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July 13, 2010

 

Date with destiny next challenge facing Smith

ChallengeJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland Mixed Martial Arts fighter Randy Smith, left, spars with middleweight boxer Willie Monroe Jr.of Rochester while training at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex Thursday.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

When this process started two years ago, fighting for a heavyweight championship was never in the mind set of Cortland’s Randy Smith.
As part of an effort to recover from a troubled past and shed away some of the 355 pounds he was carrying around, Smith found a haven with the Central New York Mixed Martial Arts folks who were training in Polkville at the time.
Who knew the modest goal of getting himself in shape would be the first step towards an Aug. 14 date with destiny, Smith to face heralded Josh Diekmann on that date in a title match for the vacant heavyweight crown. The Smith-Diekmann confrontation will be the main attraction on an CFC Cage Xtreme Fighting card being conducted in fabled fighting town of Brockton in Massachusetts — the home of past boxing champions Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Smith was working out one day under the watchful eyes of trainer Erik Charles and decided to stick around when the CNYMMA stable of mixed martial arts fighters arrived. “I stayed for the team training and did pretty good,” he remembers. “Eight months after that, I had my first pro fight.”
Still somewhat of a rookie at age 36, Smith has developed into a capable 6-foot-4, 240-pound force with an 11-6 overall record. An eight-match win streak was snapped this past May when he lost to Joel Wyatt by submission in the Locked in the Cage IV card in Philadelphia.
Still, all the hard work has paid off.
“I got really dedicated and took off the weight,” he said of his work with the CNYMMA, his daily two and a half hour training sessions now taking place at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex in Cortland where the club has relocated. “I had always been a scrapper when I was younger. Growing up in Cortland I had a little bit of a drinking and drug problem, though. I haven’t had a drink or have done anything in 10 years.”
The sobriety and weight loss are two challenges Smith seems to have conquered. Now comes Diekmann, who is 10-3 as a professional and will have the home crowd advantage being a fellow New Englander. New London in Connecticut is Diekmann’s hometown.
“That’s good, less pressure on me and more on him,” said Smith of the match-up being held in Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium. “It’s more pressure when you’re fighting in front of your home fans.”
Since mixed martial arts are not licensed to hold events n New York State, CNYMMA fighters are always on the road, anyways.
Diekmann, 33, is 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds and prefers — as does Smith — staying on his feet once inside the cage.
“Every since I’ve started my first pro fight, he’s been the No. 1 guy. He’s the guy you wanted to fight because you knew if you fought him you were fighting the best,” says Smith. “He’s also a striker, so it has the makings of being a good fight.”
This will be the first time Smith will be fighting five rounds of five minutes each, which is why he’s currently involved in an eight-week camp in preparation. Tamden McCrory, a head trainer and competitor, has provided invaluable sparring, too.
“He’s a big aggressive guy. He’s bigger and stronger than me, but I’m going to be faster with better technique. I will out-box him and take him to school,” says Smith of the strategy going against Diekmann. Through the course of his career, Smith has learned lessons that helped him improve and build that eight-match winning streak.
“It’s just experience,” he says of his growth as a mixed martial artist. “I’m more of a striker, like to stand and bang, but early in my career I’d jump in and end up in bad spots, so I’ve learned to calm down more. And I have really good cardio. Usually when my opponent gets tired, I’m still fresh.”
Working with Charles and McCrory has been a plus, too. “We’re like a family and that helps.”

 

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