Everyone should have something they fight for. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the business world, sports, or simply in one’s personal life. This is what drives people to achieve. Without a “why,” it’s hard to stay motivated to do most things.
Nebraska native Darrick Minner has had a lot of “whys” that have kept him excelling in the fight game over his eight-year, 35-fight career. It’s been the way he grew up, his grandma’s love of boxing, and his underdog status. When he does lose, he doesn’t wallow in his tears, but comes back hungrier for more. However, right before his last scheduled fight, he turned anything but hungry.
In February, after back-to-back first-round submissions in the fourth quarter of 2019, Minner finally made his UFC debut on a week’s notice. He came in as a short-notice replacement to face fellow Midwesterner Grant Dawson at UFC on ESPN+ 27. A short way into the second round, he lost by rear-naked choke. However, he had punched his ticket to the big show.
In June, he was scheduled for a rematch against Jordan Griffin, whom he had lost to in March 2018. The night before the weigh-ins, though, things went awry.
“I just got sick,” Minner told Combat Press. “It wasn’t the weight cut or anything. I had just woken up from my nap. On the day before weigh-ins, I usually split my weight cut into two sets — you know, five pounds and five pounds — and then I sleep off the rest. I went and cut five, and I felt fantastic. I went and shadowboxed for two hours and went down five and a half pounds. I think I was 151. I went up, showered, took a nap, and I woke up at like 6:30, 7:00, to cut the remainder.
“I just had these sharp, stabbing pains in my stomach. I had no idea what was going on. Then, like a half hour later, I was trying to calm my stomach down, so we could get the cut, and I just started dry-heaving and my stomach bile was coming up. It was just a long, drawn-out process of me not being able to keep anything down.
“The UFC [Performance Institute] people came in, and they were trying to help me get situated. They were giving me some little tablets to chew on to settle my stomach. I was trying to eat frozen blueberries, and I couldn’t hold anything down. Finally, around midnight, it was time to make the call that there was no way I was going to be able to fight. It was a super good call by my team, the UFC PI, and the doctors, because of the fact that we flew home on Friday, the day of the weigh-ins, and I was throwing up on the plane. Then, Saturday, as the first fight was walking out, I had just got done throwing up. It was a super good call, because there’s no way I would have been able to fight anyway.”
Minner was confident that he simply caught a stomach bug at the wrong time. He is a veteran fighter who was getting down to 145 pounds, and the only time previously when something like this had happened was six years prior when he was making a cut to 135. That time, he was able to calm his stomach and get an armbar submission over Austin Lyons at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 13. Through 35 fights, nothing this extreme had happened to him.
His ailment pushed out his next challenge to UFC on ESPN+ 36, which takes place on Saturday, September 19. In the opening fight of the event, Minner takes on hot prospect T.J. Laramie, who is coming off a win over Daniel Swain on Dana White’s Contender Series in August. The victory makes it four in a row for the 22-year-old Canadian. Laramie has now had 15 pro fights, but Minner will be one of his most experienced opponents to date.
“He’s a young, up-and-coming kid,” Minner said. “He’s a grinder. He likes to wrestle, and he’s got a good top pressure. Other than that, I don’t really know much about him. I think his game’s all-around pretty good, but he’s not great anywhere. I think he needs to be on top to win this fight, and that’s just not going to happen.
“I love the match-up. I feel like styles are going to clash, meaning I think we have similar styles, but we don’t. I think he’s super confident and arrogant and shit coming into the fight. I just think that’s going to play a part, as far as me being the vet and having so much experience. I’m just continuing to get better. You know, I still feel like nobody’s seen me yet. I just like the match-up. I feel like I’m better everywhere.”
Minner and Laramie, who both have home gyms outside of Las Vegas, have each spent time training at Xtreme Couture. Due to this potential conflict, Minner took his camp to the Kansas City, Mo., area, which is a lot closer to his home in Nebraska.
“I’m training with James Krause down here at Glory MMA,” said Minner. “I’ve been here for two weeks now, and it’s only helped my game that much more. T.J. also trains in Vegas. We’ve been at Xtreme at the same time, but we’ve never [gone] together or anything.
“We have mutual coaches and training partners, so I didn’t want it to be weird or anything. I’ve been talking to James and Grant for a while after me and Grant fought, so I’ve just been excited to come back here. And I always stay with Tim Elliott when I go to Vegas, and he actually moved back to Glory too. I’m just staying with Tim down here in Lee’s Summit. It was a smart call, especially for this match-up. Everywhere that James is good at is where this kid tries to be good.”
Due to the nature of regional fighting, many Midwest gyms have run into one another on multiple occasions. Minner’s primary gym, Premier Combat Center, in Omaha, Neb., often crosses paths with Glory MMA. While Minner did face Dawson in the UFC, Dawson’s not the only Glory fighter to step into the cage with Minner.
“I’ve fought four of these dudes down here,” Minner said. “James coached against me four times. It’s insane. What better way to go than have a coach coach you when he’s already game-planned for you four times and knows your ins and outs. He’s been putting into perspective what I already know. He just calmed it down. I’m just relaxing, you know. I feel like I could beat anybody in the world if I just go in there and relax and fight a full 15 minutes and not just blow my wad out in the first round. So, I’m going to go in there and find my fight, but it’s going to be for a full 15 minutes. It’s not going to just be for five.”
In recent years, Krause’s coaching successes, like his successes in the cage, have been constantly on the rise. With fighters like Dawson, Megan Anderson, Jeff Molina and Trey Ogden stringing together nice winning streaks, Minner sees firsthand why this team is trending upward.
“The hype around everybody saying [Krause is] as good of a coach is real,” said Minner. “I knew it, but when I got down here, it blew my mind, man. I learned so much. I probably haven’t learned this much in the last two and a half to three years combined. I’ve been around a lot of coaches and trained a lot of places, but when it comes to James and fighter IQ, nothing compares.”
Minner has always passionately represented the Midwest. This is another reason he chose to visit Glory MMA. After all, it’s a shorter distance from his biggest, most powerful motivator ever: a baby girl named Brogyn.
“I’ve got a four-month-old daughter,” Minner explained. “We’d do training on Saturdays and then I’d jet up home until Sunday night and then just drive back down here. It’s only two and a half hours. That was cool. I never thought I would miss a little human being in a week like I do with my little daughter, but it’s insane. The good news is that we have technology, and I can Facetime and hang out with them on there. It’s been good, and it will make it worth it. This shit ain’t about me no more. It’s about fighting for a better life for my family.”
Brogyn, her mom Jordyn, and her sister Brixtyn make up Minner’s young family. They add more fuel to his fire than he had ever previously had throughout his fighting career. His family, his experience, and his time at Glory MMA could prove to be the winning combination he needs to move on to the next era of his career as he steps into the Octagon on Saturday night for a fight that fans can see live on ESPN+.