For any mixed martial artist making the phase change from amateur to pro fighting, it is considered the true launch of one’s career as they embark on their long expedition toward greatness in the sport.
Hailing from Pittston, Pennsylvania, 28-year-old Gary Peters will be making a big transition in his career as he makes his professional debut at Cage Fight 11 on March 17 against Billy Dee Williams.
Dedicated, diligent, and humble with over five years of experience and eight fights under his belt, Peters has always been a constant seeker toward bettering himself as a fighter. By following this winning formula it has assisted him in being fully prepared for the long venture that awaits him during his conversion into the pro ranks.
USCS got the opportunity to speak with Peters as he talks about his development as a fighter, his upcoming fight, and future aspirations. He also shared his thoughts on his recommend gloves for newbies.
Everyone has had their own reason for pursuing a career in MMA. What was your reason for wanting to become a fighter?
Gary Peters: Originally I just wanted to learn Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to be able to defend myself. I was one of the smaller guys growing up but realized soon after watching Royce in action that size isn’t always the determining factor. Like everyone else I was a little skeptical the techniques could work so easily against an untrained opponent. After a few online instructional videos I was surprising much larger friends of mine who played power sports such as football and weightlifting. Seeing how I was able to see results so quickly without proper instruction, I immediately found a place to train regularly with students of various skill levels. I was able to pick-up details quickly and had the “never quit” attitude. Those attributes enabled me to excel in various grappling tournaments and eventually caused me to crave more competition. I found myself spending more and more time with the “MMA Guys” and wanting to learn new skills. Eventually my focus shifted from just being able to defend myself to wanting to test myself in the cage.
Thinking back to when you first started, what would you say has been the most enjoyable part about your experience?
Gary Peters: Martial Arts have been the most positive influence on my life. I enjoy being able to help all of my training partners and new students who walk through the door every day. Because of Martial Arts I am a more confident and respectful person. Knowing how many people care about your success is priceless and is absolutely my favorite experience as a fighter.
What has been the most difficult hurdle you encountered thus far and how did you overcome it?
Gary Peters: The most difficult hurdle I had to overcome was my unanimous decision loss as an amateur fighter. I started out 3-0 high on life thinking I was on the fast path to the pros. This was a huge wake-up call and caused me to focus more on other aspects of my training such as Boxing, Judo and Wrestling. I learned quickly to excel against higher forms of competition I would need to be a well-rounded fighter and train harder than ever. It is important to listen to your coaches, maintain a humble attitude and take everything in. Your coaches know more than you do, listen to them.
Making your amateur debut several years ago, what were some of the feelings and emotions you were experiencing heading into your first fight?
Gary Peters: Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. The first time I saw my opponent was at the weigh-ins and he was huge. Well in my mind he was anyway, even though we were in the same weight class. My mind was racing and I was nervous for sure. Despite his intimidating look he was actually a pretty nice guy and didn’t “mean mug” me once. A great majority of MMA fighters are respectful but like any other sport you will always have a few who lack that characteristic. The bout only lasted one minute and forty-seven seconds. A time permanently burned into my mind as a reminder of what hard work can do for a novice kid trying to become a fighter. I managed to come out on top with a submission victory and carried the momentum into my next two fights.
Some fighters have more amateur fights than others. With eight amateur fights under your credentials, how important was it for you to build experience before deciding to go pro?
Gary Peters: Every fighter that competes in the Amateur ranks does so with varying levels of skill and ability. My personal belief is that any fighter looking to fight pro should have at least 5-10 Amateur fights before making the transition. MMA isn’t like football or basketball where you need to be 21 years old, able to run a certain time and jump a certain height. Skill, mental toughness, heart, experience and conditioning play much larger roles. The Amateur rank should be used as a testing ground to see what areas you need to work on before transitioning into a pro. In other words, don’t rush it!
Speak of going pro, you will be making your professional debut this month. For those MMA hopefuls out there, what is the transition like?
Gary Peters: Fortunately for me the transition hasn’t been too bad because I train all year. I’m not one of the guys who come in two months before a fight to get in shape. I love the history and techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Boxing so learning more about them is exciting to me. Think about things that excite you in life. I’m sure you could go on for hours thinking about them or studying them. Having martial arts as my primary interest allows me to enjoy what I’m doing rather than making it feel like work. I guess the bottom line is if you already train every possible day as I do you will transition just fine. If you do not train as often as you feel a pro needs to then you need to either find further motivation or decide whether this kind of career is right for you.
Going into your debut how important is this fight for Gary Peters?
Gary Peters: My first fight meant the most to me up until my last Amateur fight in November 2011. I fought a really tough opponent for the Welterweight Title and managed to come out on top. Now that I have the confidence and experience to turn pro I feel this is the most important fight in my career. I am positive I will start off in the right direction, one step at a time.
What has been the mental and physical preparation like or isn’t it any difference compared to your past fights?
Gary Peters: This one is different because I have absolute confidence in my abilities. I am mentally prepared and focused to fight. This fight cannot come fast enough, I would fight tonight if I could. Physically it has been more exhausting because I am doing much more sparring and conditioning work in preparation for the five minute rounds. The pressure guys put on themselves before even stepping into the cage is draining as well. You have to make sure you are in the absolute best shape of your life.
Looking onward what are some of the things you are looking forward to through this venture?
Gary Peters: Ultimately I would like to compete for the largest MMA promotions in the world. I have the work ethic to get there but for right now I only see my next opponent. I try not to get caught up in the distant future since so much can change in an instant. I like to focus on my next task, successfully complete that task and move on to the next. Even though I do have a good amount of experience in the cage I still consider myself an infant. There is so much more to learn and incorporate into my game. My coaches show me things every day where I wonder why I never thought of it before. As long as I can continue to learn and grow as a fighter the sky is the limit.
Finally define Gary Peters the fighter?
Gary Peters: Most people who look at me don’t believe I’m an MMA fighter because I do not have an intimidating look or act like an obnoxious “tough guy.” I think it’s sad many people relate to fighters in that way but I think as more people realize this is a sport and we are athletes their perceptions will change. I have a full time job, attend college classes and train six days per week. I’m normally the first one in and the last one out for the night classes. I have the work ethic and mindset to achieve anything in life. When I’m not preparing for a fight I am normally helping out other students and doing what I can to help promote Scranton MMA.
Would you thank anyone before we wrap up?
Gary Peters: I’d like to say thank you to my girlfriend MaiLynn who is amazingly supportive of my training, my coaches Jeff Reese, Chris Mills, Tom McGuire, Tyler Calvey, Vito Picozzo, all of my training partners at Scranton MMA, all of the people who spend their hard earned money to purchase a ticket to watch me fight and of course all of my friends & family who make all of this worthwhile.