Gross vs Lovelace: Mayhem
When Garrett Gross got the call to fight Rashard Lovelace he let out a sigh of relief.
Not that Lovelace is an easy opponent. In fact, it's quite the contrary.
But in his last two outings Gross has had to deal with two crackerjack wrestlers in bouts underneath the Bellator banner. First, Chris Heatherly smothered Gross in June and then in November, Jeff Crotty was a last-minute replacement and he and Gross put together the type of dog fight that earned a nomination for 2015 Pro Fight of the Year.
Now Gross (7-4) will have to deal with Lovelace (2-0), he too a veteran of the two St. Louis Bellator shows in 2015, on the main card of Saturday's Shamrock FC: Mayhem at the River City Casino.
"When I got the call that it was Rashard, I was like, finally," Gross said. "Finally I have something fun. I'd rather stand and bang and it is going to make for an exciting fight. He might try to take me down but I don't think his wrestling is like the other guys I've fought."
Gross, 27, is a Southern Illinois native who relocated to Florida to train at the famed American Top Team, one of the most storied MMA gyms in the world. Gross is no longer the newbie from the Midwest fresh off the turnip truck. He has established himself in the gym through a couple of years of consistency.
"When I first got here it was all about trying to fit in," Gross said. "I was going every day and getting beat up. Now, I've earned it. There are other guys who have been here the same amount of time but have not put the work in. I'm always at practice. I'm always on time. Now, they have a set schedule and routine for me. They are working my corner. It is such a blessing."
As crazy as his life is inside the cage, it's Gross' job in between training that some would find even more eye turning. Gross works for Underground Reptiles, a Deerfield Beach, FL, store that specializes in reptiles and all sorts of exotic animals.
"When I first started, I was never scared of snakes so they put me in the warehouse where I would help take care of them," Gross said. "I working toward my 1,000 hours so I can then work in the venomous room. I will drive a truck for them too. One day it's a bunch of feeder rats to stores. A lot of the time a drive to the Miami airport and pick up all sorts of stuff from Africa and Europe. One day, it was 100 tortoises. It's different all the time."
Gross will have to deal with a unique creature in Lovelace. In two pro fights, Lovelace has had barely over three minutes worth of action, finishing both of his opponents. He is a dynamic striker, but Gross is eager to test his chin.
"I haven't seen him get hit at all," Gross said. "He's good but has the guy ever really been tested? He's finished guys quick but we don't know how he will respond to being drug into deep waters."
Gross is no stranger to lighting opponents up as well, dialing up five TKO/KO wins during his time as a pro.
"I will come forward and bring the pressure," Gross said. "I can wear him down, get him into the second and third rounds. If it goes all three, I know I can take the victory. The longer the fight goes the better I get."
To read more about Gross and his harrowing journey from troubled past to decorated fighter, read this KJ article from June.
Rashard Lovelace has spent his pro career in the limelight. His first two pro bouts were on the much-sought Bellator undercards and now his third is on the eagerly anticipated SFC: Mayhem.
"(Gross) is pretty well-rounded," Lovelace said. "He's had like 15 pro fights and I'm still a beginner to this industry. I'm looking forward to showing the fans that it doesn't matter and as long you put your mind in the right place and work your ass off anything is possible."
Lovelace will be fighting in his third weight class, 155, having taken trips to 145 and 165.
At June's Bellator, Lovelace won in 57 seconds with TKO win via leg kick over Matt Helm (who is also on the SFC: Mayhem card). Then he knocked off Brandon Lowe in Lowe's pro debut in the November Bellator.
"I'm pretty excited about it," he said. "This might be a chance to showcase what I'm all about, the hands, the kicks, the takedown defense, and the ground game."
Lovelace, 26, is a St. Louis native. After spending four years in the Navy, Lovelace began working at the Boxing Gym in the Central West End. Lovelace was basically teaching himself and when Hahn's MMA gym opened up he soon followed. Lovelace went 7-4 as an amateur.
In Gross, he sees an opponent that can push him to where he needs to go.
"He's positively aggressive, which is good," Lovelace said. "I cut a lot of angles, I'm hard to hit and he will have a hard time getting a hold of me. He's going to be like every other guy I've fought in that once he sees how fast I am and how hard I hit, he's going to try and take me down."
Lovelace is a striking instructor at Hahn's MMA and also teaches a bevy of kids classes there. On an average day, he is there from noon until well after 6pm.
"It's humbling," Lovelace said. "I want to give my students the necessary tools whether its in fighting or in the real world. If they can defend themselves against someone like me they should have no issues walking down a dark alley or being in a place where they feel uncomfortable."
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
Photo courtesy of Jimmy Range Photography