Titan FC 31′s Matt Wagy Looking to Score Another Win Over ATT for Team Alpha Male
More than anything, the one thing about bantamweight prospect Matt Wagy I recall taking note of during our 20-minute conversation last Friday was how poised and thoughtful he was. As he fielded my questions—numerous and sometimes deficient in tact—he never once looked to wrest the proverbial reins from me. He just listened considerately, answering as honestly as he could without crossing any of the boundaries of respect he’d obviously drawn out for himself.
Wagy, 22, is making his Titan Fighting Championship debut on October 31st at Titan FC 31: Ricci vs. Yoshida, which is being held at the USF Sundome in Tampa, FL. After a year spent away from his native state, it’ll be a homecoming of sorts, as the 3-2 Delray Beach-to-Sacramento transplant came up through the amateur ranks in the Sunshine State as a founding member of American Top Team.
Now a member of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male, he is set to fight ATT product William Sizemore, who is making his pro debut after an impressive 9-2 run as an amateur. (Wagy’s amateur record was 12-1.) Though it won’t be the first time he’s faced a member of the Coconut Creek-based gym, the 5’8″ southpaw who uncommonly adopted an orthodox stance for competition relishes any chance he can get to put one over on his former team.
“I love all the fighters there, and I don’t personally know this kid [William Sizemore], but yeah—it’s going to feel good to beat up another American Top Team guy,” he said. “I kind of keep everything on the down-low with [why exactly I feel that way], but American Top Team, there’s a lot of guys that really support and love me there. There were some political issues, but at the same time I love American Top Team. They helped bring me up. I was there before American Top Team had its headquarters and I was at Boca Black Belt Academy as one of the original guys there, before it was anything—when it was just a small gym starting up. I think it was only a year old when I started going there. Now I just have a little extra motivation when I’m fighting American Top Team guys because I respect them and I know they’re good.”
Self-admittedly hyperactive growing up, Wagy began his trek in martial arts in judo at the behest of his parents, who started taking him to lessons when he was only seven years old. Perhaps the likely deeply-ingrained primary tenet of judo—using the approaching momentum of another combatant to your own advantage—has procured his current easy nature when begin interviewed. Perhaps I’m just projecting.
Once he hit high school, he did something unique for someone who hadn’t yet made any sort of decision to involve themselves in the fight game: he supplemented his primary grappling discipline, judo, with another, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and, furthermore, built on both styles not long after by joining his high school wrestling team and competing in the Amateur Athletic Junior Olympics.
“I’ve always loved grappling,” he said. “When it got to the point where Judo wasn’t aggressive enough, I went to jiu-jitsu and sort of went back and forth between the two. After that, I felt I needed to get even more aggressive. I was always an aggressive kid, so I wanted to sort of bang on people’s heads in jiu-jitsu and that wasn’t very good. I got into wrestling so I could control it better. That’s the thing that people get wrong about me—they think I’m just a wrestler because I have a grinding style. But no, man… I know exactly what I’m doing on the ground. I can submit anyone, defend submissions and throw people if I need to. My ground game is pretty well-versed. It just depends on what I want to do in each fight.”
After parting ways with ATT last year, he moved out west to join Faber’s renowned Team Alpha Male. A professed admirer of “The California Kid,” Wagy—who in signing with Titan is relinquishing his slot as a headliner for the first time in three fights—believes he’s gleaned a considerable amount of wisdom from arguably the biggest star in the UFC’s lighter weight divisions.
“Urijah’s a great businessman and a smart dude,” he said. “He’s done great things in expanding his brand. He always has goals and it’s not just about fighting. He’s involved in everything—so many different projects people don’t even know about, so many things he’s constantly working at to improve his life—and one thing I learned from Urijah is basically to keep busy, to no just be a fighter that retires and has one skill set and no money when he retires. I want to make sure I have something to fall back on.”
Adhereing to that maxim, he plans on resuming the studies he began at American International College and continued at the University of Massachusetts in hospitality and tourism (with a minor in marketing) once things slow down enough to afford him the time to do so. For the time being, however, his entire focus remains on fighting.
Despite making perhaps the largest single-year impact of any head coach in the history of MMA, Duane “Bang” Ludwig’s departure from Team Alpha Male was a rather quiet affair. When Martin “Hitman” Kampmann was announced as his successor, the majority of the MMA community—myself included—publicly endorsed the changeover. According to Wagy, everyone was right. Ludgwig’s footprint still exists in the gym (how couldn’t it, with his star pupil TJ Dillashaw presiding over the camp’s striking class?), however Kampmann has already established himself as a viable leader.
“Martin’s a lot more of a well-rounded jiu-jutsu and MMA coach,” he said. “He has great striking, ground submission skills and he’s involving himself greatly with the team—getting in well with everyone here. Everyone really likes Martin. He and Duane are different coaches who bring completely different things to the table, but they’re both very good at what they do. You can’t go wrong with either one of them.”
Matt Wagy faces William Sizemore at Titan FC 31: Ricci vs. Yoshida on October 31st. Their fight will air on the preliminary card, streamed live on the CBS Sports website (HERE), beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT. The main card begins on CBS Sports Network at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m PT. Click HERE for more information.
A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well who still believes Mickey Rourke’s finest days in film have yet to come. He is TuffGnarl.com‘s editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter: @JesseScheckner.