Wisdom can be formally defined as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.” It’s a term that is normally attributed to someone of age who has been through it all. A grizzled war veteran providing his insight to the modern age. A teacher making sure that new co-workers are mentally and physically prepared for what they are about to experience. An actor guiding an up-and-coming star. In each scenario, wisdom comes with age. Sometimes, though, individuals have soaked up far more wisdom than thought possible. Sometimes passion brings wisdom. Enter Christian ‘Hollywood’ Lohsen.
“Growing up, I tried basically any sport that was out there, just wanting to be athletic and seeing what I wanted to do,” lightweight fighter Christian “Hollywood” Lohsen told Combat Press. “[I did] jiu-jitsu throughout everything, but I did seven years of baseball, seven years of soccer, two of basketball, two of football, [and] three years of gymnastics. I tried anything I could find. In seventh grade, I took up wrestling ’cause I was like, ‘Wrestling is pretty close to jiu-jitsu, and I can get a varsity letter in this. Let’s give that a shot.’ And I really started to like wrestling, and I would do wrestling and jiu-jitsu from seventh to eight grade and even into ninth grade.
“Then we moved from California to Florida between freshman year and sophomore year, and when I got out here, I decided to just put year-round focus on the wrestling. [I was] just trying to be as good in wrestling as I could be at that point, and I was finding that sometimes some of my jiu-jitsu habits were great when I used them for wrestling, but when I was doing the two sports at the same time, sometimes I would accidentally go for something that wasn’t necessarily beneficial for me. So, I focused in on just wrestling those three years and ended up placing third in the state of Florida, and I was top 16, I think, at NHSCA Senior Nationals. Coming out of it, I had a couple offers for college wrestling, but it wasn’t the path I was necessarily looking [to take].
“I knew I wanted to fight. I didn’t know what time frame. I thought about wrestling, but there were some other factors. One being, I was with my current fiancé since I was 16 — we met [at the] beginning of junior year — and getting ready to look at college and stuff. She wasn’t able to go anywhere out of state, so I decided to just try and figure out things here and start the fight career a little early, and went back, started jiu-jitsu and then jumped right back in.”
Lohsen’s first amateur fight came in 2014. He was just out of high school. Unfortunately, the fight did not go his way.
“I’ve been training jiu-jitsu since I was four and then wrestling through high school and then I stopped doing jiu-jitsu while I was wrestling to focus,” said Lohsen. “I got out, and my family and I joined a gym, and I felt like I would be ready to just jump in and fight, just based off of wrestling and everything. I ended up losing a split decision that I thought went the wrong way, but it happened the way it happened, and shortly after that, my parents and I opened up our own gym, and I actually took like a year and a half before I took my next fight. It was [time spent] refocusing, trying to remind myself of my jiu-jitsu background a little bit, coming back from three to four years of no jiu-jitsu and just wrestling. It was also just focusing on the gym that we were opening, and there I think one or two injuries mixed into that process. When I came back from that first fight, I think I got the next four all within the same year.”
The 24-year-old’s memory is dependable. He used his grappling base to secure two armbars and two rear-naked chokes, all within the span of less than seven months in 2016. These wins put him at 4-1 before he made the decision to turn pro. One of these fights in particular resonates with them. It was his second ammy bout, which came against Maurice Graham.
“Yeah, that was a fun one,” Lohsen admitted with a chuckle. “I took it a little lightly. I went on vacation the week before that fight, and I came back real out of shape, which led to me getting kicked in the face in the beginning of the second round. I almost bit my tongue off, so that was fun. That was an interesting night. We celebrated in the ER while I was getting my jaw x-rayed and my tongue looked at. We ended up bouncing back pretty quickly from that one. The jaw wasn’t actually broken or anything, and the tongue, I could train with that.
Three wins later, Lohsen was at a crossroads. He could keep working on his game at the amateur level, or he could take the plunge into the depths with a move to the pro level.
“I was actually going to take one more amateur fight after the last one,” he revealed. “We did a face-off in the cage and everything, and we were gonna do it for the end of the year, but the promotion that we were fighting with that had us do that face-off didn’t throw another promotion that year and they didn’t know when they were gonna throw their next one, because of some other stuff happening. I just decided I wasn’t gonna wait for it and made the jump [to] pro, figuring the amount of time I’ve put into training and everything would be good enough. I got the five fights required by Florida to go pro and thought I was ready.”
It turned out that he was right. It was a step up in Competition, but Lohsen quickly found success. It all started In the Florida regional scene with the Real Fighting Championships, a Tampa Bay promotion run by Joe Valdez.
“I started with RFC when I was first looking to go pro,” Lohsen explained. “I kinda shopped around a little to the different promotions to really see what was being offered. They gave me an offer for a four-fight deal originally, so I signed on with them and I fought the first three times. I probably would have fought more in the year, but they only had three shows for the year. And I was going to be fighting with them in February after, but I went and did The Ultimate Fighter tryouts.
Of course, the UFC doesn’t want to step on toes. The organization asks its TUF hopefuls if they are under contract with any other promotion. The RFC was kind enough to void Lohsen’s contract, opening the way for him to participate in the competition. Ultimately, Lohsen was only selected as an alternate for season 27 of the reality series.
“I came back, and [the RFC] didn’t have any shows planned,” said Lohsen. “They didn’t know when their next one was gonna be, so I looked around and Combat Night was asking if I wanted to come out and fight on their Orlando card, which was a lot closer to home.
It was an opportunity the youngster could not pass up.
“I jumped on that card and started fighting with them and started getting closer to Mitchell Chamale, the promoter,” said Lohsen. “He came to the gym a couple times and trained, and as I started going to Orlando after my first pro fight and training at my second gym that I claim, Fusion Xcel — [I] didn’t really know him until my second pro fight, when I fought Blake Smith — he was there. I started working with him and then I met Dean [Toole] with the help of Pete White reaching out and putting us together potentially for having me join First Round Management through Dean, and I signed with First Round Management having Dean as like the regional side of it, finding me fights. Knowing that I had Combat Night as a great venue with a promoter that’s not going to do anything funny, and having Island Fights, which is a great regional show with another promoter who I knew wasn’t gonna try and do anything shady, it made just fighting comfortable and accepting fights comfortable. And then for the recent one when the UFC Fight Pass deal started coming in for Island Fights, it was just another step up in what can help broadcast our talent.”
Cross-training has become ever popular in recent years. It’s a way for fighters to hone in on skill sets that they wouldn’t normally have access to. If fighters in the past had been able to utilize this approach, it would have produced a much different MMA landscape than the one that exists today.
“I was training at my gym through my first pro fight,” Lohsen said, “and it was a little before that pro fight that I threw my own amateur MMA event. And it was when I did that, I friend-requested anyone in the state that had a profile picture of MMA or jiu-jitsu to ask if they had fighters. And through that, I became friends with Julien Williams on Facebook, and I started seeing him post every Saturday these huge groups of like 30 people, most of them fighters, at a sparring session.
Lohsen wanted to be a part of what Williams had going on. He asked his new friend about it, and Williams invited him out to train.
“I went down that first day and trained with him and sparred with him a little bit, and I just loved it,” admitted Lohsen. “It wasn’t just their gym. It was some people from Tampa, some people from other parts of Orlando [and] Daytona, and it was just a real interesting group.
Lohsen made the gym visits into part of his regular Saturday routine. Eventually, he was also spending Monday mornings at American Top Team Orlando with their fight team. Tuesdays and Thursdays were spent at Fusion, and some Wednesdays were reserved for trips to Technique Boxing.
“It was all the different high-level training partners I could have, with different styles and different things to add that I can take and use with my game,” said Lohsen. “So I get my teaching and training at my gym with my team and then, in the mornings, getting some different looks from some high-level training partners that I might not have had [by] staying in one place, and it’s helped to just improve every aspect. It’s been a combination of everything. It’s hard to look and see what steps might have made things different, but everything has fit together like a puzzle so far.
“It’s been beneficial getting to meet and train with people like Jacare [Ronaldo Souza], moving up from Brazil when he joined the gym. I had already been there for a little bit. You just see all the different growth that’s happened to the Orlando area, and the fighters in the area can almost be tied at some point to different groups and getting a sparring in together. I don’t know if there’s many pro fighters in Orlando that I haven’t sparred with at this point, because it’s more of, like, the higher level it seems people get [to], the more it becomes more of an area backing you than a team. It’s been nice. I have my setup at DarkWolf with my head coach, David Lohsen, helping me every step there, every night [and] on weekends, and then I get my extra training with my second team that I’ve just found another home, like a second family along with my gym, at Fusion, and it’s just the two together have just melded and created what has happened.”
Sometimes the people within an MMA gym can turn into a family. The amount of time spent together can truly bond individuals. Lohsen gets an extra bonus, because some of the people in that gym with him really are family. Lohsen’s aforementioned head coach is his dad.
“It’s great having him in the corner,” admitted Lohsen. “It’s just great having him around different fights. He’s been with my training since I was four. He was training a couple years before I was born. My mom started training a year after I was born. And we’ve had gyms for 10 years out in California that we owned and we were running, and we have the gym out here that we’ve been running, I think, for four years now.
“This fight will actually be the first time I have someone besides my family or fiancé in my corner. This time, it’ll be my dad and Julien as my two cornermen. That will be interesting. It’s a great thing. I love Julien, and it’s going to be interesting. I’ve seen him backstage for fights. I’ve seen him backstage for cornering. He knows what he’s doing. My dad knows what he’s doing. It’ll be fun. It’s just a different dynamic than having Mom, Dad [and] fiancé.
“My mom has to stay home and watch the gym, and we only get two corners this time, so we decided. My fiancé wanted to be a spectator for once and not have to worry about some of the added pressures that come with a spouse that is in the corner and some of the pluses and minuses that can come from that. We were looking at taking out some of that extra stress or problems that could be caused from all the random cyber stuff that could happen and just focus on the fight and everything to come.”
A fighter’s life is not an easy one. The adjustments that need to be made in day-to-day life can be increasingly stressful on a family and the relationships within it, like that of his fiancé, Megan.
“She gets nervous, just like any other spouse would probably get nervous,” the 24-year-old said, “but she believes in me and she knows that I know what I’m doing when I go out there, and she knows that I’m not gonna take any stupid fights that don’t make sense, and she knows that there’s other people looking out for me. And she wants to make sure that if I want to do it, she can do whatever she needs to do to make sure that I go in as prepared as possible, whether that’s just being there mentally, helping me relax backstage or during weight-cut week, cooking me food to make sure that whatever is being made on that specific day so I’m not having to worry about getting home from training and cooking it, just anything. A lot of it’s not even fight-related with what she does to help. Any design thing that I need — if it’s for shirts; if it’s for banners; if it’s for anything — she designs. If it’s just keeping mentally sane during the weight cut, she’s there. She’s just making sure that I go in, like I said, as mentally prepared as I can be.”
Mental preparedness. It’s said time and time again how important the mental aspect is in any sport, and especially MMA. MMA is human chess. It’s all about the concept of strategy and a mental edge.
“I learned that through wrestling,” Lohsen explained. “Unfortunately, I learned it by choking in the semifinals and mentally just shutting down before the match. But, after that, it really was an eye-opener into the mental effects that can be caused, even into your athletic or just the techniques that you normally can hit but you can’t when your mind’s not right.”
Preparation is crucial to victory. Lohsen is now set for the biggest fight of his young career. The lightweight steps into the cage with JJ Okanovich on Tuesday night as part of the latest edition of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Most fighters are looking to find an area of weakness or a small opening left in error. The Lohsen approach is far more intriguing.
“I like to watch video. I like to study different parts,” Lohsen said. “More so, [I like] looking for tells or just patterns or just general styles that usually come out — what stance they’re in; do they usually hunt for the ground earlier?; do they try to stand?; are they more of an in-and-out striker?; do they stand still a little more?; what kinds of footwork are they using? — and then make my own game plan of what I intend to do and then maybe alter it a little bit based off whether or not they move in and out with more of a long-range attack or if they come in and just kinda walk people down, and figure out where we go from there.”
His approach has worked thus far. Lohsen has won all but one of his professional bouts via submission.
“If you look at it on paper, it probably looks predictable,” Lohsen admitted, “but I’ve only done the takedown or initiated the takedown in less than half of my pro fights. There’s a lot of the time I just come out and I’ll have a game plan of this much time spent striking and then go for the takedown, but they initiate earlier, because the striking is having more success for me. So, sometimes it’s not so much that I’m hunting for the ground, which some people expect when they look at it on paper, but sometimes it’s come out where I’ve just been there and I was OK with just striking and I was actually gonna be having some fun striking and then they come in and clinch and I just see a takedown in front of me that I’m not gonna turn down.
Lohsen carries the confidence of years spent on the jiu-jitsu and wrestling mats. The canvas isn’t a scary place for him. It also carries over to his confidence in the striking game.
“It’s hard to be a free striker if you’re always worried about their shots,” Lohsen pointed out. “It’s hard to freely strike if you’re worried about getting too close and getting into a clinch and then getting into that takedown battle. So, there’s a lot, like throwing kicks higher than the leg that you’re going against someone you don’t want to get taken down by. There’s a lot that, when you trust your ground game, you can just freely let happen.
“It frees up what I can do and what I have to worry about. I don’t have to worry about necessarily keeping a better stance, ready to defend a takedown, if I’m OK with the scramble and possibly getting on top or getting on bottom, depending on how it happens, because I trust my jiu-jitsu or I trust my wrestling. Whereas, a pure striker — it’s always in the back of their mind when they’re going against someone they’re worried about grappling with — is always going to have to fear that fake shot, or the shot, or getting back to the cage, or just positional awareness. They’re not always just thinking about what they’re gonna do striking. They’re having to think about a bunch of extra things that are gonna slow down their reaction time and their free ability to just openly strike.
“If I didn’t have that experience in wrestling in the state tournament, there’s a good chance I’d still run into those issues. The only reason that I took third instead of sixth was, I stopped caring. Any pressure that I was putting on myself, or that I felt like I was putting on myself, because of hearing other things from other people that had expectations. After I lost that match, it was just kind of a ‘fuck-it. This isn’t what we came to do.’ And from then on, I just took that mentality, where when I’m going in, it’s just I’m out there to have fun and do what I know I can do.”
Many still look at fighting as a way to prove something or to compete at the highest level. Jiu-jitsu itself provides an entirely different mindset and end result that could benefit many who have never tried or would have never thought to try it.
“Jiu-jitsu is an escape,” Lohsen explained. “Jiu-jitsu is a world you can enter into and not have to worry about anything else going on. You get on the mats, and you can just freely let your mind worry about not getting tapped out or trying to try new things and open your mind to different possibilities you could do with your jiu-jitsu. And you’re just constantly thinking through jiu-jitsu and, because you’re thinking so much, you don’t have room to think about some of the stuff that’s bothering you in life or anything like that, because your focus when you are there is solely on bettering your jiu-jitsu and figuring out what else you can do.”