With the 10th anniversary of Island Fights approaching on Sept. 6, countless big names have been built and have competed in front of an electrifying crowd in Pensacola.
Take a look at 10 mixed martial artists who have competed at Island Fights on their way to some of the biggest stages in the sport including the UFC, Professional Fighting League and the Bare Knuckle Fight Championships.
Fighters are listed in alphabetical order:
Dillon Cleckler (red corner) vs. Jordan Mitchell (blue corner) during Island Fights 58 at the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola on Friday, August 2, 2019.(Photo: Gregg Pachkowskifirstname.lastname@example.org)
Cleckler started 10-0 as an amateur in Island Fights, then rattled off an eight-fight win streak as a professional. After a four-year hiatus, he returned to win two-consecutive bouts. He then signed a major deal with the BKFC, shortly after the company merged with DAZN.
To take the break he did and then sign with one of the biggest companies out there is no doubt impressive, Island Fights founder and CEO Dean Toole said. It was a very proud moment for us.
Brandon Davis reacts after defeating Randy Costa (not pictured) during UFC 236 at State Farm Arena.(Photo: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)
Davis made one appearance at Island Fights and made a major impression, which landed him a spot in UFC commissioner Dana Whites contender series and ultimately a UFC contract.
Him at Island Fights was the greatest fight Ive ever seen, Toole said. He took several short-notice fights and had some tough, split-decision losses. A lot of his fights, it seemed like he was just one judge away from winning.
Davis finished 10-8 before retiring in September2019.
Mike Davis, red tape, takes on Elvin Brito at the Pensacola Bay Center on Friday, December 21, 2018, during Island Fights 51. Davis won by knockout in the third round.(Photo: Jody Linkemail@example.com)
Davis went undefeated through Island Fights and up to the finals of Whites contender series. He lost to Sodiq Yusuff, who is currently undefeated in the UFC.
That was the best fight Ive seen in a contender series, Toole said. Whoever won that fight was going to get a UFC contract immediately.
Davis returned to Island Fights and rattled off two more wins. He was called for a short-notice UFC contract in April 2019 five weeks after his most-recent Island Fights win and has gone 1-1 in the UFC since.
Hes currently 8-2 as a professional fighter in the UFCs lightweight division.
Hannah Goldy, blue tape, takes on Shannon Goughary during Island Fights 50 at the Pensacola Bay Center on Saturday, September 29, 2018. Goldy won by unanimous decision.(Photo: Jody Linkfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Goldy appeared at Island Fights three times and instantly became a fan favorite while winning each bout. She accounted for the first female main event in Island Fights history at Island Fights 50. She went on to Whites contender series and currently has a UFC contract.
She wasnt local, so we wondered if she could be a ticker seller for us, Toole said. Before her, we had never seen a non-local fighter get that much support. Island Fights ended up being a huge start for her career and she did a lot for Island Fights. She got a lot of people that werent fight fans excited.
Goldy is 5-1 in the UFC's flyweight division.
Jacob Kilburn (red corner) vs. Deivision Ribeiro (blue corner) during Island Fights 58 at the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola on Friday, August 2, 2019.(Photo: Gregg Pachkowskiemail@example.com)
Kilburn has shown great perseverance while continuing to chase his goals as a professional fighter.
He won his first time at Island Fights against an amazing local Elvin Brito, Toole said. He got on Dana Whites contender series after that.
Kilburn took a loss at the contender series and decided to take one year off.
He returned for UFC Fight Pass at Island Fights with a knockout victory. He earned another KO win five weeks later in Georgia.
Hes currently 3-3 in the UFCs featherweight division.
Thats super impressive; if you lose on the contender series, you can be mentally defeated, Toole said. He took a little time off and got right back in there.
Max Mustaki, red tape, takes on Mike Barnett at the Pensacola Bay Center on Friday, December 21, 2018, during Island Fights 51. Barnett won by unanimous decision.(Photo: Jody Linkfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Mustaki garnered a reputation for creating must-see action every time he put on the gloves. He broke his foot during Whites contender series, but displayed more than enough talent to land a deal.
He will be fighting for Icon on UFC Fight Pass in Biloxi on Sept. 24.
Every fight he had at Island Fights were some of the best Ive seen in Island Fights history, Toole said.
Mustaki is currently 6-4 as a professional.
Alex Nicholson, red tape, takes on Chris Barnett during Island Fights 42 at the Pensacola Bay Center on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Nicholson won by knockout in the first round.(Photo: Jody Link/online@PNJ.com)
Nicholson went undefeated during his time with Island Fights, including wins over previously unbeaten fighters like Cleckler, Chaz Morgan and Chase Sherman. Nicholsons UFC career was highlighted by a first-round knockout against Devin Clark in July 2016. Hes currently fighting in the PFL with a 13-9 MMA record.
He beat every undefeated heavyweight during his time with Island Fights, Toole said. He had a good run in the UFC. He made it all the way to the semifinals in the PFL where you have to fight twice in one night and lost in a very close, split decision.
Frank Carrillo, blue gloves, and Mike Perry, red gloves, fight each other Friday night during Island Fights 37 at the Pensacola Bay Center. Perry knocked Carrillo out in the first round for the win.(Photo: Jody Link/GoPensacola.com)
Perry went 9-0 as an amateur and is currently 14-6 in the UFCs welterweight division. He boxed twice at Island Fights and competed in one MMA bout.
He fought for us a few times and became one of the biggest and up-and-coming stars in the UFC, Toole said. Hes someone that is always exciting to see and always is in an exciting fight.
Perry is 14-6 and currently in the UFC's welterweight division.
Chase Sherman, who has fought on UFC cards, savors his Island Fights 51 win against Frank Tate in their MMA heavyweight bout by chugging a Bud Light at ringside at the Pensacola Bay Center.(Photo: Jody Linkemail@example.com)
Getting into the UFC is difficult, but making a return after being released is even more daunting.
After a 7-1 start as a pro, Sherman signed to UFC and fought in six bouts, two on short notice.
His contract was not renewed and he returned for three wins at Island Fights between December and May 2019.
He returned to the UFC in May 2020, and defeated Isaac Villanueva by TKO in round two. He also signed a contract with BKFC in March 2019.
He didnt have the best run his first time in the UFC, but he also took a lot of short-notice fights, Toole said. Its the hardest thing in the world to get into the UFC and its nearly impossible to get back in. But that shows what type of fighter Sherman is.
Brok Weaver, red tape, takes on Tyler Hill at the Pensacola Bay Center on Friday, December 21, 2018, during Island Fights 51. Weaver won by submission via a rear naked choke.(Photo: Jody Linkfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Weaver has made more appearances in Island Fights than anyone and has had plenty of ups and downs in his career.
As an amateur, he had a below .500 record but he was always in an exciting fight, Toole said. Just when we were thinking, 'Dang, maybe this isnt for you, Brok,' he goes on an eight-fight win streak. He got on contender, won some fights and lost in a battle in the finals. He gave the most epic post-fight speech and signed a UFC contract shortly after.
Weaver is 15-5 as a pro and will compete against Frank Camacho at UFC Fight Night on Sept. 12.
Theres been a handful of people that have been instrumental in the growth of Island Fights, Toole said. They might not have made it to the UFC, but they helped get Island Fights where it is today. With Island Fights approaching the 10-year anniversary, its amazing to think about the athletes that have gone through the promotion. Its all been worth it. Theres been countless hours. Matchmaking fights is a 24-7 gig. Its been a super grind for me and my staff for the last 10 years and its all been worth it.
Brian Achatz can be reached at email@example.com
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