Joey Pierotti

JoeyPierotti

7-0 with seven career finishes, Joey ‘Mama’s Boy’ Pierotti of Enumclaw, Washington has been competing professionally for 19 months, and has already established himself as one of the top prospects out of the Pacific Northwest. A professional firefighter by trade, Pierotti’s rise through the ranks at welterweight will have put him on the map for some the United States’ biggest promotions.

Still, it’s unlikely that Joey will relish hanging up his bunker gear. As Joey told The MMA Vanguard in an exclusive interview, he’s not only proud to represent the service, but he’s worked extremely hard to get there.

“I am 100% still a full time professional firefighter,” Joey told us. “It’s a job that I’ve been chasing after for about 4 years. Very competitive. I’m very proud of the profession, what we do, and the people I get to work with.”

After all, iron sharpens iron, and as with other emergency services and indeed the armed forces, it’s not just about being physical and mental toughness, it takes real bravery to do what they do. Still, if his progress in MMA continues at such a rapid pace, there may come a time when it may no longer be possible to dedicate fully to both careers simultaneously. For now, though, Joey remains thankful for the support he gets from his colleagues in pursuit of mixed martial arts glory.

“They have never really clashed in a negative fashion,” he said of the parallel occupations. “I’ve got full love and support from everyone at the station, as I do from my actual family. They love to come to the fights and support, but at the same time they’ve never had someone work with them who’s ‘hobby job’ is beating people up. They want the best for me, but also don’t want to see me get hurt. So there’s a little bit of grey area when it comes to work and the fight game.”

The ‘fight game’, as Joey calls it, seemed destined to find him just as much as his own destiny was to compete in it at a high level. It started with wrestling.

“I started wrestling much later than a lot of the local top notch guys in my area did,” Joey told us. “I’d always rough housed with my older cousins and what not, but didn’t really know it was a sport until my stepdad came into the picture and told me to give it a shot. I was hesitant at first because of the thin layer of Lycra separating you from another person…. but I gave it a shot and loved the competition side of it.”

“I loved the team aspect just as much as the one-on-one [competition]. It’s one of the few sports where you are really in charge of your own destiny. There’s nobody else to cast blame on, if you don’t put in the work it shows. That’s something Mom instilled in me at a very young age. We both knew I wasn’t the most naturally gifted athlete, so I would have to outwork everyone. [That’s a lesson] I’ve carried with me and gotten me to where I am today, both in fighting and life in general.”

Joey’s Mom, as his handle suggests, is a major figure in his life. Her approval of a career as a fighter was likely as pivotal to Pierotti as anything else at that point, and the work ethic Joey talks about has been evident every step of the way. It carried Joey to wrestling success at high school level, as well as in the collegiate ranks, though the path was far from straight forward.

“I was a state runner up my junior year, and was captain my senior year of high school when we won our first ever team title as well as myself capturing an individual state championship. I went on to wrestle at Wyoming for a semester, but due to my Dad passing away a couple months prior and my Mom being diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s lymphoma around the same time, I was too anxious being so far away from everyone. So my cousin helped me get all of my ducks in a row and transfer to North Idaho college. I qualified for nationals there, but that was about the extent of my collegiate career.”

Recalling his amateur MMA debut, Joey isn’t overly impressed with how things went. If he describes his career, currently, as a ‘hobby job’, back then it was probably simply a ‘hobby’. As he explained:

“Honestly, my first fight was a shit show. I was home from college and wanted to do something to stay in shape, I also had never been in any sort of fight at this point in time so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and try my luck with MMA. I used to round up a few of my buddies and sneak them into a local gym where my training consisted of just sparring, one friend after another. I had my step dad, uncle and a buddy corner me in the fight. Two of the three lost their heads and were just yelling the most obscure things,” Joey told us.

“My uncle kept a cool head about him and was able to help me strategize a little bit from what I can remember. I don’t remember much from that fight due to a possible concussion and the inevitable adrenaline dump, but I won. My Mom really enjoyed the competition aspect of it all, but still didn’t want to see me get hurt. So she said I could keep fighting until I lost. And here we are today, however many fights later, still winning.”

Whether the first loss would still have the same ramifications for Joey’s Mom today is another matter, but in spite of facing several undefeated opponents throughout his amateur and professional career, Joey’s ‘oh’ has yet to go. Of Joey’s recorded 4-0 record as an amateur, Joey commented:

“The amateur record sounds close. I think it might have been closer to 6-7 wins 0 losses. But all records show something different. I had a couple big challenges I was faced with as an amateur. After my first fight I got with Jeff Hougland out at combat sport and fitness in Enumclaw, Washington. After my first fight under his guidance I was looking to roll right into another and in the middle of a sparring session I went to throw someone and in the process pulled them on top of me. They landed head first right into my jaw. I was side lined for about a year due to surgeries, infections and more surgeries. Finally I got the clearance to go again and Jeff got me lined up with a title fight. I won via TKO in the 2nd round. The next was after I got hired on by the Port of Seattle Fire Department. I had to take a year off to complete all of my training and I bounced back after another year, went up a weight class and fought a top middleweight at the time and took his title via unanimous decision. All obstacles that I’ve overcome and helped mould me.”

Those years off, and the all of the hard work surrounding circumstances of which some were beyond his control, have, like Joey says, crafted him into the man and fighter he is today. Jeff Hougland, too, has played a huge role in Pierotti’s development, and the pair have never shied away from a challenge.

After a pair of stoppages kick-started Pierotti’s professional career in the first half of 2016, Joey took on 10-fight veteran Taki Uluilakepa, a former Super Fight League and Titan FC fighter of Tongan origin. It took the full extent of Taki’s experience to push Pierotti past the first round, but Joey would secure a second round submission victory and advance his record to 3-0. While there would have no doubt been easier contests, Pierotti continued to push himself, facing three further opponents with a combined record of 12-1. He commented:

“Jeff and I aren’t trying to pad our record here, as I improve so do my opponents. I’ve been fortunate enough having Jeff, who has the same vision for myself as I do, to help push me and get extra work in to make sure we stay ahead of the game. As the fighters have gotten tougher and the level of competition is raised, so [my skills and performances have improved], and we’ve been ahead of the curve so far. We’ve been able to put away all of my opponents, as a professional fighter, within 3 rounds.”

Indeed Pierotti counts his fourth opponent as his toughest to date. A fight under the Super Fight League banner, Joey came within eight seconds of troubling the judges for only the second time in his pro or amateur career – but courtesy of superior striking and a debilitating left hand, Pierotti was able to beat the final bell, in spite of some confusion surrounding the ten second left signal. As Joey states:

“My toughest fight to date was against Richard Brooks out of Las Vegas. He was a much better wrestler than I was,” Joey admits. “My initial game plan had to be changed. Luckily Jeff and I are always working on not only improving my strengths and what got us to where we are today, but more importantly working on my weaknesses. The goal is to never be in a position and think ‘oh shit, what am I supposed to do here?’”

Fortunately, despite Brooks’ acumen, that was not the case, and Pierotti’s drive, determination, work rate, and strategic planning all paid off.

“[For this fight], my girlfriend also flew all the way out here from Boston to watch her first fight,” Joey told The MMA Vanguard, “So naturally I wanted to Impress her. How we met is a whole other story in itself!” He teased.

So what’s next for Joey in professional MMA?

“However far the next level up will take us. I want to make it to the UFC and see how far I can go and how high I can climb. Sign me up Dana White!”

The MMA Vanguard would also like to extend an endorsement to all major, global promotions – having rattled off a further three straight stoppage wins since the Brooks outing, Pierotti is now an impressive 7-0, with 50-plus fight veteran Daniel McWilliams the latest to be outclassed just a couple of weeks ago.

If ever there was a worthy competitor, and a talented fighter, it would be Joey ‘Mama’s Boy’ Pierotti!

Katharina Lehner

KatharinaLehner

Introducing Katharina Lehner, one of the bantamweight division’s top prospects with a perfect 5-0 record. Having beaten the best the German MMA scene has to offer since her pro MMA debut in September 2014, Lehner now looks set to embark upon a global adventure courtesy of an as yet unannounced deal with a major international promotion.

“I’ve signed a contract with a well-known organization,” Katharina told The MMA Vanguard in an exclusive interview. “That’s all I can say right now,” but she was able to clarify that the organization was based in the United States. The chances of Katharina being offered bouts in pastures new, then, are extremely high.

Amid the guessing game revolving around Lehner’s potential suitors, The MMA Vanguard took a closer look at Katharina’s history as a martial artist. It all started as a young woman in the nation’s capital. “I started boxing while I was studying in Munich,” Katharina told us. “So when I moved to Cologne I was looking for a new gym and found a place where I tried MMA.”

The gym Lehner found was Combat Club Cologne, and it was here that Lehner quickly learned she had all the skills to become a dominant force in mixed martial arts. Already in possession of excellent striking thanks to her pugilistic background, Katharina has adapted well to a whole new concept of fighting. While finishes have been lacking in her perfect run in MMA, her record remains highly impressive, and we cannot wait to see what’s next.

“I started with boxing after years of weight lifting,” Lehner says, her resulting power just one of many attributes that have made her so hard for opponents to overcome. “Since then I have won two titles from well-known German MMA organizations, and I am still undefeated.”

It all started against 4-fight veteran Anne Merkt, though Merkt proved to be a stern test for the 24 year old debutant. Happy to stand toe-to-toe with Lehner in the opening exchanges, Merkt waded forward as both women traded punches, before scoring a somewhat rudimentary headlock takedown. Keeping Lehner down, however, proved initially too difficult. Lehner muscled her way back to her feet, defended well as Merkt through up her legs to pull guard, and was able to achieve separation early on.

So far, so good for the talented boxer. Merkt, though, would not be cowed, and kept up her aggressive start. While Lehner’s right hand found a mark with impressive regularity, Merkt’s varied strikes kept the fight competitive, and she was able to deal some good straight rights of her own that were readily absorbed by the tough Lehner. It could have been part of Lehner’s strategy to eat a shot to deliver one.

Getting the worst of the early exchanges, it was no surprise when Merkt attempted a leg sweep takedown, though the stocky Lehner was able to defend well, reverse her opponent’s momentum, and wind up on top in full guard. Keeping her legs high on the back of Lehner, Merkt initially did a good job of stifling Lehner’s offence from the top with good body and wrist control. A failed armbar attempt, however, gave Lehner the opening she was looking for – her heavy ground and pound looked an instant threat, though Merkt was able to recover well and resume her impressive ground defence.

Much of the rest of the round was spent with Merkt tying up Lehner, until with just over a minute left, the referee stepped in for a stand up. Here, Lehner and Merkt would trade in aggressive exchanges, with both fighters able to land shots.

Round two started in similar fashion. With neither woman prepared to stand down, the battle continued, again with women landing decent punches, though nothing overly telling. When Lehner, perhaps surprisingly, scored a takedown with a minute and a half to go, she surely secured herself a gruelling first win as a professional mixed martial artist against a very durable, very game opponent. While one official dissented, Lehner nonetheless had her hand raised in MMA for the very first time, the verdict a split decision victory.

To this day, Lehner counts her bout with Merkt as one of her main highlights as a mixed martial artist: “I loved the feeling before my first fight,” she told The MMA Vanguard. “I started out as a professional directly, and competed in my first MMA fight in front of almost 2000 people!”

In February 2015, five months later, Lehner would build on that win by scoring a more decisive victory over Czech debutant Barbora Polakova. A victory over unbeaten Danish exponent Camilla Hinze followed, and established Lehner as one of the top female prospects in all of Europe.

One individual who would contest that standing in November 2015 was experienced 8-4 compatriot Alexandra Buch. Undefeated in Japanese promotion RINGS, and with experience competing for both K-1 and Respect FC, Buch was looking to rebound from consecutive losses, and with a penchant for submission finishes, she presented a real risk to the 3-0 Lehner.

In what she counts as her favourite performance to date, Lehner showed greater caution in her approach, patiently seeking to establish range in the opening exchanges. While Buch was able to make use of her reach advantage, touching Lehner twice within the first thirty seconds, the shots were far from telling. Lehner strode forward, landed a good overhand, and timed several punches very well. Buch’s jab, meanwhile, began to tell, the damage accumulating in the shape of reddening about the face and a cut on the bridge of Lehner’s nose.

Then, a mistake; a leg kick attempt from Buch was caught, and Lehner forced her foe to the mat. Buch showed good defence early, but the sheer power of Lehner was overwhelming as she manufactured a way to side control, before forcing her way to a full mount attempt. Excellent ground and pound forced Buch to give up her back, where the fight seemed all but over; to Buch’s immense credit, though, she re-established her defences, and survived the rest of the round while escaping a rear naked choke attempt.

Round two really saw Lehner open up, looking to land big punches in the early exchanges, and inviting Buch on. With her opponent roughed up and her timing becoming increasingly on point, Lehner was able to bully Buch and land many of the best punches.

The theme was continued in the final frame, Lehner’s impressive athleticism and aggressive stylistics securing her a fourth straight win, and undoubtedly the biggest victory of her young MMA career.

“Nobody expected me to win this fight but I knew I was ready for the German number one,” Lehner told us about the Buch fight. “I wasn’t afraid because I believed I had a proper chance.” She wasn’t wrong…

Since then, things haven’t gone quite as planned for Lehner, however; with willing opponents few and far between on the European scene, Lehner’s schedule has also been blighted by injuries and event cancellations. While twice scheduled to face 6-1 Czech star Lucie Pudilova, as well as a recent would-be bout with 1-0 Australian Gemma ‘The Bull’ Pike, Lehner has had to settle for just one of four proposed fights, a tussle with Judith Ruis in December of last year.

Victory put Lehner on her current 5-0 mark, and hopes are that her new deal will present her with even greater opportunities.

Speaking of the aforementioned cancellations, Lehner confided that “It’s always disappointing and frustrating when you can’t fight and you prepare yourself all the time. You train and invest so much time and then don’t have the chance to show your skills. Otherwise I think every preparation makes you a better fighter, so nothing is ever in vain.”

With a great attitude and a real hunger to test her skills at the highest level, then, The MMA Vanguard cannot wait to see what’s next for the talented 27 year old! Wherever she winds up, we wholeheartedly encourage you to check her fights out!

Chandler Cole

ChandlerCole

Having compiled an outstanding 12-0 record as an amateur fighter, Coeburn, Virginia’s own Chandler ‘The Hammer’ Cole made the jump to the professional ranks in August 2016. The result? A continuation of winning ways, blistering finishes, and dominant performances. Now 2-0 as a pro, Cole’s fourteen-fight win streak must surely have this ‘small town boy’ on the radar of promotions across the United States – and quite possibly beyond.

But it’s not just victories and performances that Cole delivers. An athlete with a penchant for entertaining crowds, the 22 year old came out for his last fight at Valor Fights 41 wearing a creepy face mask and carrying a sledgehammer – all to the sound of the announcement from The Purge films. It wound up acting as a perfect prelude to a near-flawless outing for ‘The Hammer’, as he blitzed fellow undefeated fighter Phil McGlothlin in just 76 seconds.

The form and content of that win, contested at a catchweight of 225 lbs, was right in line with what Chandler Cole had been delivering since his amateur debut back in 2013. A former high school and collegiate wrestler, Cole has proven himself a takedown specialist with a monstrous top game, a combination that has made quick work of opponents across three weight classes. Having competed anywhere between middleweight and heavyweight, Cole is a seemingly fearless competitor who has been able to assert his physical authority over fighters across a variety of statures.

Speaking to The MMA Vanguard about competing at different weight classes, Chandler said: “I am currently fighting at heavyweight, but I believe middleweight would be the ideal weight for me, we’ll see,” before adding: “I have some cats that are champions or undefeated at heavyweight who’s tail I’m trying to add to the collection,” in typical confident fashion.

That confidence is something that resonates through Chandler both inside and outside the cage. One of the biggest characters on the Southeastern fight circuit, it is testament to Cole’s determination to make a name for himself that he hasn’t yet committed to a drop to 185 lbs full time. Despite routinely giving up significant height and reach statistics due to his 5’10 frame, Cole has yet to meet a fighter that could make the most of their physical advantages – or put a stop to his high pressure M.O..

So how did it all start out for ‘The Hammer’? While Cole makes no bones about the fact he held aspirations of competing at the highest level in college wrestling, that particular dream did not come to pass. But like all great fighters, Chandler turned that particular disappointment into a positive, and was soon on the path to a new stage on which to shine; mixed martial arts.

“When I was in high school I would go down to Team Fast (MMA gym) and wrestle with their fighters to put in some extra work leading into the State Tournament,” he told The MMA Vanguard. “After high school I got up with a local MMA promotion and let them know I was interested in fighting.”

The rest, as they say, is history. A string of submission wins, often by strikes, got Cole’s amateur career off to a perfect start – and as the opponents got tougher, ‘The Hammer’s’ strikes landed harder. By the time Cole could lay claim to an 11-0 amateur record strewn with TKO victories, he was in line to face one of the top-ranked fighters on the Southeast fight scene – middleweight contender Matt Foley.

While Cole missed weight, the tough cut didn’t seem to affect his performance. A dominant first round saw Cole score takedowns at will, use the fence to press and trap his opponent, and land strikes with unerring accuracy. The second and third rounds were little different. Cole pressed forward relentlessly, severely restricting Foley’s offence in the process, and earning a clear cut unanimous decision win. It would prove to be the fight that convinced Cole to switch it up and turn professional. So what did Cole learn from his 12-0 run to that point? “The main thing that the amateur level taught me was how to control my nerves before a fight,” he told us. Certainly not a bad bit of learning, and something that is evident in Cole’s burgeoning pro career.

Robert Bennett, then, an 11-fight veteran, would be the one charged with rolling out the welcome wagon at light heavyweight, and after just half a round, probably wished he hadn’t been. Bennett would wind up submitting to strikes (a familiar theme in Cole’s career) at 2:27, though Chandler himself wasn’t overly impressed with his display: “My fight with Robert Bennett wasn’t a good performance by any means,” Chandler told us. “I was very sloppy with my stand up and was winging a lot of punches. I’m just glad I was the better athlete for that fight. I knew I would finish him, [but for a while] I just didn’t know how.”

Seven months later, though, Cole would put things right performance-wise by making short work of McGlothlin, moving himself up the rankings in the process. “I always have that ‘finish the fight’ mindset,” Cole says, “Out of the fourteen fights I have had, thirteen of them have been stopped.” McGlothlin certainly couldn’t do anything to stand in the way of that record.

So what is Chandler does, exactly, that leads to such an impressive fight finishing rate? “I work on a really fast wrestling style,” he tells us, “That has been my bread and butter for me in my career this far.” The MMA Vanguard can certainly attest to the effectiveness of that strategy – and future opponents will be hard-pressed to deflect the high-pressure offensive headed their way.

While those opponents are yet to be determined, Chandler knows where he is right now, and what he needs to do to get there. In a closing statement with The MMA Vanguard, Chandler told us: “I am just training and learning like crazy right now. The main goal is to be the best in the world one day. I know I can do anything I set my mind to.”

The MMA Vanguard will be not be taking exception to that!