HOUSTON, TX – For those of us in the media who cover combat sports, networks and relationships are critically important. We interact with a lot of people in all areas of combat. Promoters, coaches, fighters, agents, management, etc. After all, this is a relationship-based business and if you want the latest scoop, you’ll be hard-pressed to move forward without a network of trusted people you can rely on.
But as good as operating a network can be, there can be pitfalls. Sometimes there is definitely some hidden agenda put in place by a promoter, trainer or sponsor that deliberately excites a fighter because he has something to gain. Every time I hear something like, “You know, you really should lean into…” or “This fighter is going to be UFC champion in a few years…”, I smile and nod politely. on the outside, but on the inside, I’m full of skepticism and take everything with a grain of salt.
That was definitely the case for me late last year when I first heard about a promising bantamweight contender from Houston, Texas. Keron reed. When I asked about him there was no shortage of statements about how talented and talented a fighter he was. Initially, I thought there needed to be a bit of embellishment. There’s no way this man with no professional experience could be as good as everyone told me he was.
I can’t identify exactly what it was, but something in my gut told me to put aside my skepticism and doubts and see if I could get to the bottom of it on my own. So I took the leap. In December 2021, I watched every second of film I could get my hands on from Keron Reed. I spent countless hours sorting through everything I could on him without overlooking anything. I’ve spoken to many people on and off the record about him. I even contacted his trainer.
— Sherdog (@sherdogdotcom) May 25, 2019
Adam Copely is a retired mixed martial artist and trains Reed at the War Training Center in Houston, Texas. If there are two things you need to know about Coach Copely, the first would be that he’s brutally honest about anyone and everything. Second, he is very difficult to impress. If there was any noise about one of his fighters that he didn’t think was true, he would be the first to dismiss it.
Speaking with MMA Sucka about Reed, Coplely said, “I think he’s the best bantamweight not in the UFC. I think he had beaten most of the bantamweights in the UFC…I’m blessed to see him day in and day out and see him compete against bantamweights already in the UFC and beat the [expletive] out of these guys. I am so impressed with him. He is really talented and works harder than anyone I know.
What makes things even more incredulous is that Reed has no martial arts training. He didn’t grow up in a dojo or wrestling like the others. Rather, he had to learn all the intricacies of MMA on the fly, and although he’s technically been an active fighter for four years, in reality he’s only been active for half that time because he missed out. a lot of time due to injuries.
By the time Reed was finally ready to make his highly anticipated professional debut at CFFC 112 in August against Kelvin Sterling, it was more than fair to have tempered expectations of him. After all, it had been almost three years since his last fight.
Yet, from the opening bell to the conclusion of his first professional fight, Keron Reed dominated every aspect of the fight against Sterling. He commanded the center of the cage at all times, and once he found his range and rhythm, threw plenty of bursts that his opponent had no answer for. While Reed would continue to raise his hand at the end of the night, he was not entirely satisfied with his performance. In fact, before the gloves could even be removed from his hands, he was looking at the camera and saying, “It’s been 2 years and 8 months. [since my last fight] …I could have finished, but I was too tall and [expletive]. Next time I’ll be fine. I will finish it.
Speaking to Reed for this story, he clarified what he meant by his initial remarks about his professional debut.
“Of course, I would have liked to finish but it was a good performance. I took no damage, only one blow I got hit with grazed me, but it didn’t land flush. It took me a while to get started; I’ll blame that on the layoff…but I had a 10-8 round in the 3rd. If you look at my opponent at the end of the fight, that’s the closest thing to an end. I left a lot on the table…but this is my first pro fight. I’m not supposed to have it all figured out yet. To be a fighter is to grow and learn from everything. That’s why it’s a journey… I still have a long way to go…”
In all of my interactions with Reed to date, I have found him to be confident, self-aware, and grounded. A rarity for someone with his level of talent and only a few years away from high school. But as excited as people are about his future in MMA, it wasn’t always that way. Just a few years ago, when he was still a high school student, teachers told him that he would never be anything but a fast food worker. He has also seen first-hand promising athletes from his high school receive scholarship offers for D-1 schools who now find themselves struggling with homelessness or substance abuse. So whether it’s praise or criticism as a professional fighter, Reed manages to turn it all around.
“I directed everything. But at the end of the day, words are just words…. It’s just one person’s opinion. I respect the game too much to let good or bad opinions go through my head. When I make millions [MMA] that’s when I’ll know I’m really good as some people believe. Until there? I am no one. If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t be considered one of the best MMA fighters of all time, which means I have to keep working.
Glad to let the media and the fans debate among themselves how far he can really go in the sport; Reed is focused on his next opponent Jonathan Eland who he will share the Fury Challenger Series cage with later this month. Rating the opposition, Reed explained, “I think of all the guys I’ve fought, Eiland is second best. From what I see, he will be the toughest person I [will have] fought, and I feel like he’s going to get me to fight more than anyone else. He’s bigger, stronger and maybe more athletic than me, but I’m smarter. I’m more skilled with better technique and I’m a dog. I’ll take what I have from what he has anytime!”
Not only does Reed expect to get the job done against Eiland, he expects to compete again before the end of 2022 and at some point in 2023 expects to compete in the UFC.
“The more experience I get, the worse it’s going to get for anyone fighting at 135. I’m working like crazy. I’m doing all the right things for this life. Experience is the only thing stopping me to reach my full potential. Once I have enough experience, I promise you, it’s over for everyone.
So, ultimately, what’s the real verdict on Reed? Only time will tell, but what I can say with confidence is that Reed is hands down the most naturally gifted MMA prospect I’ve seen since I started covering the sport. If that statement makes me part of the Keron Reed bandwagon, I hope I have a decent place left in the middle.
Keron Reed will look to improve his professional record to 2-0 when he takes on veteran mixed martial artist Jonathan Eiland, who is 4-5. The action takes place October 23, 2022 at 4 p.m. ET at Fury Fighting Championship: Challenger Series 1. The event is available live worldwide via UFC Fight Pass.