This week's RFT feature story profiles a young mixed martial arts fighter named Justin Lawrence. A phenom from Pacific, Missouri, many local experts expect Lawrence will become a UFC champion.
On Daily RFT, we'll countdown his greatest hits and pair them with excerpts from the story to provide a glimpse into the world of amateur MMA in Missouri.
Lawrence's first career fight came against Justin Smith, an independent fighter from Hannibal. It didn't last long.
Excerpt after jump...
Today Lawrence aspires to the highest level of mixed martial arts competition: UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. In order to reach the top, he must continue to hone his skills at the amateur level. That means several more unpaid, no-holds-barred bouts that mirror the brutality of professional fighting but are largely unregulated in many states, including Missouri and Illinois.
Voyles grumbles that promoters often try to pit overmatched or untrained "independent" fighters against the local hero, hoping to produce fast, fan-pleasing knockouts that could have potentially fatal consequences.
Case in point: In January 2009 Lawrence took on Justin Smith, an independent fighter from Hannibal. The fight lasted less than a minute. Lawrence landed a kick to Smith's head and a flurry of punches before slamming his foe into the ground with a football-style tackle. When Smith flopped on his belly and feebly covered the back of his head, Lawrence straddled his opponent and pummeled the sides of his skull until he lost consciousness.
"In regular boxing and kickboxing, the promoter calls the trainer to make a match," Voyles explains. "These promoters, they call the fighter. What fighter will say no? They'll fight King Kong if you ask them to. I don't work with guys I don't know, because of that fact. If he ain't from a recognized gym, it ain't doing nobody no good to beat up some bum."
Click here to read the whole story and check back tomorrow for victim #2.