Drake Farrell unfazed wherever Rory Gillis matchup goes ahead of FLA 7 amateur title fight

Drake Farrell
Drake Farrell after his win at FLA 2. (Credit: Fight League Atlantic)

In the young, 30-odd year history of mixed martial arts, the grappler who falls for the mistress of striking is already an age-old tale. Be it Olympic gold medalist wrestler Henry Cejudo turned kickboxer-karateka when it fancies him, or countless others, throwing bones just seems to have an especial allure for those who have cut their teeth constricting limbs.

Enter Cape Breton’s Drake Farrell (2-0), who meets fellow east-coaster and grappling adept Rory Gillis (2-0) this Saturday night for the Fight League Atlantic amateur welterweight title at FLA 7, in Moncton, N.B.

Farrell began training jiu-jitsu at a young age at the behest of his sister, but given he was born the same year fights of the magnitude of Tito Ortiz versus Wanderlei Silva were already taking place, it is safe to say the cross-disciplinary affects of MMA were already being felt in gyms across the world, and his was no exception.

“For the first two years of my training all I really did was Brazilian jiu-jitsu,” said Farrell in an interview with MMA Empire.

“But after a few classes I started to notice the muay thai strikers coming in after us, and I got a little interested in doing that. I started taking kickboxing and muay thai classes after that, although I wasn’t always consistent, but it (striking) was what ultimately made me want to take my first fight as soon as I was ready. The age minimum around here (in Nova Scotia) was and is pretty much 18 years old, but it had been a goal of mine as early as 16.”

Though a teenager whose zeal was naturally split in endless, kaleidoscopic directions, the rise to fame of the likes of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey in the early 2010s stoked a flame in Farrell that burns to this day.

Now, two fights into a career of his own, he says he is no longer the cannonball of nerve-endings and wide-eyed striker that ended his first fight in less than a minute and a half, but a cerebral and calculated killer. He said he plans to exploit his opponent Gillis’ shortcomings as he sees them, but is comfortable falling back on his origins if the fight goes there.

“Rory is a pretty tough guy. You know, on paper he looks pretty good. I know we’re still both only amateurs and such; he has two fights, I have two fights, but he’s won, he’s 2-0, and he’s won some bigger tournaments out on the east coast like the (Submission) Kumite and such, but the good thing is there’s a lot of footage on him. It seems like he’s very grapple-heavy,” he said.

“In those two (MMA) fights against Matt (Macdonald) and Colton (Grant-Hose), he didn’t have the advantage in the striking department so he kind of resorted to taking those guys down. And like I mentioned before, I’m also a grappler at heart, too, so I mean if he does want to try to take me down, that will be no issue. I feel confident there, I’m a brown belt, and I’ve been training jiu-jitsu from the start. I’ve been working on my grappling as always, but also my boxing, wall-work, and clinch, so I’m excited.”

With the talent pool at amateur being overly shallow in his province, Farrell said he has already toyed with the idea of moving to FLA’s pro welterweight ranks, as well as discussed the matter with the promotion.

That leap could come in the immediate aftermath of this weekend’s bout, but regardless of the designation, he says he is simply passionate about MMA as a sport and perfecting his weapons in its daunting forge.

“Every time I step into the gym (at ZombieProof) for a training session, it is with the goal of becoming a professional cage-fighter. Which kind of seems a little bit scary a lot of the time, and a big dream, but that’s what makes it exciting: chasing a dream that almost feels a little bit too big.”

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