The Biggest Midwest Showdown Since Mickle vs. Stephens
Several years ago, before they became two of the most popular fighters in the Midwest, Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens and Chris “Mad Dog” Mickle put on one of the most epic four round battles in MMA history. It ultimately ended when Stephens put Mickle to sleep with a highlight worthy spinning back fist. Shortly thereafter, “Lil Heathen” received his invitation to the UFC and has been putting on highlight worthy performances ever since.
History will repeat itself at MCC 24: “Reloaded” as top prospect, Alonzo “Zo Diddy” Martinez has agreed to replace the injured Chris Mickle to face Paul “Gingabread Man” Bird.
MCC co-owner, John Halverson noted, “We had several options to look at when we found out Mickle was injured, but Paul and Zo made the most sense. You have two fighters on the verge of breaking into the big show, and this is probably the one fight that is going to push them over the edge.”
Bird, who is a veteran of UFC’s popular television reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, is on a four fight win streak including a win over WEC and Pride veteran, Joe Pearson. Although this fight could serve as his toughest opponent to date, Bird is looking forward to showing his improvement as a mixed martial artist against a veteran with several notable appearances under his belt.
Martinez, a veteran of Ring of Fire, HD Net, and ESPN’s Bellator, has notable wins over UFC veteran’s Brandon Melendez, Ryan Roberts, Luke Caudillo and a draw with former MCC champion and recent UFC signee, Joe Brammer, is excited for the opportunity to face a fellow up and comer like Bird.
“This is such a great match up,” stated, Halverson. “This is the caliber of fight you’d see on a UFC prelim or Spike TV Ultimate Fight Night. I’m sure after this fight one of these two is headed to the big league.”
Tickets for MCC 24: “Reloaded” are available on-line at www.MidwestCageChampionship.com, by phone at 515-229-8566, Iowa Events Center Box office, or at all Dahl’s ticket outlets. Also on the card is a main event featuring TJ “The Spider” O’Brien and Jake “Dirty Bird” Brown as they battle it out for the vacant interim Lightweight Championship.
Searching for Greatness, Paul Bird is Ready for War
By Randy Thomas
When you talk about someone who’s been there, done that, one fighter comes to mind- Paul “The Gingabread Man” Bird. A native of Australia, who has began his career in boxing, traveled overseas to kick box, competed on a season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, and put together an impressive 8-1 MMA record, Bird is constantly looking to get better and eventually make it to the bright lights and roaring crowd of the UFC.
As many mixed martial artists path start, a combat sport was not the basis for his athleticism. Paul Bird was actually a soccer player. He played soccer from the time he was four until he was seventeen. He was selected to play on the USA Youth National Team and competed in the two largest tournaments in Europe. It was not until he was nineteen years old when he had his first boxing lesson. Bird recalls, “I always watched Mike Tyson when I was young and wanted to be a pro boxer, but my parents didn’t like the idea of me taking punches, so I started late.”
Then, like several other local fighters such as Josh Neer, John Halverson, and Jeremy Stephens, he stepped in the ring for the first time at Toad Holller- an amateur boxing and MMA venue from years ago. He took a few amateur fights, both boxing and kickboxing. Looking for improvement, he took a trip to Thailand with a friend. Although he was not planning on fighting, he lost his wallet and needed to make some money. So, he signed on to get in the ring with a local Thai fighter. Although he lost the battle, it was at that point he knew he wanted to be a fighter. Oh….and he found his wallet the day of the fight!
This is where mixed martial arts became a part of Paul’s life.
After training with a handful of local fighters at Des Moines Mixed Martial Arts Academy, it was apparent that “The Gingabread Man” had the tools to get in the cage and perform. With lightning fast punches and kicks, he was a walking highlight reel just waiting to unleash. Paul entered MCC and starting tearing through the competition. Even if he was coming from behind, Bird was always looking to end the fight quickly and violently. Eventually he made his way to a title shot.
With just a handful of fights on his resume, Bird faced MCC Lightweight Champion, Bryce Teager. Although it was the first time he would taste defeat, Bird did not let that sidetrack him. He trained harder and more intense. He still had his sights on the UFC, and months later his opportunity arrived.
Bird was one of the few selected to compete on season eight of the highly popular UFC reality series, “The Ultimate Fighter- USA vs. UK.” When he arrived he was greeted and almost immediately matched up to fight. Unfortunately for Bird, he was pitted against one of the best fighters on the show. Bird did not let that affect him mentally. He strapped on the gloves and went in and gave it everything he had. He was honored to be selected and knew that if he performed, his life could be changed forever.
Bird said, “This is the fight that really haunts me because I wasn’t ready for the fight. I didn’t think they were going to pick me and I wasn’t training like I should have. I was also very sick going into this match. And, not to take anything away from Richie Whitson who is an unbelievable fighter, but I wasn’t even close to showing my true self.”
He came back strong and racked up a few more wins including a first round victory over WEC and Pride vet, Joe Pearson. At MCC 24 “Reloaded,” Bird will face another WEC veteran and former MCC champion, Chris “Mad Dog” Mickle.
Bird has switched up his training. He’s become more focused as an athlete. He knows as the competition gets better, just being tough is not enough. You have to train you body and mind like never before. To be a champion you have to train like a champion. Bird has sought out the help of Spartan Strength owner, Nick Rouse to conduct his conditioning sessions. He stated, “The switch was done to be a stronger more conditioned explosive athlete. Chris is a pressure fighter and I have show a high level performance to beat him. I can only get this at Spartan Strength.”
He knows he could be in for a long night when he battles Mickle, but he’s looking to end it early. “Chris is someone who is a true fighter and has a warriors heart, but I don’t think his experience is going to be a major factor in this fight. Even though I don’t have as much experience as him I’ve been training for a long time. I’m not thinking about who he’s fought. He’s never fought anyone like me,” Bird noted. He ended with, “My plan is to hit him with that blunt force trauma, full power strikes and wrestling for fifteen minutes, every time he enters my personal space …bing bong bing!”
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