On Sunday June 29th, Chris Tramell was the headline fight at Sparta Combat League’s (SCL) Summer Brawl. The fight was the only Muay Thai fight on the card at the Grizzly Rose country bar in Denver, and Chris fought a 6’3” southpaw named Brian Scraper. In Chris’ corner were his training partners Steve Eisman, Terrence Moore, and Kevin Paynter, and over 40 other students, friends and coworkers from Easton Training Center came to watch from the floor.
Chris’ opponent is one of the stars of the SCL promotion. Scraper has had several fights over the last few months, and in February he knocked out an opponent with a head kick early in the first round. In the weeks leading up to the fight, Chris spent a great deal of time watching footage of Scraper’s earlier fights, and studying his game. Based on this, Chris and his team designed a training program to counter Scraper’s height and fighting style. Chris is normally a power fighter, and has a tendency to plant his feet and throw strikes. However, while preparing for this fight, he wanted to be more fluid and technical. Scraper is a dangerous opponent, and Chris wanted to avoid standing directly in front of him, or in his punching range. Chris says his game plan going into this fight was to “be like a shark–if I stopped moving, I was going to drown.” He needed to keep mobile to prevent Scraper from scoring points or landing anything damaging.
Over the last seven weeks, Chris has been training hard at Easton Training Center Boulder and Denver, and he is grateful to all his training partners for their willingness to spar southpaw with him and hold pads every day. Chris worked hard to drill the things that would help him most in his fight–moving constantly and throwing only strikes that would hit lefty Scraper where he was unguarded.
Despite his intensive training sessions, Chris felt nervous and on-edge going into this fight. He was feeling stressed about overcoming the obstacles Scraper presented as an opponent, and wondered how well he’d be able to enact his game plan. Instead of letting his nerves wear him down, Chris decided to turn them to his advantage. He didn’t try to deny them or distract himself, but instead accepted them, and tried to utilize them to become more focused.
And it paid off. In the hours leading up to Chris’ fight, his stress was palpable, but as soon as the bell rang, all his doubts were gone. He let his training take over. He kept moving, and stayed either too close or too far for Scraper to land solid punches. “As the fight went on, I could see he was getting more and more frustrated. I could see it in his eyes– he was getting desperate. And the more desperate he got, the more confident I got.” Because of Scraper’s recent success with his high kick, Chris knew to expect it during the fight, and successfully blocked it several times. At one point, both fighters threw hard, low leg kicks and met shin-to-shin. Chris saw the slightest grimace on Scraper’s face, and knew it hurt him more. His own leg was already numbed from the impact, so Chris continued to kick the same spot, thinking his leg would hold up better than Scraper’s. This affected Scraper’s movement, and Chris was able to land some hard punches and kicks. Several times, Chris’ strikes produced sprays of sweat from Scraper that were visible from a distance.
After the second round, Chris was feeling tired and zoned out. Luckily Steve was in his corner to remind him to get his head in the game and get him fired up for the final round. When the final bell sounded, Chris was confident he’d won. And indeed, the judges declared him the victor in a unanimous decision.
Reflecting on the fight, Chris feels as though he’s found something he’s long been looking for–the perfect mindset. The stress and uncertainty that came with fighting such a challenging opponent caused him to train and focus harder than he normally does. He believes this extra boost helped him to mentally relax. When it was finally time to fight, there was nothing left to do but shut everything off and trust in his training. Being relaxed helped Chris bring out some latent knowledge and abilities that he struggles to display in competition. At the Grizzly Rose, he felt calm in the midst of chaos–in total control.
Chris is happy with his performance. MMABuzz.com declared Tramell vs. Scraper the Fight of the Night, and Chris is glad to have had this opportunity. He is also appreciative of the incredible amount of support he received from his home gym, Easton Training Center Boulder. He says it was exciting (and nerve-wracking) to know how many of his students were in the audience, and it was gratifying to be able to show them the effectiveness of all the techniques he teaches in his classes.
He is also thankful to Jeff Cisneros, the CEO of Sparta Combat League and owner of Spartan Labs. Jeff puts on frequent, well-organized shows in Colorado, giving local fighters a lot of opportunities to compete. Jeff also does a great deal of charity work for cancer patients and injured military personnel. Chris likes that competing in Jeff’s events helps to promote worthwhile social causes, and considers Jeff and his SCL promotion a great asset to the community.
So what’s next for Chris? He’s feeling energized, and is excited to direct his attention toward his students. He’s currently setting his sights on an amateur Muay Thai fight in Golden on August 9th. He hopes to get as many of his fighters on the card as possible. In the future, he is also hoping to fight overseas again, and hopes this recent win will help him to find another opportunity to do so.
Photos by Rick Dowdy.