The memories of fight fans can be extremely short. Sometimes, the memories of promoters can be even shorter. One day, a fighter is on top of the world. The next day, nobody seems to care. That’s the transient nature of combat sports.
In MMA, there is always this idea of “live by the sword and die by the sword” that fans and promoters expect from fighters. Unfortunately, for those who go out there and do that, it only matters if they win. If someone loses, oh well.
Darrick Minner has 31 fights under his belt, and he’s one of those few individuals to make it into the cage over 30 times with only three decisions on his record. He may have nine losses, but nobody can ever accuse him of putting on a boring fight.
The Nebraska City native has fought on all the major regional shows from Victory FC to Legacy Fighting Alliance, as well as the local Dynasty Combat Sports and the old Resurrection Fighting Alliance, but every time he got close to the UFC, he suffered some kind of setback. The last one happened at LFA 48 almost a year ago, when he was stopped by Kevin Croom.
“He’s just a tough vet, man,” Minner told Combat Press. “In the first round, I clean-cocked him, and I shouldn’t have stepped away, because he was completely knocked out. I went and bullrushed him, because he was all loopy and I could tell. The first round was probably 10-8 or 10-7. Then, I threw that kick in the second round, and I kind of fell, but I let him work, because I was tired from that first round. He got on top of me, and he was elbowing me and punching me. I gave the ref the thumbs up, because I was not trying to get up while someone is elbowing me in the head. Then, they stopped the fight.”
Minner was close to the next level, and that win on the LFA stage would’ve certainly pushed him that much closer. He and his manager Andrew “Train” Lee had been in talks with the UFC for about three years to get him to the next level, and the setback against Croom was a big one. In fact, he started to doubt his future in the sport. He was back to focusing on his own gym, Minner-Gray Sports Performance, and his fighting career had taken a back seat.
In November, Minner found out about an opportunity to fight for Final Fight Championship against UFC vet Clay Collard. It was an opportunity that he hadn’t been training for, and wasn’t really taking it seriously.
“I was just joking around and tagged my manager in a post, because I wasn’t really in shape,” Minner admitted. “I hadn’t been training too much, since my controversial loss to Kevin Croom. I was just concentrating on my gym at home. We joked around, and I was like ‘I’m not in shape enough.’ But, then I told my manager, ‘hold up, I’m going to go hit pads hard right now.’ I went and hit pads and decided to take the fight. Sometimes, you just say ‘fuck it,’ and put on the gloves and fight, you know? That’s what we did – came out here and got the win. I knew I had one round in me, but that’s how I fight anyway. Sometimes, you just have to risk it and go.”
The win over Collard brought a renewed spirit to Minner’s mindset. It was time to stop questioning himself and keep moving forward. He was given a three-fight deal with FFC, but that was not the final goal.
“After a loss like that, a guy with over 30 pro fights, I was like ‘what do we do from here?’” Minner explained. “I was just trying to concentrate on my business and everything around me, besides fighting. I was in one of those lows, where I was like ‘fuck, man, where do we go?’ My last three losses, I was dominating right up until the time of the loss, so it was one of those things that kind of got me down pretty bad. Then, that offer came, and I thought ‘what do I have to lose? Let’s go fight this UFC vet on short notice. Who cares?’ Then, I go dominate, and I’m like ‘you know what? I do fucking belong here.’”
Collard was sort of the face of the FFC at the time, as he was one of the biggest names on its roster. Minner went in a picked up a submission win in just 31 seconds. After that, the promotion made a lot of promises that it couldn’t keep, and after six months of waiting for the next opportunity, the big show came calling. Tomorrow night, he finally steps into the Octagon to face Herbert Burns on Dana White’s Contender Series.
“He’s a world champion gi jiu-jitsu guy, and he’s Gilbert Burns’ little brother,” Minner elaborated. “That’s the gist of it. He’s going to be really good at jiu-jitsu. Looking at his record, he got babied in ONE FC, because of who he is, I’m assuming. That’s pretty much what I know about him. He’s tough and he’s good at jiu-jitsu.”
Burns is currently 8-2 in MMA, but no stranger to competition. Not surprisingly, all five of his stoppage wins are by submission, and his two losses were by decision, so he has yet to be stopped. Minner is not one to shy away from tough competition, and is always one to bring the fight, so live or die, he will definitely be fighting by the sword.
“I don’t specifically have a game plan,” Minner said. “I stopped doing that after I fought Luke Sanders, because it messed me up mentally. I’m not scared to take [Burns] down and ground and pound. Everybody that’s taken him down, they get scared of his jiu-jitsu. They get caught in his guard, and they get frightened, and they hold him there. His two losses were to guys that actually punched him when they got to the ground. My style is that I’m just going to go out there, and stand and trade with him, and if I see openings to take it down and get in good position, I’ll take it. I’m going to walk out of there with a UFC contract, because I’ve been working too hard for too long to not get a UFC contract.”
Minner always come into a fight with his back against the wall, and this one is no different. He does not suspect he is the promotional favorite, and, in a way, he almost feels like a body filling a spot in hopes of his opponent making into the big show. Minner does not care about that, and appreciates his underdog status. He is looking forward to playing the spoiler.
“Sometimes, they’ve got to sign the guys with 31 fights that just finished Gilbert Burns’ little brother,” Minner said. “You know what? They want him to win. I’m on the B side of things. He came off ‘Lookin’ For a Fight,’ he’s Gilbert Burns’ little brother, blah, blah, blah. I don’t have anything to lose. I’m the bet here. I’m the guy where they are like ‘well, let’s see what Minner has.’ They want him to win. They want brothers in the UFC. You know what I mean?”
Well, what the UFC might want and what Minner might want are two very different things, and this battle of attrition will go down tomorrow night, live on ESPN+. He will plan on being fresh in the memories of viewers and the promotion.