Titan FC 31′s Steve Montgomery a Hippie Surfer on Hiatus with a Penchant for Artful Violence
In just having a conversation with Steve Montgomery, one would be hard pressed to find any indication he regularly collects checks in exchange for punching other men in the face. The 23-year-old South-Carolina-to-Boca-Raton transplant, who goes by the self-deprecating moniker “The Creepy Weasel,” is celebrating his fifth year as a professional mixed martial artist this February. However, thus far he’s let little of the testosterone-fueled aggression often associated with MMA dictate how he is outside of the cage.
Chalk it up to a good upbringing by his parents, Barbara and Warren, who afforded him multiple outlets for expression. A self-described surf hippie on hiatus, Montgomery had early aspirations for a career as a bass player in a rock band.
“I wouldn’t say I was misguided, but I was going through all sorts of phases,” he explains. “I’ve always been a real easy-going nice guy. My parents are really sweet, soft-hearted people. Coming from simple souls like my parents, it allowed me to see the world in a softer light. At the same time, I don’t know if it’s the generation I’m from or other problems I’ve had in my life, but I definitely have the fire that loves to compete.”
He was first exposed to the sport in 2005 at 15 years old while standing at a comparatively diminutive 5’7”, weighing 125 pounds and with “no combat experience except some YMCA karate I took when I was eight” (he now towers over most of his welterweight opposition at 6’4”). The UFC had by then broken through onto television on the back of The Ultimate Fighter and a friend of his had already become an ardent fan eager to share his discovery with someone else. Surprisingly, Montgomery (7-2) wasn’t particularly impressed at first.
“I don’t remember what fight it was, but I watched a couple guys fight and I was thinking, ‘Oh this is stupid; this is pro wrestling.’ I thought looked really dumb. Then, one night when I was home alone, I watched what I think was Rich Franklin’s fight with Nate Quarry and I thought ‘Wow, this is insane. These guys are crazy. It’s almost like karate and it’s almost like wrestling and it’s almost like pro wrestling.’ That was the second take I had on it.”
As chance would have it, a bandmate of his belonged to a local MMA gym and Montgomery joined him for a few training sessions. Not long after, he found another gym that suited his aesthetic tastes more aptly: Florence Fight Farm, located in the woods of rural Florence County.
“I started training with them two, three times as a week, just trying to piece together as much training as I could. I pretty much sacrificed the last two years of my normal high school life for martial arts.”
After an unblemished 2009 amateur run that saw him fight six times in one year (and only see the scorecards once), he made his professional debut, but stumbled, getting submitted by fellow future prospect Dhiego Lima. He bounced back with three consecutive victories—all finishes, including a second-round KO over future TUF winner Colton Smith.
He continued to sharpen his skills during this time, training with some of the stone-cold killers at American Top Team Coconut Creek. Like his fellow teammates Colby Covington and Charles Rosa, whose contracts were recently purchased by the UFC, Montgomery feels he’s on the verge of being called up to the big show.
“What really allows me to see where I am—and I know it’s training, so it’s not exactly the same thing—is training alongside these guys who are so good. Not only veterans like Robbie [Lawler], Thiago Alves and Hector [Lombard], but so many other guys. It’s also training with all these young up-and-comers who are just getting in. I came up with Charles Rosa. I remember when he used to skateboard to the small ATT in Boca and come in and not have a clue what he was doing. He was just tough as nails and now he just fought Dennis Siver. Coming up and training with Colby Covington… he just had a stellar performance his last fight. I see guys that are coming up with me and they’re getting [into the UFC] and shining when they do, so I know my time is coming soon regardless if it takes a month or another two years. I know that the more time I’m out of the UFC, the worse it is for whoever I make my debut against, because every day it’s something new.”
Despite the loss to Wilson, Montgomery’s exciting style and burgeoning hype earned him main event status for his next three consecutive fights, all of which he won before the third round, including a headlining slot at Absolute Fighting Championship 21: The Return this past May. His first-round knockout win over Jason Gilliam (14-7) caught the attention of Titan Fighting Championship, a long-running regional MMA promotion which was just transitioning into a nationally touring, nationally televised show.
“Titan FC is great, and they’ve been great to me so far. At the end of the day I think they realize how much it benefits them, having hungry guys trying to climb the ladder to the UFC, because there’s nothing more entertaining than two hungry fighters looking to take that next step up. Sometimes you get guys in the UFC who are complacent—take for example Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger, where he just pawed the jab and stayed safe the whole time because he’s already at the top—but people who are looking to climb the ladder… Man, Titan benefits. They’ve got all these hungry guys coming out there having ‘Fight of the Year’ performances… they really benefit from that.”
His first bout with the company wasn’t an easy one, but it’s a perfect example of exactly what he’s referring to. Fighting one class above his regular one, Montgomery, citing his mullet as one of his greatest strengths in the cage, faced Rakim Cleveland, a comparably built middleweight and fellow southpaw. The bout was a grueling affair for both fighters, however the judges awarded “The Creepy Weasel” a split decision. It marked the first decision win of his professional career.
And although at 23 his career is wide open ahead of him, he already has a general idea of what he’d like to do once he hangs up the four ounce gloves for good.
“People always ask me, ‘What are you going to do after fighting? What’s next?’ I don’t like when people ask me what I’m going to do after fighting because I’m currently so immersed in it and I know that when the time comes I’ll make a decision on something else to do. I think, after fighting, I might become a surf gypsy for about five to ten years–just travel wherever I could make it, whether it’s Costa Rica, Indonesia… wherever I can make it–and just surf and fall off the planet with my girlfriend, if we’re still together.”
Steve “The Creepy Weasel” Montgomery faces former UFC fighter Brock Jardine (who is looking to rebound from losing his debut back in May) this Friday, October 31, at Titan FC 31: Ricci vs. Yoshida. Their bout will appear on the main card portion of the event, airing on the CBS Sports Network at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. The preliminary card will stream live on the CBS Sports website (HERE) at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 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 isTuffGnarl.com‘s editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter: @JesseScheckner.