Saturday night’s Driller Promotions/Sterling Entertainment Group event in St. Paul, MN could be the biggest regional MMA event of the year for the state of Minnesota. The stacked card has the area buzzing in anticipation for what could be a historic night.
One of the fighters competing on the card is a top up-and-comer in the area, Patrick Delgado, whose undefeated record as an amateur transferred over smoothly into a pro career this past July when he defeated Roland Larson.
As a jiu-jitsu expert, Delgado has mostly dominated his fights by utilizing his superior skills on the ground to control and later submit his opponents, none of whom have even made it out of the first round against him.
That’s not exactly what happened against Roland Larson, though, as Delgado still won in the first round—but this time, rather than using a jiu-jitsu hold, Delgado forced his opponent to tap out due to the relentless elbows he was landing.
“I love to tap people out, but I’d rather be as safe as possible,” Delgado told Bleacher Report MMA regarding the fight. “[Roland] is a brown belt jiu-jitsu fighter as well, so there was no way that I was going to try go for a submission that would be a lower percentage for me to finish and have him see an opening.”
Earning the first pro victory of his career was important, but it’s not necessarily the most memorable moment for him thus far in the sport. Instead, that title has to go to his performance on May 14, 2011, when he subdued Jahmale Maxwell with a rarely seen hold called the Nutcracker Choke.
Though it’s practically unprecedented in MMA, Delgado has added it to his regular arsenal on the ground and has been working on it for quite some time now.
“It’s one of my bread and butter moves, actually,” he said. “I tried to work it into my MMA game right away because no one expects it. It comes on so fast and if worst comes to worse, it opens up other submissions.”
Delgado learned the choke from his jiu-jitsu coach Luiz Claudio, a black belt under the great Rickson Gracie. Delgado himself earned a brown belt in December 2011 and can be considered one of the best in the state when it comes to utilizing those skills in MMA competition.
However, given his expertise on the ground, Delgado knows that his opponents have been working on ways to keep their fights against him on the feet. To counter that, Delgado has been working extensively on his own standup game.
“I think [my striking] might catch people by surprise a little bit,” he said. “We have a Golden Gloves boxing champion [at Fearless Mixed Martial Arts Academy] that I train with almost every day. He’s a really fast guy and all I do is soak it all up.”
Not only is Delgado getting experience with a high-level technical boxer, but he has also been working regularly with UFC heavyweight Ben Rothwell who trains at another Wisconsin gym only about an hour away from Fearless MMA.
All that preparation has Delgado confident heading into his fight on Saturday night against Derrick Smith, who is a veteran with experience that far exceeds his own.
“I’m expecting a really tough fight against Derrick. He’s the toughest opponent I’ve had so far,” Delgado said. “I know he’s going to give me some new problems that I’ve never had to deal with in the past, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a way to work my way out of them.”
Although he acknowledges that Smith won’t be an easy win by any means, Delgado is actually looking at the fight as an opportunity to prove himself.
“I’m always looking for a challenge and hopefully I can demonstrate a bit more of my standup game in this fight,” he said. “We’re probably going to exchange in the standup game for a little while, but the fight is probably going to take place mostly on the mat. I’m confident in my jiu-jitsu game, so hopefully I’m able to catch him, maybe something off my back, although I’d prefer to be on top.”
With Derrick Smith coming off of a controversial 11-second knockout loss, Delgado knows that his opponent has only gone to a decision once in his career and has looked a bit worn out late in some fights. Given that, he’s looking to test Smith’s cardio against his own even though Delgado himself has never even been out of the first round in any of his fights.
"I don’t want to get Mike Tyson fever where he finished everyone early,” Delgado said. “I’ve adjusted my training a lot so I won’t gas, and I honestly expect this one to go the full three rounds. That’s what we’ve been training for.”
As a former construction worker, Patrick Delgado is now living his dream of becoming a professional mixed martial artist. At 32 years old, he still has a few years of prime conditioning remaining before his body starts to wear down. Even then, though, he doesn’t see himself fully walking away from the sport.
“Once my career is over, I plan on staying involved in the sport, teaching and training,” he said. “I love jiu-jitsu, it’ll always be number one to me. But I feel like I’m a fighter and I feel like I always need to expand my knowledge. Jiu-jitsu was just the beginning for me.”
Delgado and Smith will compete at the Sept. 8 Sterling Entertainment Group/Driller Promotions “Throwdown at the Crowne” event at the Crowne Plaza in St. Paul, MN.
Tickets are available for as little as $35/ea and can be purchased online or at the door. For those outside the Twin Cities area, the event will also be streamed live for free online at SterlingMN.com!
For more MMA news, fighter interviews and opinions, follow Nick Caron: @NicholasCaron.