Battle For Belts at Mayhem
When the card for Saturday's Shamrock FC: Mayhem was first announced last month, the focus quickly went to the pro fights on the main card.
As good as the professional fights are, the two ammy title bouts at the top of the prelims have been overshadowed. Intriguing match-ups between some of the best the area has to offer could easily headline any amateur event in the area.
In a battle for the 185-pound Shamrock FC amateur belt, Shaun Scott defends his title against Kevin Roper. In the other match is a featherweight battle between Erion Zekthi and current Shamrock belt holder Cortavious Romious.
Mental and Physical Giant
Scott is a professor at Vatterott College in St. Charles and also a full-time gymnastics coach and competitor. Now at 7-2 inside the cage, he has become a serious handful for anyone in the middleweight division.
"I grew up as a product of the Northwest wrestling league," Scott said. "Then I wrestled for Lindbergh high school. With that, along with my athletic training from gymnastics, I feel very comfortable in a mano a mano contest."
With a busy lifestyle in place, Scott relies on his time management skills to find enough time to train.
"I coach at two different gymnastics facilities," Scott said. "I don't have a lot of prime time hours to devote to training. I hardly ever get in when other people are training. The grand majority of my training is me in gymnastics facilitates or running around. I try and do it in the most intelligent way possible, but with scheduling conflicts, there's not enough hours in the day."
All it takes is one look at Scott to reveal a physical specimen. But most don't realize that his mental game is on par with his freakish strength. Scott not only teaches a course on Sports Psychology but also qualified for the National Strong Man competition.
"I'm also a professor at Vatterott in St. Charles teaching in the Personal Fitness Program," Scott said. "I teach the Personal Wellness Course, Anatomy Physiology, and the NASM certification course. I also teach Sports Psychology, which is very applicable to my competition."
In addition to competing in MMA and gymnastics, Scott has become a regular at local Strongman Competitions. He is the second strongest man in the open 200-pound division in St. Louis.
"I qualified for Nationals this year," Scott said. "But couldn't compete because it was during one of my competitive gymnastics regional competitions. It's something I have enjoyed. A lot of the guys I trained with went to the Arnold and another just finished 8th in the world. It's just a component of training. They set the weights and you have to lift them. You have about 60 seconds to do as many repetitions. It's very explosive and intense, it parlays nicely into fighting."
The story of how Scott became a mixed martial artist is a familiar one. Friends talked him into an exhibition fight, that lit the fire, and the rest was academic.
"A few of my college friends exposed me to the bartenders brawl." Scott said. "I had signed up before and it fell through. Randomly, out of the blue, I got a call and a buddy asked me if I wanted to do this. I was a point in my life where I was overweight and feeling lethargic. I had hope this would be a catalyst for positive change in my life. The fight was a bucket list thing."
With a big weight cut ahead, Scott dove headfirst into the competition.
"He was a grappler and it was outside of my comfort zone," Scott said. "I cut from 230 to 170 for that fight. It was really sloppy, but I had a fairly decent performance."
With a check mark on the bucket list complete, Scott assumed that would be it before an opportunity in the Sunshine State presented itself.
"Another friend was approached with an opportunity with the Central Florida Fight League. We went down and went 3-0 in Florida." Scott said. "I never thought after the first fight I would do it again, but the opportunity came up to do the fight in Florida and I figured it was a vacation so why pass that up. I ended up fighting Keiton Jones. He was getting prepped to go pro and his opponent backed out so I elected to take that fight. I choked him out in under 60 seconds."
With confidence building and potential starting to show, promoters came knocking.
"It was fun, I thought why the heck not, so I kept the ball rolling." Scott said. "Rob and Jesse (with Shamrock FC) kept hitting me up and then I got the opportunity to fight on Fight Hard. It's all happened organically. Not sure if it was something I would have chosen for myself or not, but here I am."
On Saturday, Scott faces stout Illinois wrestler, Roper fresh from a slug-fest loss to Dustin Fischer in January. Fischer was originally slated to face Scott, but Roper got the nod after a back injury forced Fischer to withdraw.
"Roper is a real big guy," Scott said. "I took one of my losses to a guy who was actually a little shorter than him, Denver Sells. I need to train the weakness that led to that and make sure I can range and stand with guys like that."
The loss to Sells was a formative experience.
"Seldom do we learn from our successes," Scott said. "The game plan with Denver was to do a flying kick and then try and take him down and put him in an arm bar. The 'take him down' part never happened. It was fun though. I ran into him punching me in the head for a solid amount of time. You can either take it or you can't."
With his run as an ammy winding down, Scott has followed the local scene very closely. While his peers have had success, Scott is comfortable with his own journey.
"(Kyle) Kurtz is the main event of this and I put a good stomp on him at Fight Hard." Scott said. "Pretty much everyone I developmentally came up with are pro now. My heads' on that. Follow your feet and where you wind up is where you are."
With a jump to the pros imminent, Scott has weighed the advantages and disadvantages of making that decision too early.
"My family is very, very behind me going pro." Scott said. "They feel there is no incentive there to take amateur fights. If padding your pocket is the goal then that kind of puts you at a disadvantage. I want to go about it as smart as possible. If that means taking a few more amateur fights than I normally would, so be it."
With his trademark ear-to-ear smile, Scott walks the road of martial artist with both a strong body and an even stronger mind.
"There's an LL Cool song that goes 'I'm not where I wanna be but I'm going where I wanna go." Scott said.
Quiet and Humble
The other half of Saturday's battle for the belts features Amateur of the Year nominee and the recipient of the 2015 KO of the Year, Cortavious Romious. Romious is taking on Erion Zekthi, from the newly formed Wolves' Den in O'Fallon.
Since the last time he competed, nearly 10 months ago, Zekthi has switched camps and bumped up a weight class. Despite quite a bit of banter between the two fight camps, Romious has kept his head down and stayed quiet.
"It's just another challenge." Romious said. "Someone I need to beat. I just look at it like it's just another fight."
While fighting isn't something new to Romious, the 22-year-old now focuses his energy into something positive and sees it merely as a way to feed his competitive fire.
"I grew up fighting," Romious said. "And now I like the competition. You get to see who's the best and I strive to be the best."
Originally from Centerville, Romious wrestled two years at Hazlewood West. A suggestion from a friend found him stepping onto the mats at Cahokia MMA, the gym run by Gerald Rios and Yohance Flager in Cahokia, IL.
"A friend of mine told me about the gym up there," Romious said. "Yohance, Montuelle (Prater), you know, some of the greatest. I learned a lot from them guys. Always learned something there. They're experienced fighters and know what they're talking about."
After winning five of his first six fights, Romious made the jump to St. Charles MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with a goal of shoring up his ground game. He hopes to one day follow in the footsteps of Alp Ozkilic and Josh Sampo, who ultimately took their skills learned on the mats in St. Charles and made it to the UFC.
Romious quickly made a name for himself after a brutal knockout of David Evans last December. Footage of the KO quickly went viral, and then resurfaced again once Shamrock FC released an official version of it. A career highlight for many, Romious doesn't think about it too often.
"People bring it up a lot, but it's just another fight to me," Romious said. "Stuff happens. I look at it as just another win. Move on. Don't plan on looking back at nothing else. Just straight forward. For me, it's just getting better. I still need improvements. I need to improve on basically everything and start perfecting."
The fight with Evans was Romious' first crack at defending the title he had won just a few months earlier in a surprising upset victory over highly touted Cort Wahle. Romious submitted Wahle just before the end of the round handing Wahle, now professional, only his second loss of his young career.
Romious takes great pride in winning his first amateur title, but you won't see him wearing it around to other MMA events. He also doesn't plan on giving it up anytime soon.
"I'm the champ and I felt like I should wear it after the victory, but after that it goes back home and gets put up," Romious said. "It's a belt and I'm here to protect and defend it."
There has been a lot of build up for Saturday's fight against Zekthi. A budding rivalry has developed between St. Charles MMA and the nearby Wolves' Den where Zekthi now trains.
"It's just another fight," Romious said. "He's feeling a certain way, I don't know. I don't really care, for real. Talk is cheap. We'll see what comes March 12th."
Tickets for Shamrock FC Mayhem can be purchased at https://www.cagetix.com/shamrockfc .
Or you can watch online at shamrockfightingchampionships.com under the Watch Live banner.
Kevin Engel vs Kyle Kurtz
Eric Irvin vs Josh Weston
Garret Gross vs Rashard Lovelace
Brad Jones vs Coltin Cole
Matt Helm vs Tyler Claussen
Clay Mitchell vs Jason Christeson
Lee Burns vs TJ Jones
Cortavious Romerous vs Erion Zekthi - 145title and Pro Shamrock FC Contract
Shaun Scott vs Kevin Roper - 185 title and Pro Shamrock FC Contract
Malcolm Stanley vs Zashaun Gist
Jace Burcham vs Irfan Mulbinovic
Joe Klos vs Luis Felipe
Cody Naucke vs Nikk Willyard
Dustin Horn vs Nick Martin
Mike Hulsey vs Greg Schnieder
Shamrock FC: Mayhem
Saturday, March 12th
River City Casino, St. Louis, MO