Reports are out that Derek Downey has been cut from the UFC after losing his debut fight to Nick Catone at UFN 17.
I hadn’t paid any attention to Downey before the bout and wasn’t impressed with his performance. From what I saw he probably isn’t UFC caliber. As you can see from the picture on the right, he caught some shots that gave him an enormous and ugly hematoma on his head during the fight.
But I’d like to take a minute to reflect on what it means for a young fighter to make it to the UFC as a late substitute for TUF winner Amir Sadollah at the end of January and have that dream ripped out from under him by mid-February.
First let’s meet Derek “The Gentleman” Downey. From his MySpace page:
I am 27, and a proud father of of 4 kids. Kali and Lexi are my daughters, and I just had twin boys, Dominc and Zaxen in Aug of ’07. I am also the proud husband of a gorgeous wife, she keeps me together and pushes me to become a better person. They are my life and I love them more than anything.
Then we learn from this MMA Junkie feature that Downey sacrificed a lot to get to the UFC:
With his family in full support of his efforts, Downey walked away from a comfortable salary for his chance at glory.
“I gave up a decent job selling refinances, home loans, mortgage stuff,” Downey said. “My boss, when he knew I was going to start doing this, he said, ‘You’ve worked hard for me. You can come in three or four hours — whatever it takes, don’t worry about it. Just train hard.
“It’s a commission job when you do mortgages, so obviously financially you go from making a really good, comfortable living to making what a fighter would make. That’s a big difference when you’ve got a wife and four kids. That’s a big sacrifice for everyone.”
And just last week it looked like those sacrifices were paying off. He got some very cool write-ups in the local papers talking to his very proud family:
His father is long-time Utah Valley administrator and coach Steve Downey, now the athletic director at Salem Hills High School. He said he’s proud of Derek for making a goal and reaching it.
“Derek’s greatest strength is his willingness to conditioning,” Steve Downey said. “If you’re not in shape, this sport reveals it pretty quickly.”
But the elder Downey is still adjusting to having a son in the UFC.
“When he was 11 or 12 years old, I didn’t envision him being a cage fighter,” Steve Downey said. “It’s not like watching him pitch little league.”
And after providing a concise and positive description of what MMA is and where it came from, he told his the paper at his college alma mater (where he graduated with a philosophy degree) how he got his nickname “The Gentleman”:
“I’m not one that gets in your face. I’m not a trash talker. Fighting doesn’t define who I am – it’s just my job. Sometimes they would announce me and say that ‘This guy is a real gentleman outside of the ring.’ That’s probably where it came from. I guess I’ve seen worse, so I’m OK with it.”
Then his fight gets cut from the TV broadcast and he goes out into the Octagon, gets whipped, not horribly, but badly enough that he got a giant freakish elephant man hematoma on his head and gets cut immediately afterward.
Talk about a bring down. Reminds me of the time a kid a few years older than me was featured in the local paper because he was expected to be taken in the NFL draft. The newspaper guys hung around all day. The call never came. He ended up walking on with the Chargers for a few weeks in pre-season but didn’t make the team.
But at the end of the day, he was still a local hero. So’s Derek Downey.
Here’s to you Derek Downey. You made it to the big show. You tested yourself against the best. That’s more than most of us will ever be able to say.
And to all you MMA fans who are quick to disrespect even champions of the sport, remember, just making it to the Octagon one time requires courage, persistence, talent and skill. R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Photo by Tracy Lee.
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