Road to Dynamite : Rashard Lovelace
The road to Bellator started long ago for Rashard Lovelace.
Training for most of his life, Lovelace has been a boxer, a kickboxer, and now at 3-0, one of the area's hottest MMA prospects.
On Friday, June 24th, Lovelace will face another upstart pro in Garrett Mueller (2-1). Both have fought on the Bellator undercard before and both are looking to use the other as a stepping stone to big opportunities.
Lovelace started boxing in grade school. Now 26, with all of his hard work put in early, his many years of training are starting to pay off. He won the Missouri Golden Gloves in 2015, and in the same year turned professional in MMA, rattling off three wins, two of which were for Bellator.
"I started in traditional American boxing." Lovelace said. "My dad put me in karate then I went into kickboxing, and transitioned there directly into MMA."
While military service took Lovelace to the Pacific Northwest, he never stopped training.
"Right around my freshmen year of high school was when I got into kickboxing," Lovelace said. "I left and went into the Navy right after high school. Continued to train there in a couple gyms in Washington State. From there I came home."
Lovelace fell in love with MMA while training under the tutelage of a pioneer of the local fight scene who planted the seed of mixed martial arts.
"My senior year in high school, I was training pretty much independently." Lovelace said. "I met Steve Berger, and he put me into a couple MMA fights. That's when I fell in love with it and just stuck with it."
Now a coach at Hahn's Extreme Fitness and MMA, Lovelace works with the other coaches there to implement various fighting styles into their training.
"With it being mixed martial arts, I get to bring in a bunch of different arts to my game." Lovelace said. "We don't stick with just striking or just ground. We're working Jeet Kune Do, Kali, we're working (Erik Paulson's) CSW and STX. A lot of things a lot of people aren't doing we're trying to incorporate them into our game."
One of his projects outside the cage is working with children.
"I try to give back to my community," Lovelace said. "I try to do a lot with kids. I'm trying to start an anti-bullying project to help kids from grade school all the way through high school, then from high school to transition into college and teach them what to expect in the real world, how to defend themselves, and how to neutralize a bully."
When Lovelace enters the Bellator cage next week it will be his third time fighting for the promotion in only his fourth professional fight. With many of the local pros actively campaigning for the opportunity to fight at the Scottrade Center, it says a lot about the quality of Lovelace as a fighter.
"I'm truly honored to be given this opportunity," Lovelace said. "Hard work pays off. I'm always training, I'm always in the gym. I work there full time so there's never really a dull moment or a time to relax. When I'm training I try and put myself in the worst position possible and work my way out of it. When you're inside the cage there's never a situation where you get nervous or you lose composure."
Despite his relative young age, Lovelace has a maturity and composure that could lead to a very bright future and a long career in the sport.
"I feel like a lot of guys now are about trading licks," Lovelace said. "It's all about if he hits you, you have to hit him back. My mindset is I don't want to waste any time in there. I want to do what I need to and get out."
Smart training and weeks of preparation make Lovelace well-prepared come fight night.
"As soon as I find out I'm fighting, I start my dieting and I start my weight cutting in advance," Lovelace said. "I like to be pretty much walking around at the weight I'm fighting two weeks out and I'm training with guys heavier than me. I wake up in the morning, I get to the gym around 10, get my cardio in, clean the gym, my guys come in and we work on the ground. I'm there pretty much six days a week."
If any of his previous performances are an indication, don't blink. The combined cage time in his first three fights are just under one full round.
"This is going to be a good one," Lovelace. "I'm ready to show the world what this guy from St. Louis has to offer. I want to thank Garrett Mueller for taking this fight. I hope he's training as hard as he can."
Tickets for Bellator 157: Dynamite 2, which start at just $30, are on sale now on Ticketmaster.com and at the Ford Box Office at Scottrade Center. Doors for the event open at 5:00 p.m. CT local time, and the first contest takes place shortly after.
Bellator 157: Dynamite 2 airs live on Spike at 9 PM ET/8 PM CT, while preliminary bouts will stream on Spike.com at 7 PM ET.
Full card: (Subject to change)
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (36-11) vs Satoshi Ishii (14-5-1)
Michael Chandler (14-3) vs Pitbull Freire (16-7) - Bellator Lightweight Title
Matt Mitrione (9-5) vs Carl Seumantuafa (10-6)
Kickboxing: Kevin Ross (31-9) vs Justin Houghton (7-2)
Kickboxing: Denise Kieholtz (44-2) vs Gloria Peritore (10-1-1)
Rebecca Ruth (6-1) vs Ilima-Lei Macfarlance (3-0)
Kickboxing: Joe Schilling (19-8) vs Hisaki Kato
Kickboxing: Raymond Daniels (7-3) vs TBA
Kickboxing: Keri Taylor-Melendez (3-1) vs Sarah Howell
Justin Lawrence (8-3) vs Isao Kobayashi (18-3-4)
Jordan Dowdy (3-1) vs Guilherme Vasconcelos (7-3)
Kevin Engel (5-0) vs. Chel Erwin-Davis (3-1)
Ashley Cummins (3-3) vs Nikki Smith (1-0)
Jordan Howard (9-3) vs Justin Robbins (14-17-1)
Steve Mann (11-4) vs Mike Estus (7-4)
Joaquin Buckley (5-0) vs Chris Heatherly (9-3-1)
Michelle Royer (1-0) vs Katy Collins (3-1)
Brad Jones (5-4) vs Tyler Claussen (2-2)
Jason Christenson (1-0) vs Jarrod Thomas (0-0)
Lee Burns (2-0) vs. Byron Stevens (0-0)
Garrett Mueller (2-1) vs Rashard Lovelace (3-0)
Kickboxing: Elmir Kulosman (3-0) vs. Darryl Cobb (2-1)
Amateur Kickboxing : Tara Walker (4-3-1) vs. Mimi Kutzin (3-2)
Rarshard Lovelace photo courtesy of Jimmy Range Photography