The days of ditching an amateur status at warp speed in mixed martial arts appears to have slowed to a halt. Highlighting this truth, athletes, such as Jordan Pankey (3-2), who compete with a blitzing style are choosing to tackle their comfort level in the amateurs until being drafted as a professional is a certainty, not a lottery. On May 21, 2016, Pankey, inside Rancho Cordova’s Metro City Soccer Complex, plans to add another notch to his MMA journey with his first championship marker at Nor Cal Fight Series (Nor Cal FS) 2.
Strolling around at 230 pounds, Pankey could easily melt away the excess weight to a lower division like warm butter, but targeting a cruiserweight title at Nor Cal FS 2 allows him to focus on destroying his opponent, Shawn Lee, instead of his caloric intake:
“205 isn’t a hard weight to make,” he started off. “I walk around at 230, so I’d rather sit at 230, keep all my speed, and be faster than the heavyweights.”
Mentioning his speed in passing paints the Sistine Chapel as a sketch. A lifetime on the gridiron, even attaining a semi-pro status with the Twin City Cougars of Yuba City, has prepared Pankey for the referee’s orders to fight, setting him in motion as if the quarterback hiked the football and generating a blur of tattoos and dreadlocks,
“When people fight, they come into fighting with a background in boxing, MMA, or kickboxing. I came and learned them all in one, but I always had football in me.” Pankey elaborated on why he doesn’t consider his lacking background in the fight game disadvantageous, “Being athletic, I can adapt to most sports. Give me a couple times to try it, and I can adapt and learn.”
Early on as a sportsman, Pankey always challenged himself against older and more imposing competition. Whether battling in ten-yard increments or five-minute rounds, raw athleticism has, initially and continually, carried Pankey toward success. By hopping into his first bout with no rehearsal, he put his theory to task. Overwhelmed, he exited with his first loss and the realization that proper training was vital, so he sought out a team with leaders calibrated to land him in the end zone,
“I went to MMAGOLD, and it opened my eyes to MMA.” He described his enlightenment as, “I went in there swinging my right hand. I was over there sparring in southpaw, and I’m orthodox, just realizing it’s a totally different ballgame. It wasn’t that I was bad at it, but the team was good. MMAGOLD is good, and it woke me up.”
Firming his grasp of the Xs and Os involved in MMA, Pankey’s synapses fired more rapidly than an offensive coordinator orchestrating a final drive with no timeouts when he chalked out how he’s meshing his days covered in pads to presently uncorking combination into them. He best connects the dots when it comes to takedowns,
“Football tackles, I think, are a little bit faster than wrestling takedowns, but it does leave you open to knees and stuff like that. I’m starting to transition into more of a football, slash, wrestler takedown.” Holding up hands that can swallow a pigskin whole, he modeled the movement while explaining the differences, “People look for that slide. When they shoot in on you, they slide and come up. I just go straight in—BOOM!” He admitted, “I might do it the wrong way, but it works.”
Pankey professed a level of comfort as a combatant since his second outing. The problem with obtaining a professional license in MMA too soon is: the penalties of a loss set mixed martial artists back much farther than fifteen yards. The last thing Pankey wants is to reflect on his MMA career as Al Bundy would; therefore, he summarized why it’s imperative to not throw a Hail Mary into the pros,
“Since my second fight: the cage doesn’t bother me; the crowd doesn’t bother me; nothing really bothers me. I just want more experience. I want to be one of those guys who gets in the cage and finishes opponents. That’s what amateur is for. I can go in there and try to finish him [Lee]. If something bad happens, not trying to say that it will but if it does, it’s amateur, and it doesn’t count. Then, when I’m pro, I have nothing to worry about.”
Each fight, for a title or not, represents a bid to proceed in the post-season. Reserve a seat inside the Metro City Soccer Complex on May 21st and listen carefully to Pankey’s post-fight speech because: If all goes according to plan, the Nor Cal FS cruiserweight belt will be wrapped around his waist, and he’ll announce Disneyland as his next destination.