TheFightVoice had an opportunity to catch up with local San Diego mixed martial artist Bruce Smith as he prepares for his upcoming fight July 25, 2014 on Epic Fighting 25 at 7pm PT. Bruce Smith fights out of Victory MMA in Point Loma and is returning the cage for the first time since 2013.
When entering Victory MMA in Point Loma for the first time it is immediately obvious that the wealth of knowledge surrounding the cages, mats and heavy bags rubs off on the young fighters around the gym. The sounds of mitts smacking gloves, speed bags thudding against a slab of wood and instructors shouting instructions create a harmonious melody throughout the gym.
At Victory MMA you feel like you are among MMA royalty. A poster with a picture of legendary UFC fighter Dean Lister hangs above the inside corridor. A promotional flyer for an instructional MMA class being taught by Chris “The Crippler” Leben sits on a table near a shrunken octagon where two fighters spar for multiple rounds. It is no surprise that the fighters here are some of the elite talent in the Southern California area.
While sitting at a table I notice an active, energetic guy working hard with his trainer. The fighter is Bruce Smith, a local amateur fighter who is putting in extra hours in preparation for this next fight on July 25, 2014 at Epic 25.
Bruce Smith has been fighting in local amateur MMA cards under the Epic promotion since 2012. Smith, who fights in the 145lb division, currently holds a 3-0 record under Epic and has scored a knockout, submission and majority decision. After a year outside of the cage, Smith is working the hard to get back into the cage and earn another victory.
TheFightVoice: We are pleased to sit down with MMA fighter Bruce Smith at Victory MMA as he prepares for his next fight on July 25 at Epic 25. Bruce is accompanied by his trainer, Ed Ratcliff. Bruce and Ed thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us.
TheFightVoice: Bruce, where are you from originally? Did you grow up in San Diego?
Bruce Smith: Originally I am from down south in Savannah Georgia. I came out here because of the military. I am in the Navy and just finished my deployment about 3 months ago. Just trying to get back in the gym and get back to it.
TheFightVoice: Thank you for your service Bruce. How long were you on deployment?
Bruce Smith: Absolutely. I was gone 10 months.
TheFightVoice: So as I understand it, not only are you involved with MMA, but your wife (Victoria Smith) has a link to Epic Fighting as well. Is that correct?
Bruce Smith: Yes, actually she was a ring-card girl for Epic 14 years ago!
TheFightVoice: That’s great! We actually asked Victoria a few questions for the purposes of this interview. Victoria, welcome to the conversation!
TheFightVoice: Victoria, would you consider your situation with Bruce the coolest form of “office romance” that there could be?
Victoria Smith: When I moved out here after Bruce, I began ringing for Epic. After working with them I introduced Bruce to Jason Stewart and matchmaker Heather Hyatt and from there he became a fighter for Epic. I definitely wouldn’t say office romance, but the fact that we get to work together in such a cool environment and having the opportunity to do what we love is pretty amazing.
TheFightVoice: What is it like being married to a fighter?
Victoria Smith: I would say pretty amazing. He always has a nice body to look at and I know he can kick someone’s ass if I need him to!
TheFightVoice: Can you tell us what goes through your mind when Bruce is inside of the cage?
Victoria Smith: When he first began fighting I would get crazy nervous. Now a days when he steps into the cage I feel nothing but excitement. He is an amazing fighter and is pursuing his dream. What wife wouldn’t be happy about that?
TheFightVoice: Both you and Bruce have obviously sacrificed a lot. What do you hope for Bruce’s MMA career?
Victoria Smith: I can only hope for him what every wife or best friend would. To push as hard as he can to get as far as his dreams will take him.
TheFightVoice: Thank you Victoria! Bruce, can you tell us about when you first started into martial arts?
Bruce Smith: Actually, I really didn’t get into it until a few weeks before I enlisted into the Navy. I just started slow hitting the heavy bag back in Georgia at The Champions Training Center. I didn’t really gain much knowledge at that point I was just doing it for fun. Then I came out here to San Diego, returned back from my first deployment in June 2011 found Ed (Ratcliff) and started training at Undisputed in North Park. I have been with him (Ed) ever since.
TheFightVoice: What does your martial arts background consist of?
Bruce Smith: I wrestled in high school and placed 3rd in the State. I also went to Senior Nationals and faced some pretty tough guys.
TheFightVoice: So you recently entered the joyous stage of fatherhood. Congratulations!
Bruce Smith: Oh yeah, my daughter was born in December of 2013 while I was out on deployment.
TheFightVoice: How has that change in your life affected your fighting career?
Bruce Smith: It has definitely kept me motivated. More than I could ever imagine. It helps me keep a positive attitude, set goals to strive for and ultimately inspire my daughter to follow her dreams like I am trying to do.
TheFightVoice: Ed (Ratcliff), can you describe Bruce’s fighting style for me?
Trainer Ed Ratcliff: Well, it is hard to say what his exact style is. He doesn’t have a specific style per say. He is a grappler and he is good on the ground.
TheFightVoice: Is there a fighting style that Bruce molds his game after?
Trainer Ed Ratcliff: No, I mold all my fighters to be themselves. And that works out well. He does certain things well and he is built a certain way that it naturally works for him. We basically take his style and skillset and fine-tune it to a style that fits him. We have to change it at times, but for the most part Bruce’s style works well and he adapts well inside the cage.
Bruce Smith has fought three times under Epic Fighting and has beat Isaac Soto by TKO, Jorge Velasquez by submission and Daniel Valdez by majority decision.
TheFightVoice: You are coming off three victories under Epic. Can you tell me about which of those fights was the toughest and how you overcame the challenges to come out victorious?
Bruce Smith: I think the toughest was my second fight. He was a Muay Thai guy who came out swinging a lot. I got him down early in the first and was able to control the fight. It was a tough decision where I received a draw from one of the judges. I didn’t feel that was correct but ultimately I got the win.
TheFightVoice: Tell me about Epic Fighting and CEO Jason Stewart. What is it like fighting under Epic and how has Epic helped your career?
Bruce Smith: I first got into Epic through my wife, who was a ring-card girl for Epic 14. I was actually on the next card so that was cool. The process with Epic is great. One of the things Epic does so well is they require you to be licensed through the state. It has been a very positive experience.
TheFightVoice: What do you appreciate most about what Epic is doing for the local San Diego fight community?
Bruce Smith: I really like the fact that they go through a licensed program. They take the time to actually make sure the fighters are fit to take the fight and they go through medical channels to make sure everybody safe.
TheFightVoice: What do you know about your opponent in your next fight on July 25? How are your preparing?
Bruce Smith: I actually don’t know my opponent yet, but it doesn’t matter. We always prepare the same way. I have my trainers train me to fight anybody with any style. We’ll see come July 25.
TheFightVoice: Ed, what would you say is Bruce’s biggest strength?
Trainer Ed Ratcliff: I would say his biggest strength is his mind. He is smart. His best asset is that he knows when to avoid certain things. He is an amateur so he will continue to develop, but instinctually he is ahead of the game. He can adapt quickly which is key in a fight. I see so much growth with Bruce in the gym.
TheFightVoice: Tell me about what it is like to train here at Victory MMA.
Bruce Smith: It is definitely one of the best gyms I have ever been too. So many gyms like Undisputed have great trainers and people to spar with, but Victory MMA is second-to-none. Ever since I have been here I have seen myself improve as a striker, in my conditioning and most importantly in my passion. Seeing all of these people around here is great.
TheFightVoice: Take me inside of the ring for a second when you are about to go to battle. What is going through your head?
Bruce Smith: Oh, man ever since my very first fight it has always been butterflies. Just nervous. You can say all you want about not being nervous, but going into the cage is different. You see that other guy across from you and you need to adapt and clear your mind of everything else outside of the cage.
TheFightVoice: What was it like to get your hand raised for that first victory?
Bruce Smith: It was wonderful. Not only did I win the fight but I got knockout of the night my very first fight. It was such a great experience. I actually got the victory with one second remaining in the round. It was crazy.
TheFightVoice: Ed (Ratcliff) where do you see Bruce’s career in say 5 years? Do you see a future?
Trainer Ed Ratcliff: Well that all depends on his career with the military, but I definitely see a future for Bruce.
TheFightVoice: What would Bruce Smith in 2014 tell Bruce Smith from 7 years ago?
Bruce Smith: Wow. If he could see me now, he would definitely be impressed. Bruce Smith now, would tell that Bruce Smith to work harder for sure. To do better in school. I had to miss some sports in high school because I was messing around outside of school doing bad things. Basically I would’ve told that Bruce Smith to grow up.
TheFightVoice: What is the walkout song for you before entering the ring? Does it change with each fight?
Bruce Smith: Oh man, well it depends. I have kept the same for my last 3 fights, which is “All I Do Is Win,” by DJ Khaled. But for this fight on July 25 I am going to switch it up and go with “Welcome to Hell” by Eminem. It is going to be my comeback song. Since this is my first fight back in over a year, this song definitely fits.
TheFightVoice: Any shout-outs or Sponsors you would like to thank?
Bruce Smith: Yes, for sure. Most importantly I want to thank my beautiful wife Victoria Smith for all the support I get to chase my dreams. She sacrifices a lot of time and patience for me to do what I do. And I want to say thank you to my mom. She is the reason I’m able to train like I do. While I’m at training she at home watching my beautiful daughter. Thank all of you and I love y’all. And I would like to thank Juan Vera from Down 2 Scrap and Bobby Ashtiani from Franchise Customs for their continued support.
TheFightVoice: Thank you so much Bruce, Ed and Victoria for the time today. And good luck on July 25 at Epic 25 live at the Four Points Sheraton in San Diego!
Bruce Smith will be on Epic Fighting’s stacked fight card on Friday, July 25 from the Four Points Sheraton in Kearny Mesa. You can purchase tickets by going to http://www.epicfighting.com.
TheFightVoice would like to thank Bruce Smith and his trainer Ed Ratcliff for their time and candor in answering our questions. You can follow Bruce Smith on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BruceSmithmmaFighter and Ed Ratcliff at https://www.facebook.com/therealed.ratcliff. A special thanks to Victory MMA in Point Loma. Be sure to check out Victory MMA online at http://www.victorygyms.com, Twitter @VictoryMMASD and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/victorygyms.
Last but certainly not least thank you to Epic Fighting and Jason Stewart for supporting our cause. You can follow Epic Fighting online at http://www.epicfighting.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EpicFight and on Twitter @EpicFighting. Be sure to get your tickets for Epic Fighting 25 at the Four Points Sheraton in San Diego on July 25, 2014!