FightFest Brings UFC Vets to Ohio, Interview with Riley
Sid Needelman Reporting…
On September 29, FightFest caged MMA hits Columbus, OH. Being held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the same venue that houses the annual Arnold Fitness Expo, the event will showcase a plethora of local talent as well as some UFC veterans. Amongst the more familiar names on the card are UFC participants Wes Sims, Sean Salmon, and Josh Shockman. The main event of the evening features Toughman-turned-cagefighter, Eric `Butterbean’ Esch.
For the fighters listed above, this is just another show. Having already fought in the UFC’s legendary octagon, the FightFest cage may prove to be a relaxing change of pace for these men. For many of the lesser known fighters on the card, this is their chance to step up and get noticed by a bigger crowd and, hopefully, springboard their careers s to the next level.
The chance to make a name for himself is the primary goal for Jason Riley, a local Columbus fighter who trains at Buckeye Mixed Martial Arts. With a professional record of just 2-0, the man known as `The Juggernaut’ is taking a big step up to face heavyweight kickboxer (and former UFC fighter ) Josh `The War Hammer’ Shockman.
Riley explained: “I’ve only been fighting for a little over a year and a half. When I started, I had no formal training. I had some friends who also fought… we were all amateurs who just liked to fight. It was hard for me because I was the only heavyweight at our gym and everyone else weighed well under 200lbs while I’m walking around at close to 270lbs.”
“I took a fight against a good Greco Roman Wrestler from Pennsylvania named Braden Bice. I had some issues leading up to the fight but that doesn’t change the fact that he beat me [though it was an amateur fight]. I never wrestled before and the few weeks I tried to work on takedown defense didn’t prepare me for a guy with such a strong clinch game. “
Riley then started to train at BuckeyeMMA. “Training with them changed my whole perspective of MMA. My ground game has come a long way in the last year and I’ve never trained so much or been pushed so hard to improve as I am now. Hell, my weight has dropped from walking around at 270 to just noly 250… and that’s without changing my diet at all”
For his fight against Josh Shockman in FightFest, Riley agrees that he’s being treated as the underdog, but he thinks he’ll surprise a lot of people on Sept 29.
“I’ve seen video of his past fights and his one fight against Jake O’Brien in the UFC. Honestly, I’m not impressed. I’m sure he’s a tough guy — he’d have to be in order to make it to the UFC in the first place. But I think I match up well with him. We both like to stand and bang but I’m taller, heavier, and I think I hit a hell of a lot harder. I’m actually glad to fight him. I have a hard time getting fights locally these days… I was asked to fight 4 other guys on this show, and they all backed out or turned it down. One of the guys they asked me to fight was another UFC vet from around here. He’s still fighting on this card but they had to find him a different opponent.”
Getting back to Shockman, Riley is obviously upset over the disparity in how they’re treated heading into the fight.
“They put this guy’s picture on the poster for the show and it bugs me. Yeah, he was in the UFC… but he lost his only fight there. And it was a boring fight too, not a back-and-forth war or anything. I’m just going to have to pay my dues and prove that I belong. I don’t know what a win over Shockman will do for my career, it’s not like I’m fighting Fedor… but he’s still a UFC vet and a win over him will at least get me noticed by some of the right people. “
For `The Juggernaut’ it all comes down to the long term goal.
“I want to support my family by doing something I love and that I’m good at. I started fighting because I liked it. I liked the competition. But now that I see the sport blowing up around me I want to take this seriously and make a career out of it. I’d be wasting my time if I didn’t have high goals set for myself.”
“I don’t know what all you plan to leave in or cut out but I’d like to thank all my friends and family who’ve supported me from the beginning. My teammates too… they’re like my second family. Andrew McCoy, Matt Russell, and Billy Vaughn train with me at BuckeyeMMA and they’re also fighting on this card. We’ve been beating each other up for months so come watch these guys put on a good show.”
FightFest: The TV Series will take place at The Greater Columbus Convention Center on September 29, 2007. Tickets are still available for $25, $35, and $45.
Jason Riley is still accepting new sponsors for this fight. If anyone is interested, his manager can be reached at email@example.com