Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Q-and-A: Dallas MMA fighter on choke-outs and major June 19 bout
But, stories about his adorable daughters might choke you up.
DALLAS When Damon Jackson goes to work, he tries to punch people, break their arms or knock them unconscious.
And it’s 100% legal.
Jackson is a mixed martial arts fighter who trains at Dallas Uptown's Octagon MMA. The 24-year-old from Durant, Okla., does it because he loves it. His work in MMA also supports his wife and two young daughters.
And he's pretty good at it. He has won all five of his fights in two years, though the money hasn't been much. He made $400 per fight and another $400 for a win in each of his first few bouts.
On Wednesday, Jackson will fight on a nationally televised card with Bellator MMA, one of the top secondary mixed martial arts leagues below the top-tier Ultimate Fighting Championship. He will battle Keith Miner (5-4) at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla.
Jackson's fight is expected to be shown during a three-hour live broadcast on Spike TV (beginning at 6 p.m.). He is slated to make $1,500 to fight and another $1,500 if he wins. He'll also get a percentage of the profit from the tickets he sells himself.
Given that many fighters can only handle four or five fights per year, does Jackson worry about making ends meet?
"All the time," he says. "Starting off, it was really hard training twice a day and getting the right training in because I was working 40-50 hours a week. Now that I have gotten the flow of things, I'm either at the gym training or at home with my kids. It's really an awesome life. I'd rather do this than having a minimum-wage job or making the same amount of money doing anything else."
Jackson has started giving private lessons and working as a personal trainer to supplement his income.
"I don't live off just my MMA career," Jackson said. "No one can do that unless you go straight to the UFC and are making $20,000-plus (per fight) and fighting four times a year. It's just not possible. I do things so I can still commit to my sport as much as possible."
So how does someone make in it mixed martial arts? Being an All-American wrestler at Missouri Valley College helped. But there's more.
We asked Jackson about the secrets to getting a bigger fight, how a rainy day led to his marrying his wife and what it’s like fighting for two young daughters:
On how he got an MMA fight with a promoter: "Honestly, it's about word of mouth. You have to go out and tell people who you are and why you should fight this person, why you're important, why you're good at what you're doing. You have to have a really good manager, someone you can really trust. Don't just go to anybody. Or you have to do it yourself. No one is going be more motivated than yourself for your career."
On how he got a fight with Bellator: "I knew the biggest sell to them would be the fact that I grew up an hour from (the fight location). I (told them), 'I am (undefeated) right now, I need to have a big fight. I grew up an hour from there, and, basically, I can sell tickets. I have a big fan base in that area.' They e-mailed me back, called me back the next day, and it worked out perfectly for me."
On being a Texas Rangers fan and baseball lover: "That was my focus as a kid. I didn't do any other sport. I honestly thought I was going to play pro baseball. I got into high school and started wrestling. I got really close to going to a state tournament, and there was a freestyle tournament coming up. And my baseball coach didn't like me wrestling while I was playing baseball. I was a pitcher, and he didn't want me getting injuries to my arm. We weren't seeing eye-to-eye on it. So I ran cross-country and track just to stay in shape and just went toward wrestling. Everything I wanted to do was wrestling."
On meeting his wife, Tara, a Missouri Valley volleyball player, in college: At first, we never really talked for the first month. I was driving to practice, and it started raining really hard and she was running to go to the gym. I knew she played volleyball. All of my buddies were in the car with me so I had two people in my back seat and one in my front seat. When I saw her running I told my friend, 'Dude, get in the back seat.' So I made him get in the back seat, and I rolled my window down and asked her if she needed a ride to the gym. She got in the car and we drove to the gym. I didn't get her number but I talked to her for a while. And after that every time I saw her, we talked for a while. And then I asked her on a date."
On his two daughters -- Joslyn, 4, and Hallie, 1: "I've never spent that much time with girls. Growing up, I never paid that much attention to my girl cousins or my sister. I was more with my brother and my friends and boy cousins. Girls are really funny growing up. They just have a million questions, and both of my daughters are very intelligent. They've had a crazy life. We had my first daughter when I was a sophomore in college, so she went to every single wrestling tournament my wife went to. She was around the wrestling room all the time. It made me a stronger person seeing them there and realizing why I am doing it, to make their lives better."
On what he would tell someone who wants to be in MMA: "I would never go and tell someone, 'Go train MMA.' Because if it's not something you commit to 100% all of your time … your dieting, your sleep habits, your family … everything has to change for you to have a successful career. Everyone asks me all the time, what do I have to do to be a fighter? Well, go wrestle, enjoy wrestling and live it up as long as you can. Wrestling makes you such a strong person mentally and physically. Everything else you do in your life is going to be easier because of wrestling if you put the time in that it deserves. Anything in MMA I do is easier because wrestling is way harder."