American Top Team’s Dietter Navarro aims to continue career resurrection this Friday at AFC 23
Two fights into his career—almost exactly one year apart from one another—and Dietter Navarro’s record sat at a dejecting 0-2. He’d lost both fights by submission, the first occurring at Mixed Fighting Alliance: New Generation 3 in September 2010 and the second at Bellator Fighting Championship 50 in September 2011. By that time he was 29 years old—no spring chicken, as they say—and adding another loss to his record would significantly limit his options going forward.
…But more on that later.
Some might say the 5’9” lightweight stacked the deck against himself. He turned pro without competing in a single amateur bout, his reasoning based less on haste than on his aforementioned advanced age in comparison to many others starting out in the sport.
“I just felt kind of weird seeing older guys going into the amateurs and taking advantage of the younger guys, who I thought [the amateur fights] were for,” he said. “I didn’t want to beat up an 18-year-old kid, you know. I didn’t feel right about that. I thought, ‘You know, if I’m going to do this, I might as well take the hard road.’”
Born in Havana, Cuba in 1982, Dietter Navarro moved to Miami, Florida when he was eight years old. A naturally gifted athlete, he excelled in sports and became a member of the All-American Team in basketball between 1998 and 2000 while attending Champagnat Catholic, Brito Miami Private and Columbus High School. After college he found himself without a suitable physical outlet, but a chance encounter with a co-founder of one of MMA’s most lauded teams proved a perfect fit for the former high school standout.
“I’ve always liked to compete, and one day I met Conan Silveira—he used to teach a jiu-jitsu class at American Top Team—and he later invited me to train at [ATT Coconut] Creek,” he said. “I feel that the athleticism you bring from basketball helps a lot. It makes everything easier. I just had to get used to getting punched, but other than that it helped out a lot.”
Navarro will be fighting for the second time in one year for the first time in his four-year career when he steps into the cage this weekend for Absolute Fighting Championship 23.What’s more, he’ll be doing so riding a two-fight win streak.
Back in 2011, walking out of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino after suffering his second consecutive submission loss at Bellator 50, Navarro knew he had to do something different. He had the competitive drive and the will to win, but some key element was missing. Fortunately, he had a strong support system in his coaches and training partners at American Top Team and they helped him close some of the holes in his game.
“I started training a lot more with Alexis Vila, Yoel Romero and Manuel Lopez, and they really turned my whole career around,” he said. “They instilled in me a harder approach and improved my wrestling. Everything switched when I started training with them. I became better all-around. Since I never fought as an amateur, I decided I needed to take a step back, see what I had to do, and become a better fighter.”
He took all of 2012 and most of 2013 off, finally returning to competition in December of last year to headline Caribbean Ultimate Fist Fighting 6 in the headlining slot against Anthony “Smokey” Sutherland. He won by unanimous decision. Early this year in April, he came back to South Florida to fight in the inaugural event put on by ATT coach Rian Gittman’s startup promotion, More Than Conquerors. Once again, he secured a unanimous decision.
This Friday he’s returning to the location of his last professional loss to square off against 21-year-old, pro debutant Trent McDade, a 5’11” fellow American Top Team member based out of ATT Longwood.
“I usually don’t want to fight one of my teammates, but he’s not really my teammate because he trains in Orlando,” said Navarro. “It’s just the same name. I feel like if he took the fight, why shouldn’t I, you know? Since he said yes, obviously I’m going to take the fight.”
Furthermore, Navarro is confident he’ll come out winning—even if he’s willing to give his opponent credit where it’s due.
“He basically has the same style as me,” he explained. “He likes to wrestle. He likes to strike. He’s tough. He’s a big kid. I think it’s going to be a good fight. I don’t see him posing any problems for me, but it’ll still be a good fight. I’m just going to bring it, stick to my game plan and come to win, whatever way it comes.”
Dietter Navarro is scheduled to fight Trent McDade for three rounds in the 155-pound division this Friday, November 14 at Absolute Fighting Championship 23 in the Passion Nightclub at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Tickets start at $35. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the first fight beginning at 7 p.m. Please see the poster below for more details.
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.