In just a few short weeks, Lucas LaRue will find himself standing in the center of a mixed martial arts cage for the very first time as a competitor. With less than two years training experience to his credit, LaRue has never been tested under the rules of MMA….. but that does not mean he has never been tested.
LaRue went 2-0 in Muay Thai, fighting for USKA and now the 21-year-old LaRue hopes to present himself with an early birthday gift, getting the victory over Shaharyar Bhatti at PA Cage Fight 34 on December 1. The Scranton MMA prospect LaRue will turn 22 a few weeks after the fight.
“I didn’t have any prior background,” LaRue said of his start in combat sports.
“I wish I would have wrestled. I didn’t do anything like that prior to when I started training. I have always been super interested in it, watching guys like GSP (Georges St-Pierre). Those are the guys that inspired me and made me want to see if this is something I can do. Now, looking back, I don’t think there is anything else I would want to do at this point.”
After winning unanimously on all judges’ scorecards in his first Muay Thai bout, then scoring a TKO in his second, LaRue makes the leap to MMA so that he can give himself that test he has long been training for.
“I’ve always just felt that I enjoy the grappling side of it as well. I love jiu jitsu just as much as I love the striking portion of it. I feel like MMA is where everything comes together. I wanted to do it at the highest level of combat sports and I think MMA is that.”
Even at an early stage in his career, LaRue has already set out to make adjustments to his life that would allow for the best possible training opportunities. He was working as a pipe liner but due to the requirement of working at least six, 12-hour days each week, his time was limited.
“It really put a damper on quality training, and getting in practices when I needed them, so I transitioned from that to working in a liquor store for the state, so that I could schedule my training around my job. I’m sacrificing some money but I’d rather by happy and train and do the things I love than make a few bucks.”
Now with training fully in swing, LaRue is ready to go on December 1, so much so that the youngster is already looking ahead to his future. Without getting eager and jumping too far ahead, LaRue has plans to keep himself grounded.
“My coach, Steve Wilson, and I talk about it,” LaRue said. “We try not to look too far ahead. Keep what is right ahead in the main focus but at the same time I think 2019 is going to be a huge year for me. I want to fight as much as possible, given how each fight goes. I expect this fight to go really well and I’m looking to get right into it in 2019. I want to turn some heads as the New Year comes in. Then eventually look to go to the pro ranks whenever we decide I’m ready. I’m not in an any rush. I’m still a young, developing fighter. I don’t want to enter into the pro side of it too early.”
Although Larue and his opponent are new to the sport, he is confident he will come up with the perfect game plan. When asked about the lack in available footage to study about the man who will stand opposite of him inside the cage, LaRue did not think it would be too much of a problem.
“That’s tough, not really having much to go off of. We tried to make this camp a very well rounded one to make sure we are ready for anything that happens. I know he (Bhatti) had a couple of smokers he fought in. I think he’s right around my experience level. He’s probably around the same grappling wise, a white belt. I competed at NAGA and did really well there. I think I will be a little better in all areas,” LaRue said.
“I would say standup is where I showcase the most talent at this point,” LaRue said. “My grappling is definitely developing at a fast pace. My takedown defense has allowed me to keep my game standing. At 6′ 4″ there are not a lot of guys that are going to have more range than me in this 170-pound division. I think I’m going to have an advantage mobility wise. Hitting on my feet is where I am the best ability wise.”
When asked how the fight will go down, confidence rolled off the tip of the fighter’s tongue.
“I’m not going in trying to over commit and do that something that would put me in danger, but at the same time I know I’m going to finish it and I know that if the opportunity arises to finish it, I’m going to take it.”
PA Cage Fight promoter Paul Matreselva Jr., told MyMMANews that LaRue will likely be one of the night’s biggest ticket sellers. When I told LaRue what Matreselva said and I asked how a debut fighter has instilled so much confidence in the promoter that he will push big ticket sales, his reply made perfect sense.
“I have a lot of friends and family who are super supportive of what I do. I try to be as active as I can on social media and get the word out, so yeah, I have a really good group of people who follow me and support me. This being the closest fight that I’ve done to my hometown, people are for sure going to show up for this one.”
Aside from friends and family, LaRue is thankful for the coaches who have led him to this point.
“My head coach Steve Wilson has done so much for me. I’ve learned a lot from him. My jiu jitsu coach Frankie just got his black belt in Philadelphia over the weekend. This win will be for them.”
PA Cage Fight 34 takes place at the Gennetti Conference Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The event is headlined by a lightweight bout between Jimmy Jordan and Ricky Nuno.