Bleacher Report had the pleasure of sitting down with The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 veteran and rising star Richie "Hellboy" Whitson for an exclusive interview.
Whitson first gained fame from his stint on the ninth season of TUF in which he defeated Paul Bird via submission to gain entry into the house before coming up short against the season's eventual winner, Ross Pearson.
But the loss wasn't a bad thing.
In fact, Whitson praised the experience on the show when asked about it, saying, "It was great exposure. It does suck being in the house a little bit, just because there is a camera in your face all the time...But as far as the exposure and getting your face out there and learning how to deal with the camera, it was definitely a good experience."
Since then, Whitson has torn up the local scene, going 7-1 with the only loss being a very close split decision.
This is all quite impressive for a man who came from the middle of nowhere, or Sitka, Alaska.
"I'm from Sitka, an island up in Alaska," Whitson said. "There was no jiu-jitsu or anything like that so really I didn't start getting into martial arts until high school, when I started boxing."
The lack of proper training was an unfortunate circumstance for someone who found their calling—fighting—early in life. "I was pretty young when I saw the first UFC," Whitson reminisced. He continued and said "I think I was in like third grade."
That third-grader had big dreams that he didn't forget. When Whitson was older, he finally had his chance. Witson said, "I had a friend go up to Anchorage, they called it the AFC, Alaskan Fighting Championship, and I watched him fight and then I knew that's what I was gonna start doing."
Despite entering the complex and difficult world of mixed martial arts with only a 5-0 record as an amateur boxer and no real MMA skills, Whitson enjoyed it, saying, "I just went out there to fight. I didn't really know a whole lot...all I knew was that I was pretty athletic and pretty scrappy and that if someone took me down, I could stand back up."
Whitson has since rounded out his skill set and is now 11-1. He is coming off of a thrilling split decision victory over Curtis Demarce at MFC 28 and is set to fight Kajan Johnson at MFC 31.
Regarding his opponent, Whitson briefly praised him, saying, "He's got a lot of experience. He seems like a well-rounded fighter," before switching gears. "He's a loudmouth," said Whitson. "Whatever, a lot of fighters are. I don't like to talk much. I like to fight instead."
It is this propensity to fight that has lead Whitson to such success. "It's just my style," he said. "I like to keep pressure on people and somehow I just always find myself in wars. That's exciting to the fans, and that's good."
As for the future, Whitson is optimistic. He said, "I think the whole sport is gonna keep growing, especially now that the UFC going to FOX and getting mainstream. It's pretty cool being in [MMA] right at this time, watching it go from nothing to something."
Will we be seeing Whitson on one of the UFC's FOX broadcasts anytime soon?
"I'm not worried about that." a nonchalant Whitson said. "I gotta fight one fight at a time, and things will work out."
And about his "Hellboy" moniker? He didn't steal it from Norwegian terror Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen. Instead, it was given to him by a friend.
"My buddy Fernando, Fernando Gonzalez, the guy who I train with at team quest," Whitson admitted. "I didn’t have a good nickname like 'headhunter'...Of course, if you get a nickname, somebody else is going to have it."
Whitson elaborated, "I didn’t like any of the nicknames I was being given and Fernando said, because I have red hair and because my style of fighting, he started calling me “Hellboy.” And I said 'I think I’ll keep it.'"
The accolades of a burgeoning MMA career have not gone to Whitson's head, who had many people to thank for his success. "I’d like to give a big thanks to clinch gear whose been sponsoring me since the beginning, and my strength and conditioning coaches, Dynamic Fitness, and my family back home in Sitka, Alaska."
Whitson's fight against Kajan Johnson will be at MFC 31 on Oct. 7. The event will be airing on HDNet.
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