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Chris Oth | Knuckle Junkies

The Wolverine turns pro

By Matt Frazier | Knuckle Junkies

The time is now, the switch has been flipped, and there's no turning back for Hugh Pulley.

On Friday, "The Wolverine", will make his professional debut.

Pulley has long been considered one of the best amateurs in the area and all eyes will be on him as he steps into the cage Friday against Malcolm Smith. Now training out of Modern Combat Systems in Hazlewood, MO, Pulley has switched up his training routine as well as dropping down a weight class in preparation for his first pro fight.

As a amateur welterweight, he racked up several wins with only a couple of losses highlighting his career by winning the 2012 Gateway to the Top tournament, defeating Adam Meredith and Kyle Walker on way to win a guaranteed pro contract with Jim Jenkins's promotion Cage Fighting Events.

Although Friday will be his official debut as a professional, Pulley has already begun acting as if.

"I've started doing more practices, more two-a-days, going to more gyms," Pulley said. "Opening up my mind to new techniques."

Another adjustment that Pulley has made is to the structure of his management and coaches.

"Now I have a manager, I have coaches, and I have teammates. I can separate things and not have to think of any of the stuff as a business while I'm training," Pulley said. "Its helped a lot, because I suck at multi-tasking."

One of his coaches, Jared Daniels-Block has taken Pulley and his teammates on a tour around the area visiting several of the top gyms nearby.

"The Academy of Courage, we trained with Tonya Evinger a bit," Pulley said. "SouthSide Fight Club, that was really good. St. Charles MMA, those guys have really good jiu-jitsu. Oh and Sal Wood's gym, CMMA."

Part of Pulley's new cross training includes Judo, Kempo Karate classes, and even Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music.

"I've been doing more traditional martial arts, to get my stand-up better," Pulley said.

Pulley joked that we might see a little capoeira on Friday, but no promises.

With only two fights in 2012, Pulley is not in a rush to get fights under his belt.

"I do that to heal my body. I understand I might not get hurt in a fight, but in the long run, I want to have a long career fighting," Pulley said. "I usually take a good two-three months off after every fight to heal up."

While in the early stages of his career, Pulley recognizes the need to stand out among the crowd.

"My game plan is to fight and get noticed. Right now is more of the highlight period," Pulley said. "The goal is to get into the UFC. I'm going to pick out my fights real carefully and I'm going to take my time."

Accomplishing much as an amateur, Pulley doesn't believe there is anything left to do, and the time was right to turn pro.

"The amateurs I used to talk to would say 'Yeah you got to get belts to get recognized,' but as soon as you turn pro, I realized those belts don't mean anything to you anymore," Pulley said. "The Gateway to the Top tournament was the highlight. To see if I could go pro, if I could hang with those guys who trained like a pro, and I trained like a pro at that weight class to deal with those types of guys."

One fight that never materialized for Pulley as an amateur was against 12-0 phenom Chad Williams. A match-maker's dream, this fight was attempted several times, including a possible battle for a Spire State Championship, but unfortunately never happened.

"I'm going to test this '55 out, but I'd be willing to fight Chad soon," Pulley said. "Its not really on my to-do list. He still has unfinished business as an amateur, but when he's ready, I'll be ready too. I respect Chad, but I'm kind of like, I can't wait up for him."

Pulley's opponent on Friday, Malcolm Smith, also recently turned pro in December. The two have often been compared to each other, boasting similar styles and athleticism.

Smith and Pulley will lead off the main card card on Friday. You won't want to miss it.

Special thanks to Jimmy Range for the photo