Interview by Matt Little.
XKO10 is taking place this weekend and the card is looking like one of the best we’ve seen in the Metroplex in a while. I had the chance to talk to MMA veteran Brandon McDowell recently who will be facing former WEC & UFC fighter Jake Rosholt of Team Takedown.
For those that don’t know Brandon, he has been fighting longer than most currently active competitors in the sport. Brandon got started in professional MMA back in 1999 fighting on cards out in West Texas. MMA is still such a young sport relative to other mainstream sports and fighting in the days of 1999 is considered nothing short of the “dark ages of MMA.” These were days that fights took place that may or may not have been sanctioned and overseen by athletic commissions. A fighter may have taken multiple fights in one night as part of a tournament only to turn around and fight again a week later. The rules were considerably different during these times as well. You may have seen a fighter in a traditional kimono or wrestling shoes. These were much different days than we see today in the sport.
Brandon’s early exposure to combat sports came through wrestling. While wrestling the majority of his life, this landed him the opportunity to meet relatively unknown, now MMA legend Evan Tanner. “I wrestled up at the Maverick Club (Boys & Girls Club) in Amarillo and Evan would come up there from time to time to help coach us. Eventually Evan approached me and asked me to help him train for a No Holds Barred (NHB) tournament that was coming up here in town. Evan was a very close friend of mine; much like a brother.” Through this friendship, Brandon got his real start in the sport. “We would use wrestling gym rooms at high schools for training. A lot of our training came from watching Bas Rutten and Gracie Instructions videos.” Throughout his early years of training with Evan, Brandon would eventually also work with the likes of Paul Buentello, Heath Herring, Eric “Big Head” Davilla, and Brent Medley (now President of the Shark Fights promotion). Brandon made his official MMA debut March 3, 1999 at USWF 13 in Amarillo, Texas. On this night he won his first match by submission but lost the second of the night by kneebar. Brandon went on to fight a month later at USWF 14 and won three fights in the same night! Three months later he repeated his previous performance by fighting three times in one night winning two and losing one at USWF 17.
“We would have rules meetings before the fights. We (the fighters) would basically vote on what would be allowed. Votes on whether head butts, elbows, wrestling shoes were considered and decided here. It was pretty wild. The sport has definitely evolved since those days thankfully.”
TXMMA: You have had 61 fights over your career (32-29-0). What continues to motivate you to fight at this point in your career?
Brandon McDowell: Actually, this will be my 83rd fight. A lot of my fights are not reflected on my official record. I guess it’s because some of them were in unsanctioned events or whatever. Honestly, I love fighting and I love MMA.
TXMMA: Okay, so looking over all over your official fights online, you were incredibly busy in 2003 logging 11 fights. Then in 2007, you had 16 fights! What was the thought process there? How do you prepare and train when you’re fighting that often?
Brandon McDowell: (Laughing) Actually, I had 19 fights in 2007. When I was fighting that often I didn’t have much of a training camp. Now that I think about it, fighting that often was stupid because I wasn’t training properly. The first several events I fought in had several fights the same night. I have always found it hard to say no to a fight when someone calls and offers a fight on short notice. I enjoyed it and of course they money helped pay some bills.
TXMMA: With that many fights, surely you’ve had some injuries. Tell me about the worst injury you’ve ever experienced.
(Brandon McDowell): June 13th, 2009 (TKO loss to Cedric Marks). I took some damage in the 1st round and didn’t notice anything major. I sat down on the stool and went to spit out my mouth guard. Three of my front teeth fell out and the top of my jaw literally dropped. I broke my jaw in four places and broke my palette in half! That was definitely the worst and ended that fight.
TXMMA: Where are you currently training and what is your ideal training camp?
Brandon McDowell: I am training and teaching some over at Paragon Austin. Before my move to Paragon Austin I was over at CTC in Austin and did some MMA teaching over there as well.
I like to train for six weeks, increasing the intensity of the training each week. Three weeks out I push myself to the point that I think I can barely move some days. I focus on strength and conditioning in the mornings and sparring the evenings. I’ll start to taper off the last week of the fight.
TXMMA: How much do you normally cut for your fights and do you enjoy the preparation? (This fight against Rosholt is at 185lbs)
Brandon McDowell: (Laughing), I don’t love cutting weight! Other than that I do enjoy the preparations. I like the comradery of the team, the devotion to the one fight. Before the start of training camp I was just over 200lbs. I cut a good portion during my camp and finish the rest off in the sauna.
TXMMA: So I’ll go ahead and assume there was no Amateur career for you?
Brandon McDowell: Oh no! There wasn’t even Amateur MMA in Texas back then. It was just Professional.
TXMMA: Onto your fight. Tell me about this fight with Jake Rosholt. Jake has fought in the WEC and UFC and seems to be making his way back to the big shows. Do you feel like you are being set up a bit to help build a case that he is ready for the bigger promotions again?
Brandon McDowell: I know he’s trying to get back to the bigger promotions but I’m not going to roll over for anyone. I don’t go into any fight expecting to lose. Most probably are not picking me to win this fight outside of my camp but that’s okay. Jake Rosholt is a phenomenal wrestler and a tough guy. The way I look at is that I don’t have anything to lose in this fight.
TXMMA: How does a win affect your career at this point against a fighter like Jake Rosholt?
Brandon: A win over someone of his caliber may open some doors. I would love to be in a big promotion but will be happy to fight in the smaller shows either way. To me, this is an opportunity to fight a high caliber athlete. It’s a personal test for me. I don’t really take a fight based on what I think it may do for my career. I do this because I love it.
TXMMA: What are you going to do after fighting?
Brandon McDowell: I will probably go back to teaching. I got my degree (at Texas State 2002) in Education/Sports Science and Special Education.
TXMMA: I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to us and wish you good luck this coming weekend at XKO 10.
Brandon McDowell: Hey no problem! I’d like to thank my teammates at Paragon (Austin), Darren, Robert, Brett, my sponsor Corrupt Fight Gear, and the Award Winning Mike Valentine. Big thanks to my family for all the support. Thanks to the fans for helping this sport grow and succeed. The fans truly give us the opportunity to fight. Through MMA, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the U.S. I’ve had so many opportunities because of MMA and without the fans there are no shows.
-Matt Little is currently a blue belt under JD Shelley at North Dallas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (NDBJJ) and an MMA writer.