It’s nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of gyms have them. And it’s high time there was a more open conversation about it. Once we embrace our resident gym nerd, then we can really start to make progress.
Maybe the shorts are a little too short, the socks a little too brown, the stair-climbing a little too exaggerated. In a combat environment, maybe the jokes and punches come a little faster toward the dome of that special someone.
But at least one gym denizen is doing the right thing. He’s saying it loud: He’s a nerd, and he’s proud. Granted, it’s much easier to stand up for yourself when, you know, you can stand up for yourself. Nicolas Dalby is not only the nerd of his crew; he's also its best fighter. Hell, he's the best active MMA fighter in all of Denmark. And last week, the UFC brought the welterweight prospect into its fold, signing Dalby to a four-fight deal:
“Yeah, I guess I’ve always been kind of a nerd,” Dalby said in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report. “I’ve always been into computers and gadgets. ... I’m pretty happy with my iPhone 6. It didn’t get released in Denmark, so I had to order it on eBay. Now, I’m waiting to see if the watch will be useful.”
As of last week, Dalby is on a bit of a clock himself. The UFC bosses would love to know how useful he will be to them. Behind Martin Kampmann, Dalby, who trains at Rumble Sports in Copenhagen, is only the second Danish fighter to join MMA’s largest organization.
“My manager pushed me to the UFC and made a deal,” Dalby said. “I had no clue that he was doing that or that a contract was on its way. ... It’s surreal. It’s been 10 years in the making.”
The Sharpshooter indeed comes across as a sharp guy, which is not too unexpected for someone who uses concept photography to pay his bills. You might think it translates into a thinking man’s approach in the cage, and you’d be right. But don’t confuse intelligence for passivity; Dalby fights more like a running back busting through the line than a quarterback reading the defense.
“I’m a striker who has high output,” Dalby said in fluent English. “My fights tend to be pretty action-filled. But I can wrestle, too.”
Aggression and a well-rounded game (particularly for a European fighter, for whom wrestling is not a big part of the combat-sporting fabric) earned the 30-year-old a 13-0 professional record with four knockouts, a welterweight title belt with Great Britain’s Cage Warriors promotion and now the big contract.
By his own accounts, Dalby led an “uneventful” upbringing in the southern part of Denmark. Karate classes there provided his first formal taste of fighting.
That base is still evident in his game today. Despite being a fairly big welterweight at 5'11", he's noticeably light on his feet, darting in and out to slam home precision blows. When he smells a finish, he really pours it on, layering combinations one on top of another.
But he's more physical than the average kickboxing European. He fights well in the clinch (watch those knees) and can actually take you down. His takedown defense is probably better than his takedown offense at this point, but the latter does exist.
It's a good blend of things. And though he has three wins by submission, he's mainly a ground-and-pound fighter when things go horizontal.
Dalby, who signed a four-fight deal, does not yet have an opponent or date for his debut. While he waits, he’ll keep training, earning steady income on the side through various jobs, most notably as a freelance photographer.
“I do all sorts of photography, but mainly concept photography,” Dalby said. “I do some portraits, too, documentary-style stuff.”
When he’s not training, taking pictures, listening to Danish hip-hop (which, apparently, I’m not making up) or daydreaming about carbs, Dalby fills his head with stuff, fighting and otherwise. Looks like you can’t take the nerd out of the fighter, and for Dalby, that makes for a potent one-two.
“I like to read up on subjects that interest me,” Dalby said. “Right now, before I go to bed, I read about the universe and stars on Wikipedia. ... I like to go to Google to look up a new technique. Everyone who’s good at MMA has to be a geek about learning.”
The Beaten Path is Bleacher Report's ongoing series covering the top prospects in MMA. For the previous interview in the series, click here. Scott Harris covers MMA and other topics for Bleacher Report and other places. For more stuff like this, follow Scott on Twitter. All quotes obtained firsthand.