Photograph Credit: THEFIGHTVOICE
Video Credit: THEFIGHTVOICE
Our second installment of FIGHT BYTES and one-on-one interview with Epic Lightweight champion Devin Taylor as he prepares for his title defense at Epic 27, November 14, 2014 from the Four Points Sheraton Kearny Mesa.
As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to grow throughout the world, it is no surprise that athletes from all walks of life are slowly moving away from the mainstream sports, such as football, basketball and baseball, and into the world of MMA. While it takes a special type of person to dedicate their life to the sport of fighting, whether it be Boxing, Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu, the physical skills an athlete develops in one sport can be transferable to other sports down the road. For some athletes, being physically-gifted and versatile can open doors that they never thought were possible.
Devin Taylor is one of those athletes. Taylor (4-1-0), is an amateur mixed martial artist who trains out of The Arena, a popular gym in San Diego that has earned a reputation for developing fighters and is a fixture in the San Diego fight game.
On Friday, November 14, at Epic 27, Taylor will make his long-awaited return to the cage as he prepares to defend his lightweight title against Ritchie Rodarte (3-3-0), a fighter who Taylor fell to in defeat almost one year ago. With a strong team in his corner, the willingness to learn and the physical tools required to become a fighter, Taylor has fully embraced the lifestyle of a fighter and strongly feels that he has a place on the MMA landscape.
So how did Taylor, a multi-sport athlete in high school, become introduced to the sport of MMA? It started at home, with the man he always looked up to, his father.
“I became interested in MMA when it first got big during the days of Tank Abbott and the older guys from the sport. One day, my dad said something that stuck with me. We were watching a UFC event and he said, ‘man I couldn’t do that stuff you got to be a real man to do that.’ And for me, I looked up to my dad as a man and for him to say that it made me think, ‘ok so if I ever do that I will be more of a man in my dad’s eyes,’ and that is what drove me to give MMA a try,” explains Taylor.
But that is only part of the equation. It is one thing to find a common bond with a parent, whether it be sports, movies, or cars. It is another thing to take the gigantic leap from watching the UFC on television to walking through the door of a gym and telling the person behind the counter that you want to be a fighter.
“I started off in MMA with Steve Farmar who was my coach in Hawaii. He put me in the cage, closed the door and ran at me just to see how I would react,” Taylor explains. For any person, athlete or not, the sight of a professional fighter barreling down on you would surely make you question your own motives. Not for Devin Taylor. He continues, “So I turned around and my first reaction was to scoop him up and slam him. He ended up putting me in an arm bar right after, but he did say that from my initial reaction he knew I was a fighter. He told me that a lot of people turn away or run but that when I attacked it showed I had it in me.”
After getting his first taste of mixed martial arts, an experience Taylor found both rewarding and humbling, he was hooked. “I got bit by the bug for sure,” Taylor laughingly tells me. More importantly, Taylor knew that if he was going to pursue this path he must give it is full attention.
After relying solely on his athletic skills from baseball, basketball and track, Taylor sprinted through his introduction to MMA and took his first fight just 37 days after he first entered the gym. “I first fought at Mad Skills in Hawaii and they actually broke the fight down into different arts. So first round you would only box. Second round was takedowns. Then third round was Jiu-Jitsu. I have had the itch ever since,” Taylor tells me.
Currently, Taylor holds a respectable amateur record of 4-1 inside the cage and has been ranked #9 by the state for his division. After winning the Epic lightweight belt in May 2014, Taylor went right back to the gym, at The Arena MMA, a place where training with the best prepares you for the real thing.
“It’s all about being at The Arena. It has allowed me to polish my entire game and believe in myself as a fighter,” Taylor tells me as several fighters begin to warm up for an intense session on the mats.
“Vince Salvador and Charles Martins are my two coaches and just two of the guys who make The Arena special. Also, J.B. Billingslea helps me with Jiu-Jitsu. Those guys need to be recognized for what they do here. They really capitalize on what you already have and make you better,” he adds.
And no fighter is complete without a solid team of brothers to call family. At every Epic event, it is hard not to notice the large contingent of Arena fighters, members and fans who are present to cheer on their teammates. Devin Taylor is the busiest of them all, typically circling the cage, greeting fans and providing verbal instruction to his teammates throughout the fights. This attitude is contagious and it is obvious that Taylor infectious, positive demeanor rubs off on his teammates.
“It is all about my teammates…were family. When I first came here they welcomed me in and helped me find my way. My teammates are a huge part of my success and I want to be a part of theirs,” Taylor explains.
Taylor, who fights in the lightweight division, was scheduled to defend his belt at Epic 26, unfortunately due to an issue with his opponent the fight was pulled and he was forced to wait to make his return to the cage. On November 14, at Epic 27, Taylor will get his wish as he defends his title and seeks revenge against Ritchie Rodarte, a fighter who handed Taylor his only loss.
For Taylor, a man who feeds off positive energy and can rarely be seen sitting down at an Epic event, getting back in the cage is an itch that needs to be scratched. With the Epic fight season coming to an end, the star have aligned for Devin Taylor to showcase his skills, defend his title and take the next step towards advancing his mixed martial arts career.
“Camp is going great. My weight is good and my energy level is high. I think everything happens for a reason…I am ready to go,” Taylor tells me.
Be sure to check out the Epic Fighting website now http://www.epicfighting.com and get your tickets. Follow Epic Fighting on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EpicFight and Twitter @EpicFighting to find special discount codes for your tickets. Epic 27 is an event for all ages, parking is free and tickets can be upgraded at the door if capacity permits.
Follow THEFIGHTVOICE, at http://www.thefightvoice.com, on Twitter @thefightvoice, Instagram at thefightvoice and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/fight.voice as we continue to bring fight news, live fight coverage and feature stories to the San Diego fight community.