Shamrock FC: Brave - Notebook
Eric Irvin knew he had to dust himself off and get right back on the horse.
From mid-2013 through the early part of 2015, the lightweight from Farmington strung together four straight wins, three via finish, and was voted the 2014 St. Louis Regional Fighter of the Year.
Momentum was on his side when he cruised into this June's Bellator in St. Louis. His opponent that night, Hugh Pulley, had the talent but his consistency and record were a little spotty. Regardless, the Irvin/Pulley matchup was the prime bout of the Bellator 138 undercard and the two didn't disappoint. The long, rangy Pulley and the short, power-packed Irvin gutted through three close rounds with Pulley getting the split decision nod.
And like that, Irvin's win streak was snapped. Time to regroup.
"What I realized from the Pulley fight was that I hate losing more than anything in the world," Irvin said. "It really sucked after that sweet streak. Hugh is a specimen and an athlete. There's no shame losing a good, close fight to him. It hurt but knowing it was a split helps the pride."
Credit goes to Pulley for taking Irvin out of his comfort zone.
"It was a good fight to watch. There was some nice back and forth," Irvin said. "I didn't feel like that it was how I fight. I didn't go in for the kill. I had him pressed against the cage and I knew that judo was coming but I just froze. I didn't perform like I normally do."
The 29-year-old Irvin gets a chance to restart another win streak on Saturday as he faces Jeremy Castro in the main event of SFC: Courage at the Lumiere Casino.
Castro is a veteran of the sport, 10-years older than Irvin, whose first pro fight came in 2006. Castro is 14-17 and cut from a familiar cloth as Irvin. Castro is a former Division I wrestler and a lover of the grind.
"He's a good opponent and I like fighting guys who I think I will like afterward," Irvin said. "He's ready for a three-round fight and he thinks our wrestling will be a stalemate."
Irvin trained mostly at his home away from home, Destruction MMA, where a new influx of familiar local names helped him shore up his wrestling. Irvin also scooted up Interstate 270 to work in training with up-and-comer Ty Flores.
"It's time to climb ladder and get stronger after a loss," Irvin said. "I need to get back to what made me Eric Irvin. When I was younger, it was about tearing people up not being a precise with my boxing or muay thai. I strayed from my roots. It's time to get back to me."
Steve Knogl was looking for motivation. Bo Kunz, was looking for a good scrap.
The two found each other in SFC: Brave's co-main event. As of Wednesday, the two were to meet at a catchweight of 220-pounds.
Knogl and Kunz have something of a beef stemming from a few choice words a couple of years back and a fight almost transpired then.
Fast forward a couple of years and Kunz (2-1) finds himself in the middle of a career revival. Kunz has drifted back to the heavyweight class and in doing so is 2-0 in 2015 with two finishes.
"This is a good division for me now," Kunz said. "I didn't start losing fights until I started to drop weight. When I fought lighter, my hand speed wasn't the asset that it is at heavyweight."
At 48-years-old Knogl (2-0) hasn't fought since 2011 and will be making his pro debut.
"This has been a positive motivator to push away from the table," Knogl said. "Physically, I'm not your typical 48-year-old. I'm in the same shape that I demand of my other pro fighters. I'm bigger, faster, and stronger than Bo."
Knogl is most well-known as the head coach at Granite City's CMMA where he has produced quality fighters like Sal Woods, Ray Grindstaff, Jordan Dowdy, and many others.
"The guys in the gym have been a tremendous help," Knogl said. "They're excited. They have given me their time to spar and grapple and push and yell at me. It's been a positive team builder. They know when to push me to the point of death then back off."
Knogl has kept the training smart, logging more time swimming than ever before to help reduce impact. He's still gone hard, just not as often, and while there are some dings from camp, there are no injuries.
"At my age, every fight has been my last one," Knogl said. "I don't think I will do it again but if I feel good and hold up I'm not to say I couldn't be talking into it."
Kunz acknowledges Knogl's team and what he has done with a whistle around his neck but feels there is a big step from being a coach to fighter.
"It's easy to stand on the sidelines and coach," he said. "It's not so easy getting punched in the face. All of that training won't matter."
For Kunz, the key will be to remain patient and let the fight play itself out.
"I'm going to show him where to deep waters of the cage are at," Kunz said. "I have been in the three-round wars. I'm going to let him bring the fight and capitalize on his mistakes.
Looking ahead, and past Knogl, the 32-year-old Kunz has two fights left on his Shamrock contract. Locally, the middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight divisions are extremely thin.
"There are maybe five or six guys and then the local scene is a wash," Kunz said.
If he is to venture into other terrains, like Kansas City, and scrap with fresh, young faces, Kunz knows his recent lets go have fun approach to his diet will have to be reigned in.
"At 240, that's starting to get a little uncomfortable," Kunz said. "I have a whole closet filled with larges I keep looking at."
The main and co-main bouts are the only pro fights on the card.
Rounding out the main card is Matt Ray vs. Bobby Mendica. For a SFC amateur title, Eric Newman will face Quentin Garrison. Newman has been red hot and will face Quentin Garrison for the SFC flyweight tile. Newman defeated Kris Craig in July by unanimous decision to earn the shot. Garrison has won two out of his last three including a victory over Aaron Harvey and is one of the toughest opponents Newman has faced. Roddell Thomas vs. Eric Williams will kick the main card off.
For more information on SFC: Courage, visit shamrockfightingchampioships.com
Shamrock FC: Brave - Fight Card
Erik Irvin vs Jeremy Castro
Bo Kunz vs Steve Knogl
Matt Ray vs Bobby Mendica
Eric Newman vs Quentin Garrison (title)
Roddell Thomas vs Eric Williams
Shapen Jordan vs Andrew Decker
Dustin Lampros vs Cyrus Walker
Josh Speaks vs Mark Kirkland
Marye Dalton vs Michelle Ray
Derik Scott vs Cody Naucke
Tiffany Axton vs Cassie Davis
Dustin Ventimiglia vs Travis Perry
Alex Macias vs Jessie Coy
Nate Dieckmann vs Gaston Marabotto
Shamrock FC: Brave
Saturday, October 17th
Lumiere Casino, St. Louis, MO
Ameristar Casino, Kansas City, MO
Fight Hard MMA | Sat, March 9th
Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO
Shamrock FC: 316 | Fri, March 15th
River City Casino, St. Louis, MO
Shamrock FC: 317 | Sat, April 6th
Ameristar Casino, Kasnas City, MO