How often does a mixed martial arts story start in the barbershop? It’s time for a fresh take.
Many MMA fighters like to think they are unique, but they all seem to tell the same story. They all think they are the baddest fighters out there. They are always in the best shape of their lives. And, they all are confident that their next fight is going to be a fireworks display. Sometimes, it becomes so cliché, it’s unbearable to hear. Well, 24-year-old Mando Gutierrez is truly unlike any other fighter.
“I’ve been cutting hair since I was 12 years old,” Gutierrez told Combat Press. “That was my first love, and that’s really the reason why I’m even here. That is what has allowed me to train and fight, and focus on both, really.
“I started cutting hair when I was young. I was always into art, and I’ve been an artist since I was a little kid – like, drawing, painting, whatever. So, when I grabbed the clipper, it was just the same thing. It was like drawing to me. I got the hang of it pretty quick, and I never looked back. When people look at my body of work as a barber, they see that I’m into really intricate design – like crazy drawings on people’s heads and stuff like that. So, I’ll do a regular haircut, but put a little twist to it and make it unique.”
Gutierrez likens his haircuts to graffiti. He just gets right to drawing with the clippers, and he’s had so many reps in his life, he makes very little errors. For anyone interested in seeing what the artist does, check out his Instagram page. What he does with hair is quite amazing.
Gutierrez grew up in a suburb of Chicago, Ill. with his parents, his older sister and his two younger brothers. The area he is from, Carpentersville, is very diverse, and there were many directions he could have gone – from gangbanging to sports to academics. He took the route of the wrestler at a very young age, and a lot of his positive direction in life he attributes to his family.
“My parents are both immigrants from Mexico, so I think the real reason I want to fight is because growing up, seeing my parents, they sacrificed so much,” Gutierrez explained. “They worked so hard for us. They worked so hard, and don’t have much to show for it other than us. So, it’s up to me to go out there and just shoot for the stars. They had so many barriers in their life that wouldn’t allow them to do that. I hope that, one day, they can look back and be proud of me. And, I can show that that hard work that they instilled in me as a kid can go and take me really far in life. Ever since I was little, my dad has been the hardest working man I’ve ever known. All I ever wanted to do is make him proud.”
Gutierrez’s parents are from Jalisco, Mex., and he still has a lot of family back there. They try to visit a lot, and for him, it’s crazy to visit a place that has only had internet for a few years. It’s a lot different than where he grew up.
“There’s a heavy Mexican population, but you’ve got a little bit of everything,” Gutierrez said of his hometown. “It was a standard way of living. I grew up around a lot of gangs, but I was also surrounded by a lot of athletes and a lot of smart kids. Where I come from, the opportunities are there, but you just got to go out and take them. A lot of people just get sucked into the same things. I’m from one of those towns where you go back, and everybody is still there, working at a gas station or doing the same shit they were doing ten years ago.”
In addition to wrestling and a little bit of football, Gutierrez was also into pushing the iron around. He was a world-record powerlifter, and spent quite a bit of time on that circuit. Eventually, though, MMA came calling.
“I was powerlifting, and I was finding success in it, but it just wasn’t filling that void,” Gutierrez explained. “One day, when I was living at my parent’s house – I moved back home after I was done wrestling and powerlifting – I needed something new. I had a friend here in Michigan, and I just randomly decided to move to Michigan. A week later, my car was packed up, and I moved to Michigan. Murcielago MMA was here, and they were ranked number-one in the Midwest in every weight class but mine, and I was like, ‘I’m going to be that guy.’ I moved here with no job and no place to stay. I hadn’t even talked to the gym. I showed up and never looked back.”
In 2018, at only 20 years old, Gutierrez started training at Murcielago MMA, and he also found a great job at a local barbershop where he started to build his client base. He started fighting in April of that year, and one year later, was sitting at 7-0 as an amateur, stopping all but one of his opponents. In Sept. 2019, he made his pro debut, and currently sits at 5-1.
“I feel like it’s been going really well,” Gutierrez said. “I’m blessed. Things are going really well. I work my ass off, and I try to do all the right things. I mean, thank God things are going well, but I have a chip on my shoulder. I come from nothing. I’m a greedy motherfucker. I want it all. I never had anything, so I owe it to myself to take this as far as I can.
“My family is so fucking supportive, and it’s absolutely unbelievable, man. Every time I talk about it, I get in my feelings, man. It’s just crazy to think that from one day to the next, they’re just like, ‘Boom. We’re MMA fans now.’ Now, my whole family is ride or die – everything MMA. They’re the reason I’m here, and they’re the reason I do it. It’s a beautiful thing, man.”
In his professional career, Gutierrez had one hiccup, and that came in Sept. 2020, when he made his second appearance for Legacy Fighting Alliance. At LFA 90, he faced Mo Miller. In the first round of that battle, Miller clipped Gutierrez, and he never really recovered. Near the end of round two, Miller locked up a rear-naked choke, and won the fight by submission.
“I ran into somebody that matched my intensity,” Gutierrez admitted. “This game has a way of taking you out of character. This whole time, I built my career off of working hard and being humble – doing what I needed to do. I never got caught up in the extra stuff. I never got caught up in the hype. And, then one day, it happened. That’s just the way it works. I got caught up in the hype, and I thought I deserved the win when I didn’t. I got what I deserved.”
Gutierrez did have some moments of talent in the Miller fight. He twice attempted a gogoplata choke, which is a pretty rare occurrence, especially in MMA. However, he knew he was on the wrong end of that fight, and was willing to throw caution to the wind. The second one almost worked.
“Going forward, you’re going to see a lot more flashy stuff like that,” Gutierrez proclaimed. “I just like doing cool stuff, you know? It’s part of my game. We’re artists. I’m painting a picture out there, and that’s just how I do it.“
At LFA 106 last April, Gutierrez bounced back with a first-round choke of William Elliott to get back in the win column. He was determined to pick up the win, but his emotions almost got the best of him.
“I had a game plan, until I heard that bell go off,” Gutierrez said. “I immediately went, ‘I’ve got to go kill him right now.’ I went out there and hit him with some good shit, and he hit me back right in the back of the temple and bam. Instantly, he knocked my legs out, and I didn’t have my legs with me at all. For the rest of the round, I was just fighting with my upper body. My legs were completely gone. At that point, I was not losing that fight. At no point was I panicking, and I knew the ref wasn’t going to stop it either.”
Fortunately, Elliott started to slow down, and with only seconds left in the first round, Gutierrez was able to submit his opponent. While the Illinois native knew he was stunned, he was not going to back down. A lot of that comes from his training at Murcielago MMA.
“You’re never comfortable here,” Gutierrez said. “Everyone is trying to take your head off. But, as soon as the clock stops, we’re a family again. Like, on our sparring days, we talk a lot of shit, you know? The team just fits my personality. I hope nobody takes this the wrong way, but we’re just a bunch of street cats that come from nothing and like to fight. We’re kind of like the bad boys of Michigan. Everybody loves to hate us, because we clean the floors with everybody out here.”
In addition to Murcielago MMA, Gutierrez spends about one week per month in Las Vegas, cross-training at Xtreme Couture and 10th Planet Las Vegas with Coach Casey Halstead. He is always looking to get better, regardless of his physical condition at the time.
“I’ve been training my ass off,” said Gutierrez. “I’ve been dealing with a couple little injuries there. Regardless, I’m always in the gym two or three times a day. I’ve been focusing on getting better and making adjustments. I get better in the gym. I’m getting better, so I can keep stepping up.
“You are always two steps [further] behind in the cage than you are in the gym. I’m always better in the gym. I mean, staying active is really important – really, really important. When you’re taking higher level fights, and you’re training more – when you’re taking this shit seriously – the injuries come with it. All this stuff comes with it. This is what’s first for me. This is my life. This is what I do, and at the end of the day, there are some things you just can’t shake. Things come around, and whenever I can’t do one thing, I’ll do another. When I broke my nose, I went out there and did a couple jiu-jitsu competitions. When I injured my knee, I started doing a bunch of strength and conditioning.”
Tonight, live from the Menominee Nation Arena in Oshkosh, Wisc., Gutierrez was set to face Bryan Bautista at LFA 115 in a 135-pound showdown. It was a fight he was really looking forward to.
“He’s just a regular all-around MMA dude,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve watched all of his fights. He’s good at everything, but he’s not great at anything. Also, he fights a bunch of cans. That’s all I know. I can’t knock, because I’ve fought a couple cans in my day. He has good skills, but we’re going to see if he has the heart to match. I’m just planning on going out there and beating the dog shit out of him.”
Unfortunately, the day before the fight, Bautista botched his weight cut, and the fight was scrapped. This is very unfortunate for Gutierrez. As he stated, he works his ass off, whether he is injured or not. To see his opponent miss weight has got to sting, but there is no doubt that the hair-cutting machine will have that much more fire the next time he steps into the cage.
Gutierrez is not the average MMA fighter. He has a very unique background across the board, and is a very impressive young man. Whoever his next opponent is will have a big task ahead as he faces this bantamweight brawler.
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