Most fighters need to find motivation to push hard in fights. Some find it while they fall behind by a round or two. Others find motivation in their reasons to fight, whether it be family or the memory of a friend. Yet others find themselves pushing as hard as they can because they know that no promoter can guarantee them another fight, and without those fights, those fighters can’t eat.

Jeremy Kimball, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., and a Team Wildman Vale Tudo prospect, knows all too well the importance of pushing harder and harder with each fight that comes and goes. In nine pro wins, Kimball pushed hard to turn the victories in his favor. He gets the opportunity to score a 10th career win at the expense of Keith Berry at Bellator 97 on Wednesday.

Kimball started off his MMA career with a 3-1 amateur run, with all three wins and the lone loss coming by TKO. Two of Kimball’s three TKO victories came in round one, as did his 2009 loss to Lumumba Sayers. After the loss to Sayers, though, Kimball dropped his first two pro bouts. Things looked bleak, but then he found a way to turn things around and earn his current 9-3 record. It was all the result of Thomas “Wildman” Denny’s move to Colorado.

“When I started as an amateur, [Denny] was not in Colorado yet, so I didn’t get to meet him then,” Kimball told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I had a rough go as a pro. I lost my second fight, and that’s when I met Thomas and he turned my whole career around. So I’d say he’s been there since the beginning, except for the amateur career.”

Kimball found a place to train through Denny’s Team Wildman Vale Tudo camp, but before finding Denny’s gym, Kimball had a trainer much closer to home in the form of his own father, no less. Kimball looks at Denny like a brother and gets a bit of extra motivation because of his father’s appearances in his corner.

“[My dad is] the one who got me started in the sport,” Kimball said, “He was my first trainer, and the best thing is that he and Thomas get along real well, so it’s just perfect

“I love having my dad in my corner. He’s the reason I do this sport, and I love him getting to watch me every fight.”

Most recently, Kimball’s father witnessed his son’s upset of Chidi Njokuani at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 7.

“I felt great coming into that fight, but I’d have to give myself a C or a D for my performance,” Kimball said. “I took more damage than I wanted to in the first round, but then I finally woke up, and once I was on my game, he couldn’t stop what I wanted to do.”

After Kimball upset Njokuani, Bellator contacted Denny about a bout on July 31. Kimball’s original opponent for the fight pulled out, however, and Bellator officials went looking for another opponent. Berry answered the call. Unquestionably, Kimball will find a challenge in stopping whatever Berry wants to do.

Jeremy Kimball (Bryan Henderson/The MMA Corner)

That does not mean that fans should expect a one-sided affair. Berry, a Reign MMA product, known as “The KO Kid,” owns the brunt of his wins by knockout or TKO, which suits Kimball very well. After all, with Berry, fans know they will get a clear and decisive winner every time, as well as an entertaining bout. Those who know Kimball from before his RFA 7 bout with Njokuani are already aware that those two characteristics also describe Kimball’s style to a tee.

“I think he’s worked on his ground game,” Kimball said, “I haven’t watched too much tape on him, [but] my coaches have. I just know he’s going to come in and swing with me. I like to strike and I like to mix it up, so we’ll just see where it goes and how the fight goes. It should be a fun one for everybody.”

With a win over Berry, a spot in a future Bellator middleweight tournament likely awaits Kimball, and at the end of the day, that drives him as much as his father or Denny’s tutelage. He knows Bellator matchmaker Sam Caplan will come calling with a potential quarterfinal bout in mind, but until that time comes, Kimball will look to take care of business first and worry about a tournament and a shot at Alexander Shlemenko’s title when he gets to that point.

“The only reason I signed with Bellator was because I want that tournament and that middleweight title,” Kimball said. “I know that comes with a win over Keith Berry. My biggest goal is to enter that tournament and win, and I think a Shlemenko fight would be awesome.”

Don’t sleep on top middleweight challenger Doug Marshall, though. The power in the hands of “The Rhino” presents problems for anyone and he always brings a fun fight to the cage. By the time Kimball earns a tournament berth, Marshall could be the man with the belt.

“[Marshall] is a tough guy. He’s been around a while,” Kimball said. “He hits like a train, and that’d be an exciting fight too. Either one of those guys would be a fun, fun fight for everybody.”

As far as Kimball’s fight on Wednesday goes, he knows to expect a firefight, but what about those fans who never saw him fight before Wednesday? What should they expect from the prospect? Kimball’s answer:

“Just be ready for ‘Fight of the Night.'”

Jeremy would like to thank Thomas Denny, his father Ernest Kimball, and all of his sponsors, as well as everyone who helped prepare him and supported him for this fight. Follow Kimball on Twitter: @Jeremykimball1

Photo: Jeremy Kimball (left), who faces Keith Berry at Bellator 97 (Paul Kincaid/Sanskrit Photography)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.