The Louisiana MMA torch has burned bright since the beginning of the sport. The state’s pioneers inside the cage include Tim Credeur, Melvin Guillard, and Rich Clementi among many others.
Louisiana currently has some of the brightest stars in the sport with Dustin Poirier, double UFC champion Daniel Cormier, Alan Jouban, and Liz Carmouche among a handful of others. The next generation of Louisiana fighters is on the come up. These men are ready for their turn to carry the MMA torch within the next few years.
Follow MMASucka as we take a journey through the brightest up and comers Bayou Fighting Championship, the premier fighting organization in Louisiana and the South, has to offer. First, we take a look at AJ Fletcher, one of the bright stars at Gladiators Academy located in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Life Prior to MMA
For AJ Fletcher, it was an issue of MMA finding Fletcher, not Fletcher finding MMA. Fletcher was a very accomplished linebacker and kicker for St. Michael The Archangel High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In his senior season of 2014, Fletcher recorded a 50-yard field goal against Live Oak High School. He also recorded 17 tackles in the same game. He ended his career with 285 tackles, 10 forced fumbles, and 90 extra point kicks.
Aside from football, Fletcher was a soccer star as well where he was the overall MVP his senior season. Fletcher racked in the hardware his senior season. Fletcher earned 1st team all-state honors as a kicker and 1st team all-metro as a linebacker. He also set a special record along the way. Fletcher tied the school record in 2011 with 40 extra point kicks, sharing the record with his brother.
Realizing It Was Time to Switch Sports…
“I actually ended up in MMA almost out of spite! Ever since I was little I wanted to play football through college and hopefully professionally. Even though I held tackling records, had awards and all this other stuff, no college really recruited me because I was short for my position,” Fletcher told MMASucka. “I realized I probably wouldn’t go play anywhere sometime during my senior football season, and pretty much decided I was going to start training after my senior soccer season finished.”
“I wanted a sport that didn’t rely on height, or speed, or any measurables to determine if you even get a chance,” Fletcher stated to MMASucka. “In MMA, if you can put people to sleep, it doesn’t matter if you’re 5’9″ or 6’4″, you’ll get a shot. That’s why I started and that’s what I still try to do every fight.”
Entering the World of MMA
The journey for Fletcher into the world of MMA began in a small gym in Baton Rouge before making the eventual move to the renowned gym, Gladiators Academy of Lafayette. ” I never really had a martial arts background when I got into MMA,” Fletcher said. “I started out training at a smaller gym in Baton Rouge, then moved out to Lafayette, transferred universities, and started training at Gladiators.” Fletcher admits the journey has not been easy. “Took my lumps then, and still do every day and I get a little better each time. Go to the shark tank long enough, eventually, you turn into a shark.”
The Biggest Influences
Though many think of MMA as an “individual sport,” it is far from it. Every fighter from the smallest organization all the way to the top of the UFC, has coaches, fighters, and family who influence and help guide them on their journey. Fletcher is no different, recognizing his family and the godfathers of Louisiana MMA who came before him, paving the way for the next generation.
“There’s so many people that I’d have to give credit to. Mentally, I’d say my family has been a big part. From the time I was little my parents not only instilled the values of a good work ethic in me and my brothers, but they also demonstrated those values daily, as did my brothers. Growing up in that type of environment made my transition to MMA almost natural.”
In Good Company
“Being around guys like Tim Credeur, Dustin Poirier, Eric Scallan, Thomas Webb, and so many other great fighters, coaches, and just people from martial arts in general, has been huge in shaping me mentally as a fighter,” Fletcher told MMASucka. Fletcher is from the next generation of mixed martial artists with no particular single-art background. Rory McDonald is the first name that comes to mind as the first real successful fighter with just MMA training. Fletcher began with MMA and has improved each facet of his game through his training at Gladiators Academy.
The Bright Future
To be successful in MMA, as with anything in life, you have to be able to evolve and adapt. “Cage IQ” and intelligence can be linked to adaptability and evolution. A fighter with both has all the potential in the world to be a world champion. Fletcher is an obvious possessor of both. Witnessing two of Fletcher’s last three bouts in person, WFC 86 in May 2018 and Capitol City Fight Night in October 2018, Fletcher realized a weakness in his wrestling game and addressed it immediately.
In his unanimous decision victory over Kevin Smith at Capitol City Fight Night, Fletcher utilized a wrestling based approach to so wrestling as now a strength to his game. Fletcher is set to graduate from the amazing college University of Louisiana-Lafayette with a degree in biology. He also scored a 31 on his ACT (American College Testing) showing his mental acumen.
With such an amazing level of intelligence, “cage IQ”, and world-class training there is no reason as to why Fletcher could not be one of Louisiana’s next generation of torch-baring MMA fighters. Currently 21 years of age, where does Fletcher see his career in five years? “I’ll be 26 years old with even better hair, more knockouts, and if I don’t have it yet, I’ll be cashing chin checks from the UFC until I get that shiny gold belt. See you soon Dana!”
Make sure to follow MMASucka as we are your home for all things Bayou Fighting Championship. We also cover many other of your favorite organizations. Keep up with your updating page of reviews, previews, original articles, and fighter interviews. If you want to follow Fletcher you can follow his Instagram here.