In the mixed martial arts world, humble beginnings are a common thing. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a rising MMA promotion hosting shows in small memorial halls and school gymnasiums. Other times, it’s a much less conventional setting.

Former UFC light heavyweight Jason “The Hitman” Brilz knows about this sort of scenario. Although he does not lay claim to a promotion, he knows Ryan Stoddard, the owner of Victory Fighting Championships, very well. When Stoddard prepared to showcase Victory FC’s first card in 2002, Brilz got the call to headline the bill opposite Nate Schroeder. Fans with a curiosity about the card will only learn as much as the fact that the event took place in Iowa, though. However, those that fought there and the people in attendance know a bit more. For its debut, Victory FC managed to pull off an event emanating live from an unlikely choice for an MMA venue.

“It was in the middle of a roller-skating rink,” Brilz told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “They had a cage set up, and everybody came in. They had warm-up centers, where you’d warm up, and they had a couple of seats set up in the back. You had to walk through the crowd, everyone sitting in there, smoking and drinking, and there was no aisle or anything.”

Brilz (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

Brilz (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

History buffs of the MMA world may recall that around 2002, MMA began to pick up a bit more steam as a surging mainstream product. With the UFC gaining momentum, more people looked to break into active MMA competition in any way they could. For the then 5-1 prospect Brilz, the little promotion with the cage dead-center in the middle of a roller-skating rink provided him with a platform on which to get noticed. There were also other perks involved, including a paycheck for beating up someone inside of a cage.

“Back then, it was $50-$100 or something,” Brilz said. “And it’s like ‘Wow, you’re going to pay me to fight? You bet!’ So it was a small venue for the cage, pretty much, but it was pretty cool.”

The Ralston Arena in Ralston, Neb., will bring things full circle for Brilz, who rides a two-fight winning streak into what will mark his seventh appearance for Victory FC.

“I know the promoter, Ryan [Stoddard], and I fought in the first Victory, when it was held at the roller-skating rink, right in the middle of the rink, so I’ve been with Victory since the very beginning,” Brilz explained. “When I got let go from the UFC, I took almost a year off, got my head on right, been getting things pretty good in practices, and so that was the big thing there. I manage myself, so I just approached Stoddard and said, ‘You got a fight?’ and he said, ‘Oh yeah,’ so he was able to sign the fight.”

Brilz’s opponent, rising prospect Dallas Mitchell, brings in a two-fight winning streak of his own and is 5-1 overall. Coming into this fight, Mitchell only owns one unanimous decision loss, which came against Jake Heun, as well as four submission wins.

“From what I’ve heard and seen, he’s a decent wrestler, a good submission guy, tough, and just a good up-and-comer,” Brilz said. “He wanted a step up in competition and some name recognition to get his name up there. I know he has a decent record—he’s 5-1—he had three or four amateur fights that he won, so he has about 10 fights under his belt.”

When it comes right down to it, Mitchell presents a threat to Brilz, whose only submission loss came in 2001 when he suffered his first professional defeat. The Omaha native’s losses in the UFC came in the form of two debatable split decisions and two knockouts. Mitchell may bring a solid grappling pedigree to the cage on Dec. 14, but Brilz does not expect to see anything too unique when the two duke it out.

“There’s nothing that I haven’t seen before in a fight, and there’s nothing that I haven’t seen in the gym,” Brilz said. “My training partners are phenomenal, and I think that’s what it comes down to. I believe in my training partners, and when you have good training partners, you can only get better. I think that’s what gives me the edge coming into this fight, just training with all the guys I work with. That’s why you fight the fight.”

Brilz (R) (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

Brilz (R) (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

When it comes to that aforementioned edge, Brilz can attribute it to a handful of individuals, including Anthony Smith and Ryan Roberts, both of whom compete on this card. Picking up learning experiences from a teammate in practice does wonders for any mixed martial artist, but when one fights on the same card as his teammates, it actually makes things easier. For Brilz, that made for a much better training camp than he could’ve asked for, and he will look for that hard work in the gym to pay dividends towards a third consecutive victory come Saturday night.

“It makes fighting a lot easier, because now, when I come into practice, I know these guys are going to be here. They’re not jacking around, and once they start at practice, it’s go time,” Brilz explained. “I know they’ll be here, on task, focused, and if I’m tired at the end of practice, they’ll call me out on it. They’ll say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this,’ or there will always be somebody there to keep me in check so I’m not slacking.

“The last three fights [of VFC 41], you have Ryan Roberts in the main event, Anthony Smith in the co-main event. I’m right before Smith, about 12-14 guys are fighting, so it’s awesome. We got a lot of up-and-comers, such as B.J. Johnson and Kassius Kayne, and this card is going to be awesome.”

With a win over the hungry prospect Mitchell, don’t expect the quality of Brilz’s future foes to diminish. He will continues to look for bouts against proven talent, and with names like Eric Schaefer, Josh Bryant and Tim Boetsch as part of his win column, Brilz’s train of momentum does not appear in danger of getting derailed anytime soon. In fact, if he can get more fights against the best that the world of MMA can offer, especially ones like Mitchell, he will go home an even happier individual.

“I’m always looking to fight the best guys out there. Ever since my last fight in the UFC, I fought a guy from Eric Schaefer’s camp who was 6-1, and then I fought Josh Bryant, who was 15-2 or something like that and a Ultimate Fighter guy. Dallas Mitchell is 5-1. So, I’ve fought a lot of up-and-comers,” Brilz said. “I’m at that point in my career where I don’t want to fight a guy who’s 1-1. I figure if I’m training as hard as I’m training, then I want to go out and be tested. I don’t want to get any easy fights. So, after this, if I can get a short-notice fight with the UFC or Bellator or anything like that, you know, I’d love that.”

Jason would like to that his coaches, teammates and staff at Omaha’s Premier Combat Center, as well as Disorderly Conduct for standing by him in recent years. Follow Brilz on Twitter: @JasonBrilz

Photo: Jason Brilz (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

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.