Clay Collard says he’s your typical country boy: he likes fishing, hiking, boating, snowboarding, water skiing, and hanging out with his dog.
The 27-year-old mixed martial artist and Utah native loves to fight, too. He showed it this year by competing in six professional boxing matches, winning his first five before losing on Saturday by unanimous decision in an eight-round middleweight rematch with Quincy “Chico” LaVallais at the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. The two men had fought to a draw in June 2019.
“I just like to fight, man. It doesn’t matter if it’s boxing, MMA, wrestling, ju-jitsu. If it has something to do with combat sports, I love to do it,” Collard told Combat Press in an exclusive interview. “I boxed at a very young age, so I guess it’s kinda getting back to my roots. Boxing has always been a passion of mine from a very young age.”
There was a method to the proverbial madness of being a crossover professional fighter. Collard signed with the Las Vegas-based Professional Fighters League in November 2019, but the MMA organization’s 2020 season, set to begin this past April, was postponed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
So Collard, who used to compete in the UFC, received permission from the PFL to box this year in preparation for the league’s 2021 season, which begins next April. His boxing record is now 9-3-3 with five knockouts. The lightweight’s MMA record stands at 18-8.
“My coach wanted me to start boxing to better my all-around fight game in mixed martial arts. He thought it would help me,” Collard, who goes by the fight name “Cassius” after the boxing legend Muhammad Ali, said. “As soon as [the 2021 season] starts in April — I think the first fight’s April 23 — I’ll be ready to get back to MMA right then and there.”
Collard also viewed his six boxing matches as the best way to make ends meet during a difficult year for combat-sports athletes. He and LaVallais both contracted COVID-19 prior to their scheduled rematch in October, which forced a postponement until Saturday.
“I’m a fighter, that’s how I make my money. So, if I don’t fight, I don’t make money. PFL is kind enough to let me box this year so I keep a roof over my head and food in my belly,” Collard said.
Now living in Idaho, Collard began wrestling in his home state of Utah at age six and took up boxing around age 11. He had his first professional MMA fight at age 18 in 2011.
The 2021 season of the PFL, which has a unique format with a regular season, playoffs and $1 million championship fights, can’t come soon enough for Collard.
“I haven’t fought MMA in over a year,” he said. “It’s something I’m passionate about and love to do, so the fact that I’m getting in the cage again is extremely exciting.”