Amateur or professional, win or lose, every fighter has had that one fight in their career that stands out above all others.
Whether it be the skill level of their opponent, the sheer toughness and grit of the fight itself, or what’s going on in life outside of the cage, every fighter has dealt with the adversity of a tough fight.
In the first edition of Rigorous Rounds, Jamie Siraj, KB Bhullar, Josh Kwiatkowski, Gwyn Berry, and Isaiah Metituk reveal the toughest fight they’ve had so far in their careers.
Jamie Siraj – Toughest Fight: Cole Smith
“Him and I had a back and forth war. I got my nose broken within the first two minutes, coming in recklessly looking for the knockout early. It was back and forth for three action-packed rounds. I fought 20 minutes with a bloody face and head the whole time. We had some heated exchanges on the feet and both landed some heavy ground and pound on each other.
“Ultimately, I didn’t walk out as the winner, but it taught me a lot about how to keep my composure and how to treat a five-round fight. Being good friends and training partners now, I can honestly look back and be grateful for the experience. We made each other better fighters and martial artists that night, and with a fight like that we’re both ready for whatever fire is thrown at us for the rest of our careers.”
KB Bhullar – Toughest fight: Simon Shirt
“It was my pro debut, and they set me up. I was on the B-side, doomed for failure, set up to be a pawn in the promoters grand scheme of getting Simon a shot at the title. It’s wrong to judge Simon by just his looks because his power is something that has to be felt. His strength, his ring IQ, and his blinding speed is really something that only can be appreciated when you’re standing across from him.
“At the weigh-ins, as we both stood next to the scale, the crowd began to chant ‘Cheeseburger Eddy! Cheeseburger Eddy!’ At that momen,t I knew I was f**ked. Something in his eyes changed at that moment; it’s as if we went from having a friendly, athletic competition to realizing that tomorrow was the day of my execution. All night I tossed and turned, and dreamt of maybe just running away.
“When the fight began, I leapt with a knee out of sheer panic, and Simon attempted to tie me up. One squeeze of his greco under hooks and I felt my lower ribs splinter and crack. Like a shapeshifter, he tied me up and escaped with ease and after a while it became hard to tell where he even was in the cage. I looked at the ref, Kyle Cardinal, with a look of confused desperation, as if to say for the love of God, please stop this fight. But, he dare not interfere.
“Simon began to flurry with a whirlwind of overhand rights and one caught the edge of my temple. Four Simon’s now attacked me in a furious onslaught. I kept my hands high and hoped for a lucky punch, as the tears began to flow down my eyes. I looked forward, expecting more punches to come but Simon was gone out of my visual field. He slipped and crashed to the mat, and I quickly jumped on top to secure control, but one bump of his hips and I was sent flying off. He swung, but this time at the referee. I think he was angered by the possibility of a stoppage being threatened. As he swung at the referee he slipped again and the ref was swift to stop the fight. Simon protested in anger; I was delighted with excitement. I defeated the great Simon Shirt, by fluke perhaps, but victory nonetheless.”
Josh Kwiatkowski – Toughest fight: Cleveland Bentley
“All fights are tough, fight camps are tough, and making it to the fight is a process all in itself. But as for which fight was toughest for me, I’d have to say when I fought Cleve Bentley. I was battling a lot of stress in life and by the time I took the walk to the cage my mind wasn’t there. To add to the stress, I was getting heckled hard from some of his teammates as I had a little beef with his team (which has ended now), and the combination of life stresses, the added chirps and being in enemy territory gave me this weird almost euphoric view of the fight, like I was watching the fight, not reacting and competing.
“One thing I’ll never forget is when Cleve raised his elbow to smash me with some ground and pound. I remember saying to myself wow I’m going to get hit with my very first elbow! Bam! Next thought, hey that wasn’t too bad! As he raised it again, I snapped out of it and started reacting, but the whole fight was just a performance I’m still not happy with, but was a great learning lesson. You must be present, and the lack of me being present in the moment made that fight my toughest fight.”
Gwyn Berry – Toughest fight: John Kutz
“Short notice fight for both of us, but we were already getting ready for a fight on the same card. I didn’t know anything about him besides him being a higher level grappler (brown belt). I fought a smart fight that night to become the BFL amateur lightweight champion. John was a strong grappler with heavy hands and someone no one really knew about, which made the fight more interesting.”
Isaiah Metituk – Toughest fight: Himself
“Battling everything that goes on during a fight camp, training when your body is screaming at you to quit, sacrificing everything in your life just to make it to the fight itself, and pushing yourself past boundaries you didn’t even know you had. The toughest fight you have will always be who you see in the mirror, and becoming a better version of that person.”