One of the most interesting aspects about covering mixed martial arts is learning the diverse backgrounds that come with all of the different fighters. Time and time again, fighters will come from one really strong background in a specific fighting modality, only to prove that they are much more effective at something else when they enter the cage. Two great examples are longtime MMA veterans Dan Henderson and Roy Nelson.

Both Henderson and Nelson have extensive experience in grappling, but they prefer to knock people out. Henderson is one of the most highly decorated Greco-Roman wrestlers to ever grace the Octagon and Nelson is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. However, between the two, they have earned 25 knockouts and only seven submissions.

While Nelson and Henderson are only two of countless examples of this anomaly, this is not a contradiction of styles that only exists at the top echelon of fighting. As fans are seeing on a yearly basis, more and more fighters entering the fold are winning in ways that might veer away from their initial training.

Stroup (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

Colorado native Adam Stroup has been training in one form or another since the mid-90s. His father, Greg, got him into martial arts at a young age, and then he tried some boxing before eventually getting back into martial arts. The school he was at initially was a more self-defense-oriented program, but he felt his calling was in MMA.

At Factory X Muay Thai in Englewood, Colo., Stroup found a home that is geared towards sport-oriented martial arts. Under the tutelage of undefeated Muay Thai artist Kru Marc Montoya, he quickly entered the cage as an amateur after making the transition, and in nine months, he amassed a 4-0 record with all of his wins coming by first- or second-round submission, before turning pro.

At a rangy 6-foot-3, Stroup would seem to be dangerous on his feet, which he is, but he has proven that he will absolutely beat anyone on the ground. Factory X is more than a kickboxing gym, and although Stroup wants to showcase his striking, his last opponent found out the hard way just how dangerous he is on the mat.

Jason Clayton, who was previously considered to be ranked higher than Stroup on the local level, faced off against the big man at Sparta Combat League: Army vs. Marines 4 on April 20. Stroup knew Clayton was going to try to take him down, but things didn’t go exactly as expected. After a round and a half of Clayton attempting takedowns and basically pinning his opponent to the cage, Stroup got him turned around, flurried him with strikes and eventually set up a guillotine choke to secure the victory.

“I prepared as well as I could for the fight,” said Stroup in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I worked as hard as I could on takedowns and stuff like that, because I thought that was going to be what he wanted to do. During the fight and after the fight, I was surprised that he didn’t get any takedowns. I was kind of nervous going into the fight.”

In retrospect, Stroup may have been nervous, but it didn’t show. He was completely dominant throughout the entire battle and once again got a submission, which is still the only way he has stopped an opponent. Although he would like to get a chance to TKO at least one guy, he is still happy with the outcome.

Stroup (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

“I like to get submissions, because then people think that I’m a jiu-jitsu guy or whatever,” admitted Stroup. “They can think whatever they want about it, you know? That was my seventh submission in the cage, so my BJJ coach, J.J. [Pugsley], gave me a blue belt after that. I was pretty happy for that. I was happy to get a big submission.”

And a big submission it was. Almost immediately after the fight, speculation began as to whom Stroup would see in the cage next. After some deliberation over a couple weeks, it finally came down to Jeremy Hart, a very dangerous fighter who was also 4-0 as an amateur and is now 6-2 as a pro. Hart has four knockouts and two submission wins as a pro and has only been stopped by submission.

“I’ve seen him fight before,” said Stroup. “He’s a really tough guy. It’s not going to be a wrestling match. This is going to be a stand-up brawl. I’m definitely going to have to push the pace, cardio-wise, a lot because he seems to have a wicked gas tank on him. I’m just going to come prepared to fight for 15 minutes.”

Hart has never been to decision as a pro or an amateur, meaning he either stops his opponent or gets stopped. There’s no middle ground for this middleweight. The fact that Hart has never been stopped with strikes is a real testament to his durability, because in some of his fights he has worn down fighters with his striking, as was the case against Team Quest’s Tyson Jeffries.

Jeffries exhaustively beat the tar out of Hart for two and a half rounds before ultimately letting Hart take the dominant position to pull off a submission. Hart is a grinder that doesn’t back down. But even that fight didn’t go past the second round. So, while Stroup is preparing for 15 minutes of action, history tells a different story, and a 15-minute battle is highly unlikely.

Against Hart, Stroup will need to be extra cautious not to gas out, which has been a problem in the past. He could have easily beaten Todd Meredith in his only loss, had he had the energy reserves, but a big flurry in round one left him gassed by round two, with round three being a simple fight for survival. Stroup is not letting that happen again.

“It’s going to end one of two ways,” the Coloradoan elaborated. “Maybe a finish second round or a three-round bloodbath brawl, you know what I mean? I’m thinking maybe in the second, one of the longer fights. I’ve definitely been pushing my cardio. I don’t want what happened in the Todd Meredith fight, when I got tired and wasn’t able to fight to my full capacity due to my fatigue.

“I’m running a lot, doing a lot of cardio and just trying to bump that up. I’m just building up the wind to go hard for 15 minutes.”

Stroup (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

As long as his cardio is on track, Stroup does not feel that there is any one aspect of his game that puts him at a disadvantage. In fact, no matter where the fight goes, he’s very confident, and against the 6-foot-tall Hart, he knows what his biggest x-factor is.

“As usual, my size is a big advantage,” explained Stroup. “I’m probably one of, if not the, biggest and definitely the tallest [middleweights] in Colorado. I feel like my striking is clean. If it hits the mat, I feel like I can beat anybody. I feel like I can catch anybody in a submission, because they’re just not going to be aggressive with me once we hit the mat. They leave their arms out or their necks out or something I can get a hold of.”

Stroup is undoubtedly the tallest of the middleweights in Colorado that really matter. In fact, of the arguably top 10 guys that aren’t currently signed with a major promotion, he is the tallest by at least two inches, as most of the fighters in the region have shorter, stockier, wrestler-type builds. Stroup is tall, rangy and possesses a mean submission game. This has proven to be a big obstacle for his opponents.

Sparta Combat League, run by Jeff Cisneros, is a pretty big up-and-coming promotion in the area, and this will be Stroup’s fourth fight under the banner. If he earns a victory in this one, big things are on the horizon. Once a titleholder at the amateur level, he’s ready for a shot at a pro strap.

“Jeff says he wants me to fight for the 185-pound Sparta belt in the fall, which I think sounds exciting,” exclaimed Stroup. “I’d like to win a belt for sure. Whatever works out money-wise and opponent-wise, but right now I’m just focusing on Hart.”

Focus has never been an issue for the 26-year-old. While his confidence runs high, so does his humility. Stroup has never been cocky and come fight time, he’s still a little nervous, even though he knows he has the skills to beat just about anybody. Come Saturday night, he will be confident, ready, and looking for a finish.

“I come to fight, you know? This is not a wrestling match. This is not a jiu-jitsu match. This is a duel to me. We’re going to duel it out on Saturday night.”

Adam would like to thank Factory X Muay Thai and all of his coaches and training partners. He would also like to thank his sponsors: Performance MMA, 5280 Armory, Rome’s Saloon, Ride the West RV, Marlee Liquor Mart and BDM Exhaust. Follow Stroup on Twitter: @AdamStroup

Top Photo: Adam Stroup (second from left) poses with his team (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator
  • Greg

    Nice article very intelligently written