.”
While Ballou knows that this is a great opportunity for Gionti to make a name for himself off of him, Ballou isn’t ready to be knocked down another peg in the flyweight division. He sees a finish in this fight to elevate himself.
“I think I am going to go with a second round TKO.”