Originally published in?Lincoln County Magazine
Winter is sweeping through the country. With many of us huddled inside sporting sweaters and blankets, two former Lincoln County residents are heating up their careers in mixed martial arts (MMA) and have both broken into the pro division. Working hard and steady is a part of their daily discipline, no matter the weather.
MMA mainly stems from the early 1900s with a Brazilian technique called ?Vale Tudo?. This stands for ?anything goes? and was seen as a way to develop the most successful hand-to-hand combat training. However, the sport developed into something much more, seeing a plethora of additional techniques, including karate, boxing, wrestling, grappling, sumo and Jiu Jitsu.
MMA has steadily grown in popularity since Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) signed in 2011 to air on Fox for seven years. The sport is also growing rapidly with the reality show ?The Ultimate Fighter?. The show follows MMA fighters throughout their seasons and careers.
UFC calls itself ?the fastest growing sports organization in the world.?
Representing Lincoln County are Josh Sampo (11-2 professional, 4-0 amateur), and Summer Bradshaw (0-1 professional, 4-0 amateur).
In the Red Corner?
Weighing in from Alamo, Nev., in the flyweight category, with a record of 11 wins and two losses, by way of six submissions and five decisions, a Pahranagat Valley High School graduate, Josh, The Gremlin, Sampo.
Son of Bill and Stephanie Sampo, Josh Sampo, 29, is described as a ?go-getter? by his father. In high school, Josh participated in many sports. Bill Sampo recalls an occasion during one of Josh?s first basketball games. Young Sampo grabbed the ball at the same time as an opponent. ?He wouldn?t let go,? his dad said. ?He swung that other guy around and brought him four or five feet in the air before the kid finally let go. Once he got the ball, they couldn?t get it away from him.?
After graduating in 2002 as a two-time Nevada state wrestling champion, Sampo went to college in Missouri at Lindenwood University and finished school as a three-time All American wrestler. He said he originally wanted to enter pre-med, but all his wrestling eligibility had been used during his enrollment. A major change, he said, ?helped me forego going to med-school.? He had also looked into enrolling in nursing school, where he said there was a wait. Eager to continue fighting, he eventually pursued education and received a master?s degree in education last May.
With other college wrestling teammates, Sampo tried local MMA fights and eventually found a home at the St. Charles MMA training center. After fighting 10 amateur fights, his coach, Michael Rogers, said it was time for him to go pro. ?It?s more than a hobby, but not as strict as a career,? Sampo said.
He recalled his first cage fight as being ?extremely nerve-racking.?
?Once they lock the cage, you have no other option other than to beat up your opponent,? he said.
Sampo currently teaches science at one high school and is the wrestling coach for another, both outside St. Louis. ?[The students] help keep me motivated,? he said.
Originally earning a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu, Sampo said MMA fighting is ?much safer than boxing.? He explained there are many different ways to win the fight and many different opportunities to ?take down? your opponent. Sampo explained the UFC as the organization that encompasses all MMA fighting. It?s the highest level to compete in for MMA. It takes a lot of work, fights and experience to be called to the UFC.
He fights in the flyweight category, which falls between 116 to 125 pounds. There are rumors that a smaller weight class is in the works.
He won the Flyweight Title in January of 2013 by submitting opponent Alexis Vila with a rear naked choke during the fifth round and defended the title successfully in October that year against Samuel Thao in a unanimous decision.
It was toward the end of 2013 when Sampo signed with the UFC and made his debut during The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale in Las Vegas, fighting against Ryan Benoit, who was also making his debut. However, weighing in two-and-a-half pounds over the flyweight limit, he was fined ten percent of his ?purse? and forfeited a $50,000 bonus for winning the ?Fight of the Night?.
Sampo fights for the St. Charles MMA association. Currently on a five-win streak, he has made his presence known on the pro-fighting circuit. His next match slates him against Zack Makovsky, coming up on February 22 on the UFC 170 bout at Mandalay Bay. Makovsky?s record is 3-0, after he gained victory against Scott Jorgensen and captured a Flyweight Championship on Nov. 22.
For training, Sampo does a three-mile run at 4 a.m. After teaching school, he coaches his wrestling practice. At 5 p.m., he starts MMA practice, boxes from 7 to 8 p.m. and does strength and conditioning training from 8 to 9 p.m.
He was tagged with the nickname, ?The Gremlin? after sparring with a 190-pound teammate. Trying to submit him with a choke hold, Sampo admits ?nibbling on his ear a little bit? to break his concentration. The name has stuck and will follow him through his career. Sampo has had bouts in Texas, Miami, Kansas, Chicago, Las Vegas and many local fights in St. Louis. His first loss was a most difficult moment for him. A last-minute decision pitted him against an opponent in a weight class above Sampo?s. He said, ?I fatigued myself trying to submit him.? He lost by decision.
?It?s all about hard work and taking advantage of opportunities,? he said. Although he enjoys visiting his parents in Alamo and thinks Lincoln County is a good place to raise children, he feels Missouri, right now, is providing the career he desires.
?I?m just a small-town kid making his dream come true,? he said.
In the Blue Corner?
Weighing in from Caliente, Nev., in the flyweight category, with an amateur record of four wins and no losses, by way of three knockouts and one decision, fighting for the Pariah MMA association, Summer Bradshaw?
Born in the Caliente hospital June 5, 1983, Summer Bradshaw is daughter to Luke Bradshaw and Karen Wood. She moved out of Lincoln County around the age of 10, after her parents were divorced, but came back for summer vacations. She moved back to Caliente when she was 17, working at local restaurants and for the Forest Service. Needing more full-time work, she moved to Colorado, where she found the Pariah MMA in Colorado Springs.
Like many children in Lincoln County, Bradshaw worked hard on her family?s ?Bradshaw Ranch? down Rainbow Canyon. ?My dad taught me how to shoot when I was 10 and how to drive around 9 or 10,? Bradshaw said.
She participated in regular school sports, some basketball and baseball but was always ?fascinated with martial arts, you know? Like the Karate Kid,? she said.
Although she describes herself as a ?really good kid,? things changed after she moved out of the house. She obtained her GED in North Carolina and tried to enroll for college, but was found in need of help. Then she went to a trade school and learned aesthetics, leading to laser hair removal for some doctors? offices around Colorado Springs.
Her dedication to MMA stems from difficult events leading up to her joining the sport. Summer has two daughters, now 7 and 8 years old. While being married to Brandon Brown, problems arose in the relationship, and ultimately, Brown took his own life, hanging himself with Bradshaw?s Taekwondo green belt.
?It was something really hard to go through, and it pushed me to go to MMA,? she said.
After Brown?s death Bradshaw made the switch to MMA and cage fighting.
Although her family didn?t care for the idea at first, she said, ?a lot of positive energy came out of fighting,? she said.
She found in MMA a way to discipline herself and change her thought pattern. ?There was a lot of guilt,? she said. Concentrating on fighting helped deal with her emotions.
?It brought me back mentally, to be there for my kids,? she said.
Currently, Bradshaw is a full-time fighter. She has been training for the last four to five years and fighting in the ring the last two. Her background style is Taekwondo. When making the transfer to MMA fighting, she said it was ?completely different.?
Her first matchup was against Maureen Riordon. Bradshaw did well, especially for being in the cage for the first time. Judges named her the victor by unanimous decision. Every fight since then has been won by knock-out. Bradshaw explained, ?I didn?t want anymore [wins] by decisions.?
Her current training consists of four to six hours per day. The morning routine includes technical and conditioning training. The evenings are filled with wrestling and muay Thai practice. She spars twice a week in live rounds. ?Six days a week, I?m training,? she said.
Her daughters, she feels, will not follow in her footsteps, as they don?t see fighting as one of their career options. Bradshaw has concerns about letting her daughters watch her in a fight, although she hasn?t lost one yet. ?They are proud of me and will tell their friends, ?My mom can beat up your dad,?? she said.
She had her first pro fight debut, on Jan. 24, facing Brittney Elkin from Wyoming, also new, with one win on her record. Bradshaw said the two had tried to pair up over the last few years, but it?s been canceled for one reason or another. She lost the fight by decision, but it?s safe to guess she will be back in the ring soon to try again for her first professional win.