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Jim Range | Knuckle Junkies

Dewayne Diggs: From Out of Nowhere

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

It was as if Dewayne Diggs just fell out of the sky.

With all of the hype and lead-up to the Bellator: Dynamite 2 card that was here on June 24, it went by without much fanfare that Jason Christenson, a ticket-selling machine with one pro fight already under his belt, had a change in opponents. Jarrod Thomas was Christenson's original opponent but due to an injury, a replacement was needed.

Enter Diggs.

A teammate of Thomas' at River City Warriors, Diggs had nary an amateur MMA fight to his record, had been training diligently for years. In fact, his competitive combat sports background consisted of four amateur K1 scraps.

“It was about a week-and-a-half before the fight,” Diggs said. “I told coach, fuck it. I'll do it. Let me fight him.”

In the hoopla that was Bellator: Dynamite 2 – a cage and ring with simultaneous bouts going on even after the fans spilled out of the Scottrade – Diggs was able to come away with his hand raised. Diggs was able to stop the takedown of Christensen and eventually take the back where he would finish with a rear naked choke at the 3:28 mark in the first round.

“I was scared shitless,” Diggs said. “I had seen (Christensen) destroy and run through people. But I was like, either I got it or I don't. The next day after Bellator, there was another contract on my table. I was like, let's keep it going.”

Fast forward a few months and a few opponent changes later and Diggs was back at it, this time as the co-main event at the Lumiere Casino for Shamrock 277. Across the cage from him stood Kyle Walker. Walker was a former starter for the Southern Illinois University football team and as a pro fighter was 2-1.

“People were like, don't fight him,” Diggs said. “Pull out. I was like, let's fight!”

On that night, after trying to pull guard from the clinch, Diggs found himself in Walker's d'arce choke. But he maneuvered to the side and Diggs was able to take the back of Walker and after forcing a scramble was able to finish the fight with a rear naked choke.

The fact that Diggs waltzed into 2016 and had this kind of success, the kind that led to an STL MMA Regional Pro Fighter of the Year nomination, is a wonder.

The 28-year-old grew up a self-professed nerd. And this was way before the term had been embraced culturally. Going to high school at Normandy Tech and being into comic books, video games, and Pokemon lent itself to a different type of notoriety.

“I was too small and had no athletic background,” Diggs said. “Because I was tired of getting picked on, one day I walked into a gym and started to train.”

After high school, Diggs started to fill out but he always carried with him, “the small guy mentality.”

He made his way to St. Louis Combat Zone before moving full time to Eric Clarkson's River City Warriors. Diggs eventually took his first kickboxing match. He was pitted against Ty Flores.

“I asked my coach who the best middleweight in the state was and (Flores) name came up,” Diggs said. “I was like, I'll do it.”

Flores got the best of Diggs that night. Diggs would go on to have three more K1 bouts, going 2-2 overall.

His 2016 venture in MMA came as a revelation to almost everyone around him and his eventual success was another head shaker.

“I'm sure they're surprised,” Diggs said. “I'm a real quiet guy. You wouldn't know that I was a fighter. I think they were surprised at how I move and think in there and how patient I was, especially in the Walker fight, when I got myself into a bad position on the ground.”

To fill in time away from training, Diggs has a unique job in being a beer vendor at local sporting events and concerts. Walking up and down flights of stairs for three hours in the summer heat with a case of beer on his shoulders gives him a little extra cardio in his days and some memorable experiences.

“A week after the Walker fight I was working the World Series in Cleveland,” Diggs said. “It's the best job there is, for me. The money is great. I get train regularly without being exhausted from work. I'm a people person and I like to interact with the fans."

As for the start of 2017, Diggs' plans are simple.

“I'll be like a bear in hibernation,” he said. “I will just be training, filling in the holes, getting better and stronger. The (Regional Fighter of the Year) nomination surprised me. It drives me to get better.”