From Front Yard to Steel Cage: LW prospect Preston Parson’s MMA career is just beginning
Florida lightweight mixed martial arts prospect Preston Parsons didn’t grow up on the wrong side of the tracks. He didn’t descend into criminal activity, make any irreparable decisions or cause any undue harm to anyone. By all accounts, he grew up a normal, athletic kid who took some karate classes as a youth and enjoyed sparring matches with his brother TJ in their front yard (much to the chagrin of their neighbors).
Few—except for maybe TJ and anyone else taking part in those front yard exhibition matches—could have predicted those otherwise innocuous neighborhood set-tos would lead to anything past a few scrapes and bruises. But Preston, now 19 years old, turned those early days of aggression and his subsequent tutelage under the watchful eye of Jacksonville’s Ludus Martial Arts & Fitness Training owner Billy Mitchell—a former MMA competitor himself—into a promising career.
“Before I even walked into the gym, I kind of already had my mind made up that I wanted to pursue MMA as my dream and as my career,” said Parsons during a phone interview he granted to MMAOwl.com two weeks ago. “I started in my front yard. Me and my brother used to roll around and got into a little trouble with the neighbors because of that. I enjoyed it and decided I wanted to get good at it, so I found the closest gym to me, walked in, met “Koach” and knew right away that it was the place for me. My first competition was a good two or three months after I started training and I was only a teenager—I’m still a teenager—but I was only 16 then, so I competed in the younger age division and did very well. I did a lot of NAGA tournaments after that, various local tournaments, and we’ve gotten as far as going to California with the world tournament, now, which we placed rather well in, actually.
Parsons has competed at a voracious pace since entering the sport, racking up an 86-5 jiu-jitsu record and a 6-0 amateur MMA record, with four of those wins coming by way of stoppage (three by submission; one by TKO) en route to capturing both the Rival Fight League and Combat Night amateur lightweight titles. Standing on the precipice of turning pro, he took advantage of the aforementioned trip to California to confirm the validity of his aspirations by stopping by one of the most renowned gyms in the country, Alliance MMA, where he sponged information off of former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and trained alongside the likes of Myles Jury, Jeremy Stephens and a personal favorite of his, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler, who later visited Ludus to conduct a seminar.
“There were a lot of different faces. Honestly, when I walked in, I didn’t even know who all of them were,” he recalled “It’s where some of the best fighters in the world train and I hung in there really well against them. I figured my opponent couldn’t be tougher than them. Even before that, here in our gym… we have some of the toughest guys you can find, so I knew I had good training partners. I knew going into my first pro fight that I definitely belonged there.”
He made his professional debut on September 6, 2014 at House of Fame 1: A New Dawn against fellow debuting Jacksonville-based competitor, Marc Graham. The fight didn’t even last a minute. Check out the video below.
On the fight, escaping the Kimura, reversing the position and securing the fight-ending armbar, Parsons had this to say: “I didn’t honestly think I was in too much danger. He definitely was attacking for the Kimura, but I felt I had the better position the whole time. When he went for the armbar he forgot to bring his knee up and I was kind of laying on top of his leg so I could reverse it and come up on top. Honestly, for that submission, I wanted to be on top like I do most of my fights. If you watch any of my amateur tape or training tape you’ll see that I prefer to get the takedown and to be on top rather than be on my back, for obvious reasons; I don’t want to get hit. But I felt the submission there and he kind of fell for it. So I took it and it ended up being tight and I wound up finishing the fight.”
The performance earned Parsons a nomination and subsequent win in the category of Best Submission at the third-annual Florida MMA Awards held in Sunny Isles, FL late last month. He’s following it up on March 14, this time at the BankUnited Center just minutes away from the University of Miami, at House of Fame 2: Nations Collide – USA vs. Cuba. He’ll be facing a slightly more tested opponent in “The Columbian Necktie” Jose Andres Cortes (2-1), who is looking to rebound from a failed bid to break into the World Series of Fighting last November at WSOF 18: Branch vs. Okami.
“I’m not going to force anything,” he maintained. “I like to stay calm and collected. I can see better that way. Whatever I see first—whatever open I see to finish the fight—is what I’m going to take. If it happens fast, it happens fast. If it happens later on, it happens later on. But I do see myself finishing the fight. My style is pretty aggressive. I like to attack and look for the finish. I always do. It’s how I train.”
When not competing, Parsons serves as assistant head coach and general manager at Ludus, so he is rarely away from the sport for long. According to Mitchell, who acts as both his head coach and manager, he was back in the gym the day after securing his first pro win. It’s that drive—the kind of competitive hunger that once saw Mitchell himself locked inside a cage standing across another well-trained pugilist bent on causing him physical harm—that has “Koach Ludus” (as his students call him) putting not only his belief, but the wellbeing of his gym and its attending students in the care of someone still not technically old enough to legally purchase an eight-ounce can of beer.
“I believe in Preston because he’s shown me that I should believe in him,” said Mitchell. “He hasn’t taken a day off since his last fight. I’ve never met anybody like him and I can’t do anything but put all my faith in him because I’ve never seen anybody train harder. I used to ask my wife all the time, ‘Why can’t I just find someone who trains as hard as I had? Why can’t I find anyone who wants it as much as I did? Where is that person?’ And Preston wants it more than I did. He trains harder than I ever trained. I think he’s going all the way.”
Preston Parsons faces Jose Andres Cortes at HOF 2: Nations Collide – USA vs. Cuba on March 14, 2015 at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, FL. Click HERE for more information on the event. For more information on Preston, Ludus head coach Billy Mitchell and Ludus Martial Arts & Personal Training, click HERE.
(Slider Image: Bevnet.com)