Jerry Bohlander is a retired mixed martial artist who burst on the scene in 1996, at UFC 8. In his first fight in the octagon, Jerry fought a giant named Scott Ferrozo. Known as “The Pit Bull”, Ferrozo sported a big punch and a one hundred and thirty pound weight advantage. Bohlander went out there and although he had to weather an early storm, he showed an incredible chin, a whole lot of heart and some great technique, winning his UFC debut by submission.
Exactly a year after his promotional debut, Jerry won the first UFC Lightweight tournament. That division is now known as Light Heavyweight division and had a two hundred pound weight limit. Jerry Bohlander can in fact be traced back as the original Light Heavyweight Champion in the UFC's twenty three year history. So how did Jerry Bohlander, a wrestler from California become such an important figure in the history of MMA?
“I wrestled amateur for a number of years but never had the required focus to go far. I was working and supporting my handicapped mom and my younger sisters when I was twenty years old. I saw UFC 2 and I was instantly hooked. I knew I wanted to do it, but I had no way to train for it. About a year after I first watched UFC 2, I found out Ken Shamrock had a gym about an hour from me. This was before the internet, so it took a while to get any contact info. I found a number and called. Bob Shamrock answered and he told me that they had fighter training and self defence classes. The next week I drove down to Lodi for the self defence class. That day Ken had a little in class tourney. I won it. Ken took me to the side and asked if I wanted to fight. I said yes, but I couldn't because I was supporting my mother and sisters. He talked to Bob and then Bob talked to me. He told me they would give me a loan to help me out. That was huge as they didn't know me at all. The next tryout was 3 months later, I trained my ass off and passed it pretty easily. Back then most of the guys in the den fought in Pancrase. Ken felt that my skill set was better directed toward the UFC. I had my first fight in Hawaii 3 months after my tryout and then fought in the UFC three months after that. The rest is history”
Jerry defeated Kevin Jackson at UFC 16. That classic battle was awarded UFC Fight Of The Year in 1998. So what are some of his favourite moments and career highlights?
“There are too many highlights. Beating Kevin Jackson; he was one of my childhood heroes. Beating Fabio Gurgel, who I wasn't at all supposed to beat. Winning my first UFC fight against Scott Ferrozo who outweighed me by almost 150 pounds, there are so many. I got the chance to meet and train with so many great people. I got to travel to places a poor kid like me never would've imagined. I brought a high school buddy, Pete Williams into the fold and he made history. My whole career is my career highlight, wins and losses.
How would he like his career to be remembered?
“Just how being a poor kid with no connections and a moderate background could go out there and be successful through hard work and grit”
If he could change one thing about his career?
“I would've travelled more and trained with a greater variety of people. I had a few reasons for not travelling far for extended periods of time, but I'd change that”
Which fighters does Jerry enjoy watching in today's MMA world?
Gegard Mousasi, Alistair Overeem, Robbie Lawler, The Diaz brothers, Conor McGregor and more.
So what is Jerry Bohlander up to these days?
” I've been in law enforcement in Northern California for the past 12 years. I had a few other jobs in between. I still train myself and coach. I have a few guys competing both amateur and pro, although I have a hard time getting in there as much as I'd like. 60-70 hour work weeks aren't uncommon for me, but I fit in as much training and coaching as time permits.”
Jerry Bohlander will always be remembered as a tough fighter with heart and skill. He was a submission artist with a great chin and ever lasting cardio. He ended his competitive career in 2004. His professional record was 11-4 including five wins in the UFC. Jerry was ahead of his time, he came about ten years too early in the days before weight classes, gloves and regulations.
Join us next time for another episode of “Laying The Foundation”.
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