2016 STL MMA Amateur Fighter of the Year
Eric Ellington put 2016 into overdrive.
The strapping bantamweight ran roughshod over the local competition, posting a 6-0 record and winning titles left and right.
Easily out-distancing the competition, Ellington was named the 2016 STL MMA Amateur of the Year.
"The 'Big Dogg' had a great year," Matt Frazier, Knuckle Junkies Creative Director, said. "Six wins and no losses is very impressive, but what really impressed me was that he took the show on the road, winning a title in KC for Shamrock FC. Some guys are good when they're fighting in front of their home crowds, Ellington proved he could win anywhere."
Ellington's has an almost religious dedication to the sport. From East St. Louis, he drives to Lake St. Louis to the Academy of Courage day after day after day.
"He has a thirst for knowledge," Kain Royer, AOC head coach, said. "He's really talented but he works his ass off. He tries every day to not only make himself but make this team better."
Ellington started the year with a decision win in Nebraska. In March, April, and May he showed off his explosiveness with three-straight first-round TKOs and winning the Prime FC and Horizon FC belts in the process.
In June, Jon Rosener lasted deep into the third round before Ellington got the finish. To win the Fight Hard MMA belt, Ellington showed maturity and patience in dealing with the submission game of Rosener's. Throughout the fight, Rosener enticed Ellington to dive into some ground and pound offense but Ellington patiently chopped away landing repeated combinations and heavy head kick in the second round.
Ellington then took a couple of months off, though it mostly wasn't his decision to.
"After about the half-way part of the year, no one wanted to fight him," Royer, a veteran matchmaker for multiple promotions, said. "We couldn't get him an opponent if we paid them."
In September, he had his toughest bout to date. Ellington faced Travis Sumler in a grueling affair.
In the first, Ellington slipped when both men threw a kick. Sumler tried to capitalize on the slip but the scramble ended with Ellington in top position. The second and third rounds played out in a similar fashion. As Sumler would push the pace on the feet with the fighters exchanging blows. Ellington would secure a takedown. The guard of Sumler prevented any real damage by Ellington but Sumler wasn't able to generate any offense from his back.
Ellington was a standout wrestler at East St. Louis Lincoln and went on to grapple at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. His transition into MMA was similar many other former athletes.
"Competition was missing in his life," Royer said.
Royer, Ellington, and Matt Murphy give the AOC an East St. Louis connection.
"Those two are like oil and water, which is awesome," Royer said. "They are contrasting people and have contrasting styles. They both have a high drive to win and really kick the shit out of each other."
Though a star in the cage, Ellington also shines behind the bright lights. Ellington works and volunteers at the Jakie Joyner Kersey Foundation and Youth Center. Whether its coaching youth teams or giving rides home, Ellington's charitable grace is a major part of his character.
"I'm really proud of him," Royer said. "He really earned this award. He won more titles than some of the others won fights."
Ellington will make his pro debut this month at Shamrock FC:283 against Nick McClean. Ellington, who went 12-1 as an ammy, will be a tough match-up for the smaller McClean who has competed at flyweight.
"Ellington is on a similar path as Rashard Lovelace, straight to the top," Fighting for Autism's Brian Higginbotham said. "And he lives with strong martial arts values due to how Kain runs AOC. He is always bringing the fight and world's hard to show everyone what he's all about. Keep an eye on him as he moves to the pro ranks."
Voting on the 2016 STL MMA Awards came from a collection of area promoters, coaches, media members, and others. The panel consisted of Brett Auten (Knuckle Junkies), Matt Frazier (Knuckle Junkies) Steve Berger (Berger MMA/FitorFight), Travis Brown (MMA Wreckage), Jared Daniels Block (Modern Combat System/Gateway Fighting Series), John Davis (cutman), Rob Donaker (Shamrock FC COO/ matchmaker), Jordan Dowdy (Knuckle Junkies/2 Pros Know podcast), Sid Gee (cutman/coach), Kevin Hahn (Hahn's MMA), Brian Higginbotham (Fighting for Autism), Jesse Finney (Shamrock FC President), Kevin Engel (Shamrock FC commentator), Jeremy Johnson (Shamrock FC commentator), Sara Levin (slevin11.com), Craig Nasselo (cutman), Jimmy Range (Jimmy Range Photography), Mike Rogers (St. Charles MMA), Kain Royer (Academy of Courage) Patrick Smith (Cage Championships), Josh Stewart (Spire MMA Referee), Dr. Melvin Maclin (Fight doctor)
River City Casino, St. Louis, MO
Proving Grounds (Kick) | Sat, March 24th
St. Louis Prep, St. Louis, MO
Cage Champs 59 | Sat, March 31st
Big Eagles Hall, Sullivan, MO
Shamrock FC: 304 | Sat, April 7th
Ameristar Casino, Kansas City, MO