Photo courtesy of Terry Johnson xcfc.us
Pro fighters leave in their wake a wealth of experiences, both ups and downs. They have traveled the difficult road to becoming a pro. Behind them are many amateur fights, and many trials and tribulations that made them the fighter they are today.
For an amateur the road ahead is inglorious. No one knows who you are, save for friends, relatives, and training partners. For an amateur, that long journey to becoming a pro has just started. And you fight, you fight whenever, wherever you can to learn the game. Not unlike the pioneers of this sport, your name is not quite as important as your fights.
To gain the invaluable experience which can only be found inside the cage, an amateur must be hungry. If they are not pushed to the limit and tested now they may not make it later. Those experiences will carry them to the heights they aspire to.
Some fighters are naturals, and made for this. Some fighters just emit the confidence, the talent, the heart of a pro. Even still, their superior fighting minds, and the support structure surrounding them will lead them to take their time and be patient. Let it come to them as opposed to chasing it.
There is an amateur fighting in Tucson, Arizona who fits this description. At 155 pounds, Larry Esparza carries a record of 3-2. We are talking about a highly talented, very technical fighter. A fighter who as mentioned before will fight whenever or wherever. This is a hungry young fighter who recently fought twice in one week.
Guys like Wanderlei Silva used to fight two or three times a night. Now some pros fight two or three times a year. As an amateur Esparza takes two fights in a week. This guy is a throwback fighter.
When asked how he came to be lined up with two fights in one week, Esparza had this to say. "At first I was getting ready for a title fight we were going to have in the XCFC. That fell through and the opponent got hurt. So I figured I was in good enough shape to take a title fight why not do two, you know what I mean. It's an extra round that's all it is."
He first fought as a part of the National Cage Fighting promotion. Just a week later, you would find him in the cage again at the Xtreme Courage Fighting Championships.
He won the first fight and lost the second, but the wins and losses are just a bi-product of the bigger picture. What he is doing is earning as much needed experience within his reach that he can. This will harden this young fighter and prepare him for his future.
He understands what the future of MMA is, and he recognizes that right now, fighters must diversify themselves to stay with the curve. A fighter can't rely on just one strength.
"The whole point about MMA is that's it's a four dimensional world. You can't just pick one and excel at one. You can see as the game progresses, the fighters that are taking off in all four worlds and not just one are the fighters that are excelling. You can't just work on one, you've got to do all four aspects of the game or you're going to get left behind."
It is not just his fighting, or desire that is moving him along. Esparza has that great support structure mentioned earlier. He trains out of two of the best gyms in his area, Apex MMA with Joey Rivera, as well as Tucson Dojo with the renowned Steve Owen.
His trust in his corner-man Rocco is a huge strength as well. Their communication and response in a fight is flawless. Rocco is deeply entrenched in MMA and has a wealth of knowledge. Rocco has spent plenty of time with MMA legend Don Frye. Rocco's experiences and guidance hold a lot of weight with Esparza.
Larry's trust in his trainer was apparent, "Rocco, I mean, I have a real close relationship with my father of course and Rocco's the second guy. Other than him I have my dad that's it. He's a father figure, he takes care of me, he doesn't feed me to the wolves, and if something is not right he takes care of it for me. He's the guy to go to."
Rocco's cornering is smooth and direct. No frantic yelling, just clear, calm instruction that is easy for his fighter to digest and apply. To watch Esparza respond to Rocco's instruction, it becomes apparent this is a great team.
So with a strong drive to learn, a talent base that is undeniable, and a world class corner-man to guide him, this young fighter is building today what will be the foundation for success tomorrow.
Watching Larry fight, it is quickly apparent he is on his way. It may take time, but this young man intends to make his mark on the sport.
With all the opportunities for fights popping up in the southwest, Esparza will have plenty of chances to improve upon what is already a very promising outlook for his career.