Bellator MMA has earned a reputation for scooping up talented fighters in the infancy of their careers, and molding them into promotional stars of the future. In June, the organization added once again to its crop of burgeoning talent with 6-foot-8 heavyweight Steve Mowry. At Bellator 205 on Sept. 21, the Hard Knocks 365 product looks to show why training at an elite gym made the decision for Bellator an easy one.
Mowry is only in the second year of an MMA career that has been a success so far. He is currently 4-0 and has earned finishes in each of those bouts. Making the jump from the ranks of Titan Fighting Championship to the No. 2 promotion in the world could be reason for greater pressure. Yet to him, it's business as usual.
“That's every fight,” Mowry told Sherdog on the topic of added pressure. “Every fight you want to win, every fight you want to get better, every fight you want to turn heads and have eyes on you.”
The 26-year-old has a unique perspective on why he shouldn't fret anymore than usual about stepping inside the Bellator cage for the first time. “I'm not fighting Bellator. I am not fighting the Bellator cage, I'm not fighting the Bellator money, I'm not fighting the Bellator contract,” Mowry says. “I'm fighting human beings.”
Every day when Mowry hits the mats at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida,-based camp, he is facing human beings quite proficient in the sport of MMA. As Hard Knocks 365 houses names like Volkan Oezdemir, Linton Vassell, Stefan Struve and Matt Mitrione, Mowry is pushed by men nearly as large as him all the time. It's the reason why he felt he was ready for this move to a bigger stage and competition. “[Training at Hard Knocks] made me realize, if I can hang with these human beings then I can hang in there with any human being.”
Jumping into a new sport can be difficult for any athlete, especially when starting at a gym filled with competitors at the highest levels of the industry. Mowry started off at the now-defunct Blackzilians team, and followed coaches Henri Hooft and Greg Jones to Hard Knocks 365. Despite having a background in amateur wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the learning curve for Mowry was steep during those early days, as he trained with men like Thiago Silva, Anthony Johnson and even heavyweight boxer Jarell Miller.
“I don't think I won a round of sparring, or wrestling, or grappling until I was at the Blackzilians for maybe two months,” Mowry said. “It [was] a murderers' row of people.”
Without a doubt, the fighter's abilities have improved in the two years he's been based in Florida. Yet, with a gym full of sharks, even good fighters have bad days, weeks, or even months. “There are days when I feel like I'm top dog and there are days when I feel like I don't even know what I'm doing,” Mowry says with a laugh. “Some days Volkan [Oezdemir] is the hammer and some days Volkan is the nail.”
With the continued growth of the sport, Mowry had an endless assortment of gyms he could have chosen to train at. However, he narrowed down his choices based off of what he wanted to become as a fighter. “I wanted to have a very violent, hard-to-ignore striking game,” he says. “I wanted to be skilled and scary on the feet.”
With that in mind, Mowry originally chose Blackzilians for the opportunity to train with Hooft, one of the most renowned striking coaches in the sport. He credits the Dutch kickboxing legend's coaching approach for helping he become a dangerous striker.
“Henri has a very simple approach to the game. He doesn't teach complex concepts. He doesn't get too caught up in specific tactics,” says Mowry.
He feels that Hooft's coach style…