No Time To Quit
Saturday night is tailor made for a guy like Joel Blair.
Shamrock Fighting Championships is going a little old school at the Lumiere Casino. Xtreme Fight Night is a hybrid show featuring professional kick as well as amateur MMA and kickboxing. It's a fight card dotted with seasoned pro MMA fighters stepping away from the comfort zone of the cage.
New experiences and challenging athletic endeavors are what the 33-year-old Blair is all about.
"I'm not a confined person," Blair said. "There are a ton of places I want to go and a ton of things I wanna try. I love to travel to and hopefully do more fighting there, like Japan and Brazil. I just love new experiences. If I could be a Buddhist monk for a year I would."
Blair will face Darryl Cobb, a St. Louis MMA fixture, who fought in the cage for SFC in June. The Strikeforce, Bellator, and Titan vet is looking to right a six-fight skid. The ground game has always been a nightmare for Cobb so Saturday should be a relief.
Blair has likely been more active against quality competition than many fighters in the region over the past 13 months. He made his pro debut in December, 2013 for SFC with a upset win over Jake Buehler. He then fought Scott Futrell, who is considered one of St. Louis' top prospects, in a January SFC show and lost a decision. In his third SFC fight, Blair shut down Luke Nelson's momentum in April. Nelson is a crafty, creative striker and Blair turned it into a dog fight, winning a three-round split decision. In September, Blair stepped in against Adam Meredith, again one of the top young fighters in the division. Meredith's ground game was just a little too sharp and a little too refined for Blair. Meredith snared a TKO win.
Minutes after the Meredith fight Blair was nearly spent spiraling to the canvas.
After Meredith's hand was raised and congratulations traded, Blair's mentality was thrust into hyper drive.
"My friends set it up," Blair said. "My dad lives in Colorado and for the past 10 years we haven't been speaking. The first person I saw when I walked out of the cage was him. It was incredible to see him. Walking up, there was some anger and some resentment but I still love him. "
The rendezvous was a complete surprise to the rangy, tousled-haired Blair.
"Everybody was afraid if they told me it would mess with my game plan for the night," Blair said. "There was so much going through my head at that time. The whole idea of my fight bringing these people together. It was one of the most blessed moments I could have. It brought fighting to a whole new level. I see it in a different light."
Blair still calls Central Illinois home where he works at Caterpillar in Peoria and he just recently locked in to some stable and consistent training.
"It's part of the reason I haven't been as serious prior to this year," he said. "I have a 4-year-old daughter. But I do love the sport. I'm always a competitor and an athlete and when Shamrock made the call last year it was hard to say no."
Blair, a graduate of tiny Sullivan High School in Illinois, was a lover of all things sports and competition. He played everything he could get his hands on until he graduated.
"Basketball was my love for a long, long time," Blair said. "A lot of my friends ended up getting scholarships and I didn't."
Blair started boxing some the summer before his senior year and after high school worked his way onto the barroom boxing circuit. He tossed and toiled through the typical regional amateur MMA ins and outs before taking his sabbatical.
Rejuvenated and clear minded, Blair seems to have put life's negatives in the rear view mirror as he plunges forward onto new adventures.
Like come Saturday night.
Blair believes more pro's should dabble in other disciplines, it is mixed martial arts.
"This is what I want," he said. "More MMA fighters should look at it and get more experience in some different aspects. The ability to box and kickbox opens up a whole new door and that door should be open."
For more information, including ticket purchases on Xtreme Fight Night, visit shamrockfightingchampionships.com.
Professional Main Card:
Reeder vs Eric Crittendon - Boxing
Jose Jones vs Wayne Collier - Boxing
Luigi Fioravanti vs Anthony Livingston - Kickboxing
Darryl Cobb vs Joel Blair - Kickboxing
Dalton Voyles vs Scott Sutherland
Edrick Dillard vs Tim Masters
Shapen Jordan vs Justin Baker
Evan Elders vs Cortez Heard
Armin Dubonovic vs Freedom Jones
Gabby Labbee vs Cora Sanders
Shawn Knobelock vs Dan Scaggs
Zane Clerk vs Jabir Ziyards
Xtreme Fight Night 1
Saturday, November 15th
Lumiere Place Casino, St. Louis, MO