Dana White’s Contender Series has been an excellent launching pad for talented fighters to get their shot at UFC glory. Providing a platform for these athletes to showcase their skills in front of the UFC president and matchmakers as they try to earn their way to the octagon in one night.
This past summer The Contender Series delivered some great fights on ESPN+. The show introduced the mixed martial arts fan to some very exciting prospects.
Two gentlemen that truly stood head and shoulders above the rest in both their fighting and their personalities were Island Fights veterans Brok Weaver and Phil Rowe.
Weaver had the most epic post-fight interview in the history of the show and one of the most memorable post-fight interviews in modern mixed martial arts history. Talking about his MOWA tribe, being the runt of the litter, giving a good breakdown of his fight and then talking directly to Dana White about how he was supposed to fight in front of him last year but Dana hurt his foot and couldn’t make it. He took another fight finished that fight, took a boxing match against 1 of Roy Jones junior star pupils just because he was bored. He also made mention that his original Contender Series bout was canceled because his opponent had issues making weight and was rushed to the hospital. After detailing what it took for him to get to this fight on The Contender series, he then looked directly into the camera and said: “Dana what do I gotta do to get with you”?
White, was completely enamored with Weaver. Smiling at the camera while listening to him ask for a job, which I believe he earned prior to that post-fight interview.
Moments later Weaver was in the UFC. Achieving something that many felt he couldn’t. Coming from such an off the grid upbringing as a young man being part of an active American Indian tribe, Weaver’s path to the octagon was not easy, and he proudly carries his MOWA nation on his shoulders every time he steps in to fight.
Weaver was set to debut in October at UFC Tampa but there was an issue with the United States anti-doping agency (USADA) that he had to deal with. Another roadblock that wasn’t going to deter this proud man from achieving his dream. When the smoke cleared, Weaver was cleared of any wrongdoing. The issue was elevated levels of testosterone that were later found to be naturally occurring inside of him, no foul, no issue.
Frustrated no doubt, Weaver knew all along that he did nothing wrong and was just waiting for the UFC to rebook him.
Phil Rowe, the living, breathing, walking, talking definition of never giving up on your dreams. A man that could have easily continued working as a sales rep for Signature Custom Homes out of Orlando Florida which would have been a much easier path to happiness and financial success, chose to push forward towards his dream of becoming a professional mixed martial artist and fighting in the UFC.
Rowe started his professional career 0-2. Usually, when that happens to a fighter, they don’t stick around much longer because the odds of them achieving fighting in the ultimate fighting proving ground of the UFC is not in their favor. Phil Rowe however, is not your average fighter, or human being.
The Fresh Prince is somewhat of a Clown Prince, and I mean that in the most endearing way. Always laughing, cracking wise and having fun living life. Lighting up the room with his positive attitude and always quick to crack a joke and have everyone around him belly laughing so much that it hurts. Truly somebody that everybody wants to be around, and if you’re fortunate enough to hang around with him you understand why people gravitate toward him.
His contender series fight took place in August. Oddly enough he took on Leon Shabazyan, who was originally slated to face Weaver in June but had to pull out because he had to be rushed to the hospital because of a bad weight cut.
The 1st round didn’t go Rowe’s way, but just like every other fight he’s had on his way to this important night, he never gave up. Round 2 he started to find his rhythm and in round 3 he finished emphatically with a knockout that sent Shabazyan’s brother UFC fighter Edmond and the rest of his entourage out of the UFC Apex in Las Vegas disappointed and seemingly unconcerned as none of them stuck around to check on Leon after he was knocked out.
Rowe too also had a very interesting post-fight moment with Dana White.
While discussing and evaluating all the fights from that evening, White hadn’t awarded any contracts. Then it came time to evaluate Phil Rowe.
Dana white started discussing the fight and in his opening statement, he said that in the 1st round Rowe was hurt, and in the split-screen, you saw Rowe shaking his hand as if he didn’t agree with Dana. However, in true Dana White fashion, he called bullshit on Rowe saying “don’t wave me off like you weren’t hurt you were hurt you got dropped, you stayed in the fight you showed your composure you worked your plan, you landed big strikes, leg kicks you did everything I look for come on over your in”, which elicited a big smile from Rowe, and a roar from the crowd that was there supporting him.
Mission accomplished! He always said he was going to fight in the UFC, and now he was going to get that opportunity because he earned it through hard work and dedication and never giving up on himself!
Weaver and Rowe who are friends and share promotional lineage as veterans of one of the leading promotions in the country in Dean Toole Promotions ” Island Fights” based out of Pensacola, Florida will now get to fight on the biggest stage in the world, the UFC’s octagon, And they will both get to debut on the very same card which will be UFC Rio Rancho on February 15th, 2020.
2 young men that took very different paths to get to the same destination, and did it at the same time, will now have the opportunity to show the world just exactly why they belong in the UFC. As an added bonus these 2 gentlemen that are friends get to experience their debuts together. Nothing wrong with having familiar faces around you to keep you calm and level headed especially heading into the most important night of your professional career.
While their opponents have not been announced publicly yet, these 2 guys are definitely on this card and as soon as their opponents sign their bout agreements we will break that news as soon as we get it!
Christopher James has been in the MMA industry for 15 years, Working as a ring announcer for promotions like the XFC, Island Fights, Combat Night and Fight Nights Global during his career. Chris’ love for the sport and the athletes that partake in it led him to writing and doing face to face interviews with the athletes he admired and respected. Chris isn’t conventional by any stretch of the imagination, he has his own style, and takes pride in not being a “cookie-cutter” member of the media. Unique and sometimes controversial takes are what he brings to the table, forcing folks to think a little differently about the world of MMA. He also has a love for music as he has been a dj for 25 years and his love for music gets brought to the MMA world when he gets his guests to sing on his weekly show Cage Side with Christopher James which can be seen Wednesday nights on FACEBOOK LIVE, and soon via podcast.