The road to becoming involved in the mixed martial arts world is a unique one. For many, their journey to becoming a fight fan started when they saw two big white dudes named Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar beating the bejeezus out of each other on national television. Others might have been wrestlers in school, and after graduation they heard about this crazy sport where you wrestle, but also get to hit people in the head.

For 23-year-old Nebraskan Darrick Minner, his road to fighting began with his grandmother—yes, his grandmother. Although it might sound out of the ordinary, boxing was often on in his grandmother’s house, where Minner spent much of his childhood. It makes sense, then, that Minner’s family was so supportive in his decision to be a professional fighter.

“My family, just more than anything, they loved it,” said Minner in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “My grandma, who I grew up with, she loved to watch boxing and fighting. They see what kind of motivation and drive I have for it.”

Motivation isn’t hard to come by for the Premier Combat Center bantamweight. Minner believes that growing up poor in a small town certainly has had an effect on his tenacity, both inside and outside the cage. But wrestling in school is where he truly started to develop as an athlete.

“My wrestling’s helped me tremendously—with my cardio, with my weight cut, with my ability to learn,” Minner admitted. “I feel like a wrestler has a certain drive to want to do things, and I feel like that’s what’s helped me a lot.”

Minner (L) delivers a knee (Marshall Boyce/MB Photos)

Minner (L) delivers a knee (Marshall Boyce/MB Photos)

Minner attended a wrestling camp led by 1996 Olympic gold medalist, and native Nebraskan, Tom Brands. Brands, a wrestling icon, was a hero of sorts for Minner, who admired the Olympian’s style and intensity. Although Minner fights now in a cage as opposed to on a wrestling mat, it’s not hard to see how the bantamweight tries to emulate the style of his childhood hero.

“I’m intense, face forward, coming at you,” said Minner. “I’m a wrestler, obviously, but I’m learning everyday to stand up. As long as I trust in my hands, I can be a more well-rounded fighter, and that’s what I plan on doing. I don’t like to back up a lot.”

Minner’s aggressive style and wrestling background have paid dividends. With a record of 7-3, he has picked up six of his seven wins by first-round stoppage. However, Minner is straightforward about the fact that he still has much to learn, and he is trying his best to do so every time he gets in the gym.

“There were a couple things that I wasn’t doing that I improved,” said Minner, referring to his previous fight, a loss to John DeVall. Minner was dominating both the stand-up and the ground before getting caught by DeVall in an armbar at 4:38 of the first round. “My last fight was really good, but there were just a couple things that were just slowing [me] down a little bit.”

The Nebraskan seems to have taken the January loss with grace. He remains positive by improving at the gym and listening to his coaches. Minner understands that he doesn’t have time to sulk.

Minner’s next opponent, Austin Lyons, will present a sizeable challenge for him. Lyons, who had a brief appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 15, has a 10-2 record and a win in the Bellator cage. Minner realizes that a win over Lyons could very well be a large stepping stone to a big-time promotion, whichever one it is.

“Whatever comes next, I’ll keep training and keep fighting hard,” Minner said.

Darrick would like to thank everyone at Premier Combat Center, his management, his sponsors, and all his friends and family. Follow Minner on Twitter: @DarrickMinner and on Facebook.

About The Author

Zach Miller
Staff Writer

Zach is a Boston native and has had a fascination with martial arts since playing Mortal Kombat at five years old. He was introduced to MMA after watching The Ultimate Fighter 5: Team Pulver vs. Team Penn. A recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Zach seeks to one day become a full-time MMA journalist. In addition to watching the sport, he has also trained in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and tae kwon do. Zach has also written for NortheastMMA.