“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”– J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
When you listen to some people tell their success story, a lot of times, you hear about the one moment in their life where they made a supreme sacrifice to chase after the dream.
Nanaimo, B.C., resident Graham Spencer (8-1) decided that if MMA was going to be his career, he may as well treat it as such. So he decided to quit his day job, kiss his family goodbye for seven weeks, and make the trek to Team Alpha Male in Sacramento Calif., to prepare for Shane Nelson (15-6) at MFC 35 this Friday night in Edmonton.
“Financially it was a tough decision to quit my job to train full time, it’s not easy to make money in this sport. To be successful in this sport at a high level MMA can’t be a hobby anymore, I’m ready to make the sacrifices I need to see if I can make it in this sport. It makes it easier training at Alpha Male, they are like a big family, and Urijah (Faber) set me up with a really cheap place to stay with some great guys.”
The Maximum Fighting Championships added the featherweight division for a reason and according to MFC President Mark Pavelich, who was on MMASucka Radio this week, it was a very easy decision to go out and try to sign Graham Spencer.
“People in Canada should be excited about this division because I really believe that Graham Spencer is the number one 145-pound fighter in Canada — hands down.”
That is not just a promoter blowing smoke because if you talk to most people who are in the know, they will tell you that there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Spencer’s game. Although he is confident, he doesn’t read his own press clippings or believe the hype surrounding him.
“I don’t consider myself the best featherweight in Canada, it’s impossible to know without fighting others, but I do think I could give any of the top guys a good fight.”
When talking to Graham, you quickly realize that not only is he humble, but he is not a man who says a heck of a lot. In fact you get the sense that if he didn’t have to do media interviews he would be much happier just blending in the background. With his cool and collective demeanor you wonder how someone like Spencer decided to even become a fighter.
“Competition drew me into fighting. I always played sports growing up, and after high school I needed something to put my energy into. I found BJJ and very soon after that I started training MMA. My teammates Nick Hinchliffe and Aaron Bruce began fighting, and once I went to a few of their fights I knew it was something I had to try.”
Don’t let the “Island Chill” fool you though, because if you have never seen Graham Spencer fight before you are in for a treat. He is as pure as they come in terms of being an all-round fighter. His ground game is scary good and his standup has also improved. All of Graham’s talking is done when he throws his opponents to the ground and chokes them out. There really is no better way to express one’s self.
Most of that training was done in a gymnasium at a gymnastics club at Impact MMA in Nanaimo. There is nothing fancy about it, just some mats, some guys, and some heavy duty sparring. Maybe it’s something in the water, but it seems like British Columbia is starting to produce fighters to be reckoned with. MFC heavyweight Mike Hackert is from nearby Comox Valley and is largely considered the best heavyweight in the country.
More and more guys though are starting to realize very quickly that if you want to get better and take the game to a whole new level, you have to leave your comfort zone and go and find the best guys to train with. Give credit to Spencer for seeking out Faber and the Alpha Male crew. One can only improve and get better when training with a bunch of guys who will push you to the brink.
“I feel my game has improved everywhere since training at Alpha Male. There are so many good guys down there you have no choice to get better or else you are going to get smashed.”
Something tells me that if you even dog it a little bit at Alpha Male that Chad Mendes will put you in a guillotine choke so quickly that you will be left gasping for air and thinking about the comforts of home. Yet for seven weeks Spencer grinded out the training and now feels like he is ready to show everyone what he has added to his toolbox when he faces a dangerous Nelson in the MFC ring.
“Shane is a really aggressive fighter, I’ll be looking to put him on the defensive and see if he can handle my pressure. I think this fight is going to be a war. I see myself with my hand raised with some sort of stoppage in the third round.”
For now Graham is chilling out in Edmonton, a far cry from the California lifestyle.
“It’s cold in Edmonton, I’ve been getting used to wearing flip flops and no shirt for the last seven weeks so it’s a definite change that I’m not wanting to get used to.”
Chalk it up to another day at the office. While many of us slam keys for a living or swing a hammer, Graham Spencer is chasing a dream and hoping to cash in on some serious sacrifice on Friday night.
(Photo: Maximum Fighting Championship)