Millions of thankless jobs exist in this world for people whose only goals involve helping others. The pay may not be great, but most people in law enforcement, education and social work really just enjoy helping others. In some cases, these same folks also enjoy hurting others.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is known to keep his firefighting job even while maintaining his career as a full-time fighter. Fellow UFC fighter Marion Reneau is a high school physical education teacher, even when in fight camps. These are just two of countless examples of fighters who get paid to both help and hurt people. Utilizing a degree in psychology from Red Rocks Community College, Colorado flyweight Brandon Royval is closely following in the footsteps of people who are at the level he plans to be at soon.
“I actually work at a juvenile hall, which is an awesome job for an MMA fighter,” Royval told Combat Press. “I work with a lot of 18-year-olds. Colorado is pretty lenient with the juvenile system, so if you commit a crime when you are 17, you will be there until you’re 21. I work with a lot of 17- and 18-year-olds that are just my size — a lot more intimidating with that fighting experience. A lot of it is just hanging out with them all day. I get to hang out with kids that have a bit of a rough background. I get to be around that and get a new perspective of life. It’s a great job. I love it.”
Royval previously delivered packages for an Amazon contractor that eventually went belly-up. The job of a pro fighter at the regional level doesn’t exactly pay much, so the 26-year-old needed to find a new gig to help supplement his income.
“I was looking for jobs, what I can do, and to just improve people’s lives,” Royval said. “I have a pretty good background in psychology, so that helped out. When I first started working there, the first couple weeks were rough, but after awhile you get to know these kids and it gets a little easier.”
Pro fighting is also a thankless job. Most of the reward comes from self-affirmation, but the pay is terrible unless someone is at the highest levels of one of the big promotions. It can sometimes seem like a ton of work for very little pay-off. Some fighters actually struggle at times to find the motivation to keep doing it.
“I actually think that shit sometimes,” admitted Royval. “It’ll be the day of the fight, and I’ll be like, ‘What the fuck? I could do millions of other things other than this,’ [but] the second that you finish a fight, you win, you get your hand raised, it’s like, ‘When am I fighting next?’”
Unfortunately, Royval’s last fight was not a win. He faced Casey Kenney for the Legacy Fighting Alliance interim flyweight title in November, and Kenney won the fight after going all five rounds. The win led to an LFA bantamweight title shot for Kenney, which he won, and his UFC debut came only eight days later. Meanwhile, Royval went right back to work to fix the flaws from that fight.
“I mainly need to go out there, pull the trigger, and leave it all out there,” Royval said. “I feel like I should’ve wrestled more and just kind of pushed the pace a lot harder than I did.”
Royval will get the chance to showcase his improvements on Friday night when he headlines LFA 65 in Vail, Colo., just a couple hours from where he trains at Factory X Muay Thai in the Denver area. He’s set to meet another UFC-caliber opponent in Joby Sanchez.
“I was actually pushing for that fight,” said Royval. “There’s a lot of notoriety when you’re fighting an ex-UFC vet and someone coming with that experience. When you fight someone like that, there’s a lot of notoriety, and if I win this fight, it just shows where I belong, where I should go, or what I can do.
“This will be my first professional main event in Colorado. I’ve main-evented in a couple of other states, but in front of my home, Vail, is a good time. I have five other teammates on that card. It’s just going to be a great night.”
Sanchez is coming off a decision win in his LFA debut in January. It was a nice change after back-to-back losses last year in his second UFC run. At 12-4, Royval has suffered his only professional losses under the UFC banner, two of which were decisions. Outside of the big show, he still remains undefeated. He’ll try to continue this trend against Sanchez.
“I think it makes for an exciting fight,” said Royval. “What I like most about it is that he’s a striker. I don’t think he’s going to be shooting in too much on me, so that takes away that thought process. I think, if he does shoot in on me, I have a major advantage on the ground. Striking-wise, I feel that I’m a little more creative than he is. I’m faster, and I want to push the pace on him.”
Royval is known for fast-paced fights. He’s also known for his slick submission game. He’s been a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since 2015. He’s ready to take the next step in his career, so any of those aforementioned doubts about why he does this are currently out the window.
“I’ve worked my ass off for years,” Royval said. “So, when you get in a war, or you get to fight someone like Joby Sanchez, who just got cut from the UFC and is a top contender in LFA, or if I get a title shot, those are the moments you live for.”
LFA 65 marks the promotion’s second visit to Vail. The organization was there the same weekend a year ago for LFA 39. Royval had a wild experience that night. His opponent, Jerome Rivera, was backing away in the opening minute of the fight, put his hand on the cage, and immediately dislocated his elbow. It was a cringeworthy moment.
“I saw him turn and like run,” Royval recalled. “I threw a knee at him, and if he was turning and, like, stopped, he would’ve been in the perfect angle, but I just stayed on his ass. Right when it ended, I went backstage and was hanging out with Ian [Heinisch], because I was cornering him for his fight. After Ian’s fight, I looked at my phone, and it was viral as all. I didn’t know that happened. It was just crazy.
“I just hope no accidents or anything crazy like that happens [on Friday]. I hope karma is not coming my way. I’m just going to try to keep all my limbs in place and put an ass-whooping on this guy.”
Royval is fun to watch. While his day job may consist of helping kids get on track to a better life, his headliner at LFA 65 is going to be all about hurting his opponent. If history repeats itself, a couple good wins in the LFA could put him right in line for a UFC fight, which is ultimately where he wants to be.
“At the end of the day, I’m just an exciting fighter,” said Royval. “I go out there and bring it. I think, for flyweights, we don’t get enough entertainment. As far as I go, I think my problem is just not pulling the trigger. I just need to slow it down a little bit. Once that bell rings, I just need to push the pace, go forward, throw a lot of combinations, and throw some fancy shit, man. I’m an exciting fighter. When I go to the ground, I’m just attacking constantly. I push the pace on people, and I bring the fight.”