One of the most frustrating things MMA fighters deal with is recognition, and understandably so. When a fighter works his butt off for 60 hours a week to be the best he can be, it’s difficult when the higher-ups don’t take notice, even if the hard work pays off. In reality, this is true for any profession, but athletes are a bit different.

People all over the world show up to work, do a great job, and go unnoticed. It’s really one of the conditions of human capital. Whether an employee or an entrepreneur, though, at least in most cases the hard work pays off monetarily. In the United States, if a small-business owner puts in 100 hours per week, chances are he’s making well into six figures or more. For up-and-coming pro fighters, who are also entrepreneurs, that’s not usually the case. Some of these guys are working for an $8,000 paycheck a few times a year.

Fighters not only work hard at their craft, they also have to put their bodies through a ton of physical stress in the form of dieting, exercising and avoiding all the vices the typical Joe Schmo can engage in to unwind at the end of the day.

In MMA, there are thousands of promotions all over the world, big and small. For every promotion that exists, there are exponentially more fighters, training and busting their butts every day to be the best at their craft. When the hard work pays off, all they want is a little love, because they’re not receiving near the pay that any other employee would receive for that amount of work.

The UFC is the big payout for pro fighters. It’s the highest profile promotion that a fighter can compete for, and every fighter’s goal is to be a part of the organization. Unfortunately, not everybody is good enough to make it in, but there are a lot of diamonds in the rough that need to get a look sooner, rather than later. Colorado’s Marcus “Bad Intentions” Edwards is one of those guys.

On May 24, Edwards, who went 11-0 as an amateur and is 4-1 as a pro, fought at Disorderly Conduct 19 in Omaha, Neb. He faced former The Ultimate Fighter contestant and current Resurrection Fighting Alliance standout Dakota Cochrane. Even though Cochrane is a much more experienced fighter and a longtime pro, Edwards didn’t get shaken up one bit.

“Walking into the fight, it was one of the most intense crowds I’d ever walked out to,” said Edwards in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “They were yelling at me, chanting his name. I was definitely the underdog. But mentally I was there, prepared for war. Going into the fight, I know I had to come after him and my mind was set on bringing the fight to him.”

And, bring it he did. Edwards came out the aggressor and Cochrane fought back hard. However, it was shortly into the fight that both men hit the mat and Edwards choked out Cochrane at 1:46 of the first round. This was Edwards’ 12th first-round stoppage in his combined pro and amateur career.

“It showed me mentally that I have what it takes to get the job done against a highly skilled fighter that’s known in the world of MMA,” stated Edwards. “I believe in myself. There’s nothing different between me and the top guys. It’s just that they got the chance and they took the opportunity. It just made me realize there’s nothing different between me and those guys. Once I get the opportunity, I’ll take it.”

While the UFC, Bellator, RFA and many of the other larger organizations in North America have yet to show any love to the young fighter, a local up-and-coming promotion in Colorado has taken notice and is giving him a shot in his biggest fight yet.

On June 29, Edwards will face former TUF winner Efrain Escudero, a UFC and Rage in the Cage veteran who trains with UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson at The MMA Lab in Arizona.

“I found out about the fight with Escudero about two days before I fought Dakota,” explained Edwards. “It was actually while we were driving to Nebraska that I found out I was going to be fighting him on the 29th and that he signed the contract already. So, as they come, I just have to knock ’em down.”

So, two days prior to the biggest fight of his young career, Edwards found out about an even bigger match-up, and one would assume that messed with his head a little.

“I just kind of pushed that back in my mind,” he admitted. “I didn’t even think about it until yesterday when someone sent me a fight poster and it had my name on it. That’s when I was like, ‘Okay, I’m fighting him.’ I had put it in the back of my mind to focus on the task at hand. I just wanted to go out there and beat Dakota and focus on performing.”

With an understated grace, that’s exactly what Edwards did. He went out there, remained focused in front of a tough crowd and got the job done. He had done such a good job of repressing the idea of his next fight that he didn’t even think about it until days later.

Even though the big promotions still don’t seem to be ready for this rising star, Edwards finally feels like he’s getting somewhere in the world of pro MMA. In a way, it’s validation for him.

“It made me feel like I’m actually doing things,” said Edwards of the Escudero offer. “The contacts I’m making right now are reaching out and touching people, and I’m honored to be fighting Dakota and Efrain, these guys that have been at the big show and are known and have fought tough guys. When people tell me that I have a shot of winning and they’re going to put me in front of these guys, that’s a big accomplishment.”

It’s with that sense of accomplishment that Edwards continues to work harder and harder every day. One would think that beating Cochrane would be cause for celebration, but thoughts of Escudero or not, he had no intention of taking a break or slowing down.

“I left Omaha at nine o’clock the next morning,” admitted Edwards. “I went home, got some sleep and relaxed the following day. Then I got right back in the gym on Monday.”

The big shows may not have picked up the phone yet, but the brass of those promotions need to pay attention to this next battle. Edwards and Escudero are both great fighters, and when they step into the cage at Sparta Combat League: MMA Live at The Greeley Stampede in Greeley, Colo., on Saturday, the sparks are sure to fly. And in case the UFC brass isn’t already taking notice, Edwards has some parting words for them:

“Keep your eyes out and keep your mind open, because I’m coming to the top and no one can stop me but myself. I’ll be there soon.”

Photo: Marcus Edwards (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

  • Yolanda Walls

    Go Marcus… That’s my nephew and I’ve known him all his life…. This is part of his destiny, he is hard-working determined, focused and strong… And willing to earn what’s rightfully His… Bravo Marcus

  • darryl

    God damn that kud is ugly. Shave that stupid mohawk bro its not cool.