Over the years, Brian Basford has felt a surge of adrenaline from a raucous home crowd behind him as he took the mound to pitch.
The former Lincoln High and Tallahassee Community College pitcher, who was a part of Tallahassee-Leon Babe Ruth’s 13U World Series champion team in 1999, will again have a big cheering section Saturday.
As he takes to the octagon in mixed martial arts for Combat Night 100 Pro at The Moon.
Fighting MMA mano-a-mano, he says, is much harder than staring down a powerful batter.
“If the guy hits the ball over the fence, it’s embarrassing for a second,” Basford said, “but if you get knocked out in front of everybody, it’s way more embarrassing.”
Brian Basford reacts to winning an MMA fight at Combat Pro Night 6/Combat Night 94 on Saturday, July 14, 2018, at The Moon Nightclub in Tallahassee. (Photo: Brian Miller/Democrat)
Basford, 32, hasn’t had to worry about the knockout yet. He’s 4-1 overall in his amateur fighting career and his only loss was a unanimous decision.
At last July’s Combat Night at The Moon, in front of his rowdy fan section, Basford won in 12 seconds by submission, using a guillotine choke as he has for three of his four wins.
“When I came into the gym it felt really natural,” Basford said. “If a guy gives up his neck, I’m long so it falls into place. I try to use my length and distance to stay away from punches and punch, but the guillotine, I let it come naturally.”
Basford, now married and living in Madison County, was 23 years old and thinking of joining the military when he was recruited into an MMA fitness class. He was told he didn’t have to fight.
But like Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura found out against Texas Rangers ace Nolan Ryan in 1993, pitchers can land punches, too.
“I got in, did the class, and one thing led to another,” Basford said. “I began sparring and really liked it. I backdoored into it.”
Brett Hirst kicks at Brian Basford during an MMA fight at Combat Pro Night 6/Combat Night 94 on Saturday, July 14, 2018, at The Moon Nightclub in Tallahassee. (Photo: Brian Miller/Democrat)
It took three years – originally training with the late Josh Samman, and then training later in Jacksonville where he lived for a spell – before Basford finally stepped into the ring to test his mettle.
“The first one, I was scared out of my mind,” Basford said. “It’s a weird feeling. I’ve finally gotten used to that and channel it all. I know he’ll hit me and accept that. Once you accept what will happen, it makes it easier.”PREVIOUSLY FEATURED: The real MMA: 12 local fighters in octagon at Combat Night
Basford is one of 11 local fighters scheduled to fight Saturday. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the first undercard fight starts shortly after. The main event features transplanted local Timothy Lopez against Tony Murphy, while Bill Carpenter will go up against Ryan Favale in the co-main event.
Carpenter was a first-team All-Big Bend baseball player for North Florida Christian’s 2007 Class 2A state championship team.
Also fighting is former Godby High wrestler Ralph Valdez, who secured his first pro victory last July with a knockout by a landing a knee to the head of his opponent, then he won a fight in Thomasville, Ga., using his wrestling base to earn a submission on the ground.
Tallahassee’s Rafael Valdez knees Jimmy Alexander in the head for a TKO during an MMA fight during Combat Night Pro 6/Combat Night 94 on Saturday, July 14, 2018, at The Moon Nightclub in Tallahassee. (Photo: Brian Miller/Democrat)
“It’s awesome,” Valdez said. “Being a Tallahassee native, I have ties at every school in town. My two main I train and coach at are TFW (Train. Fight. Win.) and Alliance Jiu-jitsu. The striking aspect I train at both, but predominantly at TFW. The Jiu-jitsu is growing on me and I’ve been training that a lot. That’s where I’ve grown the most is grappling.
“I’m super excited. Every single fight, I’ve noticed I’ve grown more and more. I get more comfortable with myself as a competitor, athlete, and person. That’s why the fights are going more and more my way.”
For Mitchell Chamale, Combat Night’s co-founder alongside Samman and a Florida State alum, it has been a slow journey to reach 100 events staged. Tallahassee was the first and it’s now the 100th.
Tickets are still available for $40 and can be purchased at CombatNight.com.
“It’s a big milestone, a big deal to do 100 events after starting in Tallahassee seven years ago and getting to come back so often,” Chamale said. “Not a lot make it that far, but we made it with a loyal team with the same vision and drive. It took seven years to get that team.
“And it’s the fans, too, and local businesses like Lance Maxwell Plumbing, Hobbit American Grill, Universal Collision and Modern Communications that have been with us from the start. They’re the O.G.’s. Twenty events now, that’s a lot of sponsorship money. It boils down to all the support we’ve gotten from Tallahassee.”
Combat Night co-founder Mitchell Chamale at Combat Pro Night 6/Combat Night 94 on Saturday, July 14, 2018, at The Moon Nightclub in Tallahassee. (Photo: Brian Miller/Democrat)
Story by Brian Miller, Tallahassee Democrat