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Lydell Poag: From the Richmond Projects to Jackson Wink MMA

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ALBUQUEURQUE, NEW MEXICO–  Lydell Poag should not be here. He should not be roughly 2,000 miles away from his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and he most certainly should not be training day in and day out in one of the most well-known mixed martial arts gyms in the world, Jackson Wink MMA. Every day the kid from the projects of Richmond, Virginia, finds himself sharing the mats with many of the most well-known mixed martial artists in the world. Yet here he is. Every day in total defiance of the odds. You might call it a twist of fate, dumb luck, but for Lydell Poag, this was all manifested.

LFA 139’s Lydell Poag: His Rise from the Projects to the Big Time

Surviving in the Streets

Many people who are not familiar with the greater Richmond area may be surprised to know that it has been a city that has struggled for generations with violent crime. In 2019, according to news reports, Richmond was ranked as the eleventh most deadliest city in the United States. “Growing up in Richmond was very hard at times, but it was also rewarding.” Poag stated in our recent interview. “I feel like it made my skin thick and heart hard in all the right places…where I’m from kids kill kids and so do adults. Not to mention the police. I am alive today and extremely self-aware because of it.”

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As a child, Poag participated in every sport he could including wrestling in high school; however, there was less of an athletic drive behind it and more of a utilitarian one. Poag explained that at even a young age, he had the self-awareness to know that the less time he spent in his neighborhood the better.  After-school sports offered him a safe space—a sanctuary of sorts that he otherwise would never have been afforded.

Finding MMA

Poag was a decorated wrestling champion in high school. He also established a reputation as being a guy that was not afraid to settle beefs in the streets with his fists. So, few in his circle were surprised when Poag expressed a budding interest in the sport of mixed martial arts. Poag explained, “MMA really fell into me. It found me and really reignited that athletic drive…” Poag officially began competing in the amateur circuit in 2019 and found a quick finish in his debut fight earning a victory in the 2nd round by knockout. He would go on to compete in one more amateur bout in 2021, where he would find another finish in the very first round raising his amateur record to 2-0.

The Move to Jackson Wink

Now armed with 2 amateur wins under his belt, Poag applied for and was awarded a scholarship to train at Jackson Wink MMA.  Of course, in order to move forward with this opportunity, Poag would be forced to make the difficult decision to leave his hometown of Richmond and relocate to Albuquerque.

Poag made the move and began training at Jackson Wink. Now nearly a year later when asked to reflect on the amount of time he has spent there and away from his family, Poag remarked, “It can be nerve taxing sometimes. It had been a year since I’ve seen my family…I had to learn how to thrive being alone because of that. But now I’m doing great. It is a huge honor to be at Jackson Wink getting to see how world class athletes train and commit themselves.”

Looking to Make A Statement

In certain respects, Poag’s career has come full circle since moving to New Mexico. His professional career has taken on an eerily start to his amateur career with two victories both coming by early stoppage. At LFA 139 in Niagara Falls, New York, Poag will be facing his most difficult challenge of his entire MMA career where he is set to face Dylan “The Mindless Hulk” Budka who is 3-1.

“I think Dylan’s a grinder and is also a super confident young guy like myself. I think my advantage lies in my diversity of attack and defense. He likes to be a bull in there [but] I don’t get bullied. My name isn’t “Never Fold” for nothing.  He’s going to have to earn everything he gets in there. He’s hungry right now but my hunger hasn’t stopped since I was a poor boy in the projects…”

LFA 139 will be available to stream on UFC Fight Pass on August 19, 2022 at 9PM EST.

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Tyler Little has been covering MMA since 2021. In addition to writing for MMA Sucka, he is the creator and founder of the Mom's Basement MMA podcast. He lives in the Washington D.C. area with his wife and children and his black lab Molly. Follow him on Instagram @moms_basementmma

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