ATT Orlando submission ace Julien Williams aims for 5 wins in a row in FCF headliner this Friday
It’s taken a while, but this very well may be the first year in welterweight Julien “J-Smoove” Williams’ professional career in which he fights more than once—but not for lack of trying. The XFC, Bellator and M-1 Global veteran fighting out of American Top Team Orlando and Extreme SWAT MMA, who has amassed a respectable 5-1 record since he made his professional debut in 2009, is set to face Sergio “Checho” Ortiz (3-1) this Friday, January 30, in the main event of Florida Championship Fighting’s (FCF) first foray into pro MMA.
Williams was born in Cincinnati and moved to the Orlando area of Florida—specifically Winter Garden—when he was 10 years old. He excelled in physical competition and, even at an early age, took a particular shine to endurance-based sports like basketball and track and field. In 2001, he captured the Florida state long jump championship as a member of the West Orange High School Warriors, competing as a member of the All-Central Florida team. After graduating, he was recruited by Michigan State University and was a runner-up in the long jump category for the Big Ten.
“All I was taught in track and field was how to be explosive, so that gives me an edge,” he says. “A lot of my techniques from MMA come with explosiveness and that’s definitely all from my track and field background—coming off the blocks from the gun, doing long jump and triple jump… all that kind of stuff. It definitely gives me an advantage.”
Colleges have a tradition of rooming their athletes together. It reinforces the competitive mindset that got them there in the first place and, ideally, it fosters a sense of camaraderie that often results in long-lasting friendships. Such was the case with Williams’ roommate, a guy you might have heard of: Rashad Evans.
Evans was going through something of a transitional period, athletically. A burgeoning protégé under Dan Severn, he’d been picked up for the second season of The Ultimate Fighter. Some of that combative fire spread to Williams, who not long after seeing his friend find fortune found himself standing across the cage from another man wearing four ounce gloves. Years later the two former roommates, though in different places in their careers, still talk and sometimes train together.
A cursory glance of Williams’ record yields some interesting takeaways. First, the 6’0” 32-year-old has never seen a scorecard in professional competition, submitting four of his first five opponents and knocking out his most recent one. Second, he’s fought for some rather high-profile organizations, going 2-0 in Bellator MMA and successfully debuting in M-1 Global last April against an until-then undefeated Russian wrestling prospect in Rasul Abdulaev. Third, he hasn’t been able to secure more than one fight a year since debuting at XFC 9: Evolution. According to him, it’s not for lack of trying; opponents keep turning down fights.
“[Gaining early experience in larger promotions] has been both good and bad. When I won the XFC open tryouts… right there, it already put me on a big stage, because my first professional fight was broadcast live on HDNet. But ever since then, I’ve always had trouble getting fights,” he says. “That’s why I went to Russia, because I was having trouble getting fights here in America. It’s good too, because I’ve been on such big stages so early in my career. I think that gives me an advantage in a lot of ways.”
Though Williams won’t come right out and say it, he more than likely knows that he’s going to be Ortiz’s toughest opponent to date. The 25-year-old Sydney Machado pupil fighting out of Costa Rica appears well rounded—he’s earned wins in all three possible ways—but his experience extends solely to the fringe regional circuit. That notwithstanding, Williams insists he won’t be taking Ortiz lightly and has prepared himself accordingly—although he’s careful to not overdo it.
“I definitely look at my opponent beforehand and try to see how they win their fights—that’s what I did with this guy—but I don’t like to watch too much film and sit and drum on it, because I really don’t like to be consumed with a fight before I go into it,” he says. “[Ortiz] is more of a striker—definitely nowhere near my level in the grappling aspect—so it’s no mystery where I’m going to take this fight. He’s never felt the kind of pressure I can put on. A lot of guys, when I get on them, are amazed at the type of pressure I can apply. I figure I can wear and tear him and find a submission after the second round.”
Moving forward, “J-Smoove” hopes to honor his existing M-1 Global contract (though he’s permitted to compete outside the organization, he still has four more fights remaining with the St. Petersburg-based promotion), but he’s not holding his breath. After all, he wagers, greener pastures may reveal themselves with another decisive victory or two.
“I am still signed with M-1 Global for another four fights,” he says. “Whether that transpires or not is… that trip had a lot of good memories and a lot of bad ones too, so I’m not sure what’s next for me on that front. I would love to take on a UFC veteran in my next fight. We’ve already talked with the promoter at FCF and he’s mentioned a couple guys, so I’d love to do that as my next task and see where I go from there. I’ve seen more guys get into the UFC who are 5-1, 6-1 and so on, so I might only be one or two fights away from that becoming an option.”
Julien “J-Smoove” Williams faces Sergio “Checho” Ortiz in the main event at Florida Championship Fighting this Friday, January 30. 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.
(Slider Image courtesy of Sherdog.com.)