Outside of the UFC, money is hard to come by in professional mixed martial arts. Many fighters are faced with the tough reality of having to work a full-time job while pursuing MMA or living through the financial hardships of full-time MMA training.
MFC featherweight Graham Spencer will be making his debut for the organization this Friday, and he is one of many fighters who decide to quit their day job to train full time.
"It [quitting] was easy because I love MMA, but it was tough because I make good money, and I really enjoy working with all the guys I was working with," Spencer told Bleacher Report. "Mainly it was tough just because of financial reasons, but I sort of had to do it because it was now or never. If I just keep doing it [MMA] as a hobby, I know I will always be fighting on the local circuit, and I want to do bigger things than that."
With work behind him, Spencer made the trek down south to Sacramento, California to train with Urijah Faber's Team Alpha Male for a six-week camp.
This was Spencer's second stint with Alpha Male. Highly focused on fighters in the lighter weight classes, Team Alpha Male was the ideal fit for Spencer, who is looking to take the featherweight division by storm.
Not only is Team Alpha Male, with its level of sparring partners and coaching, great for lighter-weight fighters who want to hone their skills, but the way the fighters treat each other is great.
"They [Team Alpha Male] are like a big family down there," Spencer said. "The first time I went down there, they don't know me or anything, I'm a nobody. After I was there for two days, I was staying in a hotel and Faber took me aside and said he had a room for me in one of his houses so I got to save a lot of money and stay in one of his houses [...] This time, same thing, I was planning on staying in a hotel, but he set me up with John Cofer—he was on the Ultimate Fighter— and another kid from Detroit and he set it up so I could just stay there."
The family atmosphere stems from their leader, Faber. He enjoys coaching guys up and imparting his knowledge to others, and he has done a wonderful job at turning himself and his image into a profitable enterprise. Spencer has a pretty good idea as to why that is.
"He's a pretty amazing guy, he's always doing something. He's never just laying around watching TV or whatever," Spencer said. "He'll be coaching practice and then when he's done the practice he'll be dressed in a suit going to L.A. to do commentary, meeting managers and all kinds of stuff, he's really an amazing guy."
Spencer had a great experience with Team Alpha Male, and if it were up to him he'd be moving down there to train with them full time.
"I'd definitely love to move down there. It's just a financial thing really, like it's real tough to get a visa. It kind of just depends on how I do in my next fights, but that would be a goal of mine to move down there and train," Spencer said.
Spencer didn't put in a six-week camp away from his family in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada just to make friends with Faber and the Alpha Male guys. He's preparing for the biggest fight in his career thus far against former Ultimate Fighter season 8 competitor Shane Nelson.
Nelson holds a professional record of 15-6, and he split wins with losses going 2-2 during his time in the UFC. For Spencer, he knows Nelson is going to make for an exciting fight, and he is looking forward to it.
"He's the biggest name I fought, he's got the best record, he's fought in the UFC, he trains out of a big time camp as well, he was on the Ultimate Fighter, a lot of people know him, this is his first fight at 145 [pounds] and I think it's going to be a really good one," Spencer said.
The fight won't simply be an exciting one according to Spencer, it's going to be a tough one too. Nelson has that Hawaiian-warrior spirit we've all come to know through B.J. Penn's memorable moments in the Octagon.
"Hawaiians are pretty well known for being super tough dudes, so that's the main thing, and also he's going to be really good on the ground, which is my strength too, so we'll further see how that plays out during the fight," he said. "On the feet, he's just super aggressive and loves to scrap, I don't like moving backwards in my fights at all so I think it's going to be a war."
This is Spencer's first fight under contract with the MFC, and he knows that a path to the title in the organization is an eventual path to the UFC; he is expecting to take full advantage of the opportunity that has been afforded to him.
"I was the champion in Battlefield Fight [League]. I feel like I'm stepping into a bigger promotion, and I want to be champion here [MFC], and if everything works out, hopefully I get the call up to the UFC and I can make a name for myself there too," He said. "Mark [Pavelich, MFC president] told me himself when I first signed with MFC, he asked me if I knew what happens if I get that MFC belt, he said, 'Our champions go to the UFC,' he's a smart guy."
"UFC is the ultimate goal," Spencer reiterated.
The fight with Nelson is slated for MFC 35 this Friday night at the Mayfield Trade Center in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Fans in the United States can catch the event live on AXS TV, and Canadians can look out for a replay date on TSN 2 in a couple of weeks.
Spencer wanted to thank some companies and people who made everything possible: Klench Kustom Mouthguards, RYU Apparel, his manager Darcy McBride and, last but not least, Mark Pavelich and the MFC.
If you want to follow Spencer in the lead up to his fight, you can catch him on Twitter @GSpence145.
Leon Horne enjoys all sports and has a particular interest in MMA; give him a follow on Twitter for more information and keep an eye out for interesting interviews and news: Follow @Leon_Horne