Sometimes, world-class MMA fighters can fly under the radar, and, for one reason or another, just can’t seem to capture the attention of the largest promotion in the business, the UFC. It can be due to the fact that they’re fighting on obscure events or in smaller countries, that they have little to no management or that they’re just too young to be known yet.

For 23-year-old Josh Shockley, it’s probably the latter of those factors, even though he’s a dynamic young fighter. Competing since 2006, Shockley first jumped into the ring as an amateur at only 16 years of age, and it’s hard to land on the big dog’s radar when you’re too young to compete in the organization. However, a lot has changed since then.

Starting in January 2007, Shockley took the pro game by storm. He went on a six-fight, two-and-a-half-year winning streak before getting his first taste of a major promotion through his Bellator debut.

Shockley (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

The Indiana native suffered his first loss in MMA by submission at Bellator 36 in March 2011. He bounced right back with three wins in a row. Two of those victories came in Bellator, including a notable decision win over Shamar Bailey, a veteran of the UFC and The Ultimate Fighter. Two months later, though, he dropped only his second loss, also by submission.

“The fight with Keith Schneider was a really weird fight for me,” said Shockley. “My daughter had recently been born and I wasn’t really in that fighting spirit.”

While fighting in the Octagon is his primary career goal, it’s tough for such a young man to imagine how life changes when you introduce a child into the mix. Now that his daughter is 14 months old, Shockley has adapted well.

“I have my daughter, and my girlfriend works and stuff, so I’m home with my daughter all day,” explained Shockley. “I take her to the babysitter’s in between practices. My life is pretty plain lately.”

Life may be pretty plain right now, but it tends to get a little more interesting when Shockley’s fighting spirit kicks in. He discovered that drive again when he came off that second loss to earn his 10th professional victory and eighth first-round stoppage. At Hoosier Fight Club 13, back in November 2012, Shockley submitted Mike Cannon, who was 5-1-1 and hadn’t been beaten since 2007. Although it took a little longer than his usual stoppages, Shockley defeated Cannon at 3:23 into the fight. Since he was used to this type of win, he didn’t feel there was much to take away.

“It was just a different fight on a different day,” Shockley said. “I feel more comfortable every fight.”

Hopefully, Shockley isn’t too comfortable going into his next fight. At Hoosier Fight Club 16 tomorrow night, he will be facing arguably his toughest opponent yet in WEC veteran and former TUF contestant Micah Miller. Miller is a tough competitor who has racked up a 17-4-1 record in the last seven years. Like Shockley, Miller, at age 26, is extremely young to have such an established record. Both fighters have big gas tanks and most of their wins have come by submission. However, while Shockley has only lost by submission, Miller has only lost by knockout or decision, so it makes for an interesting match-up. His fight with Miller is a contest that was originally slated for the Hoosier Fight Club 15 card in April.

“I knew about this fight probably 15 weeks ago,” said the Indiana native. “We were supposed to fight a while back, like eight weeks ago, but I ended up getting hurt about two weeks before the fight. I hurt my back a little bit. Micah said he would still do the fight, so it just got pushed up a little bit.

“It’s a pretty good match-up. I feel that I’m better everywhere. I feel I’m better at submissions, I’m better at wrestling, I’m a better boxer. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and not getting caught.”

Not getting caught is key when facing a savvy grappler like Miller, who holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. However, Shockley’s camp is no joke. He trains at Duneland Vale Tudo in Hobart, Ind. The camp houses a lot of up-and-coming mixed martial artists, as well as some UFC vets.

Shockley (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“Keith Wisniewski is my primary coach,” stated the young fighter. “My primary training partners are Darren Elkins, Dustin Pape, Sean McMurray, Jeff Green, Justin Mora—those are a pretty good group of guys.”

With that kind of camp and a long time to prepare, Shockley does not expect this fight to drag along.

“I see a pretty high-paced fight,” Shockley admitted. “Micah prides himself on cardio, as do I. It will be pretty high-paced, maybe some wrestling mixed in, and searching for submissions as well. I see me controlling it wherever it goes. Wherever I want to go is where it will go.”

Confidence is key when facing a vet like Miller, and Shockley knows that this win is key to get to the next level. So, what is the next level?

Shockley has had a taste of the bigger stage at Bellator, but, like every other fighter who’s worth his salt, he has one goal in mind: the eight-sided cage. However, he is young, patient and willing to do what it takes to make it to the top promotion. A win at Hoosier Fight Club is another step in the right direction.

“This is a one-off kind of deal,” said Shockley. “I won’t get into the UFC with a win, or I think it’s a longshot, either way. I’ll fight for [HFC] again, until I get in. I want to give [the UFC] the fights that I need, so I can get in. Just string some wins together and get in.”

Simple, focused and ready to go, that’s what this young man is all about—chasing the dream. However, in a fighter’s life, there is always some downtime. There will always be times where they have to live life, and it’s usually between camps. After this next one, Shockley has a little excursion planned.

“After the fight, I’m going to wind down,” said Shockley. “I don’t like doing too much before the fight. After this one, me and some friends are going to do a rock climbing/whitewater rafting trip to West Virginia. So, I do some things, just not much during camp.”

Outdoor adventure can be a great experience for winding down after a long camp and what is sure to be a vicious battle. But make no mistake about it, Shockley has one focus in his fighting career, and that’s UFC glory.

“I’m not just a local fighter. I belong in the UFC. I’m just waiting my turn. I belong there. It’s just a matter of getting there.”

Josh Shockley would like to thank his coaches and training partners at Duneland Vale Tudo, his girlfriend and daughter, as well as his sponsors: Accelerated Rehab, Union Home Mortgage, Planet Green Cremation and Realty Executives Premier.

Top Photo: Josh Shockley (top) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator