Apex Fights 5 Preview
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Courtesy of John Moorehouse & mma-insider.com
Before Dustin Walden took his first fight, before he became a professional mixed martial artist and long before he became a coach in his sport of choice… he grew up aspiring to show his stuff on a different sort of mat, as a pro wrestler.
“Wrestling’s pretty much the whole reason I staretd fighting,” said Walden, who listed Shawn Michaels, The Rock and Sting among his favorites. “You’re growing up and you want to be one of those big guys.”
Walden is pretty big in the sport of MMA in this region. And, on March 14, he steps back into action as a competitor, facing journeyman Nicholas Bleser at Apex Fights 5 from Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, Tenn.
Walden (8-3), who’s one of the head coaches at D-Evil based out of Elizabethton, Tenn., spends most of his time focusing on his endeavors as a coach. The D-Evil roster of fighters includes some of the top names in East Tennessee, including Adam Townsend, Dustin Long, Jonathan Pearce and others. Walden also has fought on a semi-regular basis, taking one bout in each of the past two years. He’s eager to showcase more of skills than he got to in his last fight, a 38-second submission victory over Latral Perdue at November’s Evolution Combat event, which took place from the same venue that houses the D-Evil team.
“Honestly I wish I had a few more opportunities to make a little run of it, but it’s time to make way for these younger kids who have the time and desire to do it,” said Walden. “I just want to get in there and show that I’m still relevant in the sport that I love.
“I haven’t had the chance to put on a good fight in a while,” he added. “The last one was unfulfilling to say the least, 38 seconds. Hopefully this time around I’ll get to let things fly a little better.”
Stoney Hale made the tough decision to get back into the cage and resume his pro MMA career, knowing everything that was entailed. The grueling workouts, the rigorous diet and more. Then, mere days before his scheduled fight at Valor Fights 18, the bout fell through.
“The frustration levels were unbelievable,” Hale said. “I was down to my last 7 pounds of water weight to lose [the fight] the night before weigh-ins. It’s like you get that close and it’s a step by step process. Biggest stress factor is making weight. Then I hear my opponent is avoiding calls and text. Then that stress starts to weigh in. Anyone that has cut weight can tell you, that the last day is miserable and much less worrying if the guy is backing out. The other really frustrating part was all my friends and family that took off work, made reservations, and bought tickets. I was stressed to the max.”
When his first fight in nearly three years fell through, Hale didn’t wait long to find another matchup. He’s making another comeback bid on Saturday, March 14, at Apex Fights 5 from Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, Tenn.
“I really only missed one night of gi training,” Hale told MMA-Insider “I was back to it like nothing happened.”
The matchup with Bell (3-4) provides an interesting set of challenges for Hale (5-3). Bell trains at Four Seasons in Kentucky under Michael O’Donnell, an individual that’s very familiar with Hale. How familiar? O’Donnell and Hale met on a Bellator card in September 2010, in a fight O’Donnell won by submission via armbar in the second round.
“To me it’s all about competition, and Mike and I had one heck of a fight. They even scrapped a televised fight to show ours,” Hale recalled. “Mike did a great job, caught me in an arm bar from a position I felt safe in. So was a great learning experience that even though my butt is against the cage a really good guy can still take my arm.
“I can’t say I have extra motivation from that. I will say that losing is always all the motivation I need. I hate losing no matter what and that is my motivation to get better!