How former UFC fighter Clay Collard turned a boxing phenomenon in 2020

Getting into 2020, Clay Collard was a comparatively unknown MMA fighter who dabbled in boxing. Collard’s biggest declare to fame was taking his first UFC struggle, on quick discover, in opposition to future UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway in 2014. Collard misplaced through third-round knockout.

A 1-Three file with the promotion introduced Collard’s run within the UFC to an finish in late 2015, and he would not take a professional MMA struggle for greater than two years. It was throughout that window when Collard’s coach, Ryan Ault, inspired Collard to hone his boxing abilities. Though it was initially pitched as a method to enhance Collard’s MMA offense, a necessity for some fast cash when his automobile broke down pushed Collard into taking his first professional boxing struggle on every week’s discover in June 2017.

MMA pulled Collard again in for a few extra years as he discovered some success in regional promotions in Las Vegas and Salt Lake Metropolis. However by Might 2019, he was again in boxing — and since then, he has fought an astounding 11 occasions. Now it wasn’t fairly firstly, however even within the early phases of his transition into the game, Collard wasn’t getting blown out. He managed three attracts and one loss inside a six-week stretch, after which he started to choose up steam.

Collard is 6-1 in his previous seven fights, together with his solely loss coming in opposition to extremely touted prospect Bektemir Melikuziev of Uzbekistan. Collard’s trio of fights in 2020 have been a whirlwind. After knocking off the beforehand 9-Zero Quashawn Toler in January, Collard was concerned in one of the wildly entertaining two-round sequences in latest boxing historical past in opposition to Raymond Guajardo, who entered the struggle at 5-0. The struggle featured three knockdowns within the first spherical — two scored by Collard and one for Guajardo — earlier than Collard finally scored a second-round TKO.

Regardless of seemingly being set as much as be a punching bag for younger prospects who have been both undefeated or carried only one loss to get some rounds in, Collard has proved to be greater than these younger fighters can deal with.

In every of his previous three fights — most not too long ago in opposition to a 6-Zero David Kaminsky in June — Collard has knocked off a promising younger, undefeated prospect, with the previous two taking place on nationwide TV. Immediately, Collard — who mentioned he all the time envisioned his future being in a cage — finds himself with some profession momentum for his exploits contained in the squared circle.

“I used to be 100 % on doing MMA the remainder of my profession,” Collard mentioned. “I am a fighter, man. I similar to to struggle. Boxing, MMA, it does not matter to me so long as I can compete. I labored arduous, and I work each single day. We put hours within the fitness center. So I need to compete at one thing I like to do, and being a fighter, and being a boxer, an MMA fighter, we do not have a whole lot of time to do it.

“Finally, all people will get too outdated, so I simply need to compete as a lot as I can.”

Collard’s latest boxing success additionally has introduced on a little bit of a following, with followers and fighters alike exhibiting their appreciation. ESPN boxing commentator and former two-division world champion Timothy Bradley applauded Collard’s efficiency, citing his aggression and unconventional angles, throughout a June 18 broadcast on ESPN. Bradley even went as far as to appoint Collard as his high fighter of the midyear for accumulating a 3-Zero file in opposition to high prospects in 2020.

After the June victory over Kaminsky, High Rank publicist Evan Korn mentioned he obtained quite a few requests to interview Collard. Individuals wished to know extra a couple of principally unpromoted undercard fighter. The tide was turning.

“I did not suppose I might blow up this huge, I did not suppose I would get this a lot publicity from it,” admitted Collard. “I imply, boxing’s big, it has been round method longer than MMA, so there’s a whole lot of followers in boxing. I did not understand how a lot publicity you may get simply boxing, simply because it wasn’t my sport on the time. However now, I like it.”

After defeating Kaminsky, Collard (7-2-3, 2 KOs) was given one other task for Tuesday. He’ll face South African-born Lorawnt-T Nelson in a six-round middleweight bout. As soon as once more, Collard will get a showcase struggle on ESPN (Eight p.m. ET).


Collard’s uncommon and entertaining run throughout boxing and MMA stemmed from a basis set in boxing when he was rising up.

Collard performed quite a lot of sports activities all through his childhood in Fortress Dale, Utah. He placed on boxing gloves for the primary time at age 11. That is when his grandfather, recalling an outdated newspaper article about an Elks Lodge in close by Value, Utah, having a boxing fitness center, known as and requested concerning the availability of utilizing that house for coaching. After being instructed the ability had been closed for a couple of years after the pinnacle coach had died, a telephone quantity was supplied for that coach’s son, Mark Montoya.

Montoya had been considering reopening the ability, and when Collard’s grandfather known as, his grandfather mentioned, ”Nicely, I acquired 4 children prepared to start out tomorrow.” Inside every week, Collard had his first boxing coach.

At Emery Excessive College, Collard lettered in wrestling. However earlier than boxing may get its claws in him, Collard felt the pull of combined martial arts. He started his professional profession within the March 2011, earlier than he had even graduated highschool.

“A couple of week and a half after I turned 18, I had my first combined martial arts struggle,” mentioned Collard, who first fought for a regional promotion in Moab, Utah. By that Might, Collard had rattled off three TKO wins, however his uncooked talent set left him with some painful battle scars early on.

“I ate some actual arduous leg kicks and could not stroll for a few days, and I am like, ‘I higher take a few weeks off,”’ Collard mentioned.

After constructing his file to 13-4 (1 NC), Collard acquired the decision he had been ready for from the UFC. With only a week’s discover, he took the struggle in opposition to Holloway, and regardless that he misplaced, Collard earned a possibility to show himself within the promotion. He gained his subsequent struggle, in opposition to Alex White, however after dropping a pair of determination losses in 2015, Collard was finally launched.

“I liked combating for the UFC; it was a giant dream of mine. I fought a whole lot of huge names proper off the bat,” Collard mentioned. “I used to be younger. I feel I used to be a bit of too younger mentally. I actually loved combating for them. I simply do not know in the event that they acquired one of the best Clay. My private life wasn’t that nice — I used to be out and in of a relationship. I used to be simply younger, man. I simply did not have my head on my shoulders 100 %, like I ought to have.

“I acquired good expertise. I fought good guys. However I feel any of these dudes, if I fought them once more, I feel I put ’em away.”

After his UFC launch, Collard dipped his toe into the boxing world together with his June 2017 win over Jamey Swanson. Collard bounced forwards and backwards between boxing and MMA in fights for regional promotions to a modicum of success in every world.

Collard finally moved in with Ault in Idaho after which to a ranch in Utah, the place all they did was ”stay, eat and breathe the struggle way of life,” Collard mentioned.

The outcomes have seemingly spoken for themselves. Collard is 4-1 in MMA since 2018, along with his 6-1 stretch in boxing. When you think about the caliber of boxing prospect that Collard has been up in opposition to — Collard’s three victories in 2020 have come in opposition to opponents with a composite file of 20-0 — it speaks to how far he has come within the sport.

“Me, personally, I’ve by no means believed in the entire A-side, B-side factor,” Collard mentioned of the extent of his latest opponents. “They’re in that ring with me; I am not within the ring with them. That is the mindset I wish to have. So I simply work arduous, I’ve nice teaching and an incredible group, and I all the time push myself to the restrict.”


Collard would be the first to let you know he does not have what you name traditional approach or essentially the most sound fundamentals. His type is not precisely elegant or fashionable, however he makes it work.

“I do know I am not essentially the most technical boxer, and my coaches have been working with me rather a lot with that, as a result of MMA is completely different, vary is completely different,” Collard defined. “I’ve extra instruments [in MMA]: I can kick, I can elbow, I can bump ’em.”

For Collard, it is a fixed battle to not flip a left hook right into a not-so-accidental elbow throughout the face or all of a sudden thrust his legs ahead to kick an opponent.

“I’ve to sort of watch myself, as a result of I can get deducted factors for one thing I usually do in combined martial arts,” Collard mentioned. “I am not that technical of a boxer; I’ve by no means claimed to be a boxer. I say I am a fighter.”

One factor Collard does very effectively tactically is his capability to throw punches whereas he marches ahead, no matter whether or not his left or proper foot is in entrance of him. Whereas most right-handed boxers are solely comfy, or keen, to chuck leather-based if their left foot is out in entrance, for Collard, he can seamlessly shoot out punches whereas transitioning from the orthodox stance, to southpaw.

“Even in combined martial arts, I preferred to make use of my fingers, I’ve all the time been a boxer at coronary heart,” Collard mentioned. “I simply love getting in there and buying and selling, man. I like buying and selling leather-based with individuals. I like combating within the pocket. I like how boxing’s within the telephone sales space and also you’re proper in entrance of one another the entire time.”

Collard remains to be solely 27 years outdated, and whereas he has needed to tackle a couple of odd jobs through the years to maintain some cash in his pocket, he says he want to struggle into his late 30s. The pull of MMA hasn’t stopped, and a contract with the Skilled Fighters League means Collard will struggle for $1 million when the PFL resumes fights.

But when Collard can proceed to experience his present wave of momentum, there may effectively be a stable future in boxing forward of him. Ought to Collard come out victorious and comparatively unscathed this week, High Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman mentioned he want to e book Collard once more in August. Collard’s scrappy nature and willingness to struggle anybody have made him a favourite of Goodman, who shortly turned enamored with the fighter.

“He is simply one among these guys that regardless of who you place him in with, he will not say no to,” Goodman mentioned. “These guys, if it have been as much as them, they’d struggle as soon as every week.”

After all, Collard has to win, and he’ll enter Tuesday’s struggle in opposition to Nelson in a comparatively unfamiliar position — as the favourite on the outset of the bout.

“I like being the underdog; I like proving individuals flawed. It is one thing satisfying whenever you’re alleged to lose — and win,” Collard mentioned. “I assumed I used to be going to win the entire time. With this struggle, I am not taking a look at it any completely different. I attempt to struggle all people like they’re one of the best on the planet, as a result of should you begin overlooking individuals and begin considering, ‘Oh, this man is not nearly as good because the final man,’ you possibly can’t suppose like that. That is whenever you begin shedding.”

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