Last July, we spoke with an up-and-coming fighter who was making his name on the MMA scene. Half a year later, Jimmy Drago is becoming one of the most accomplished, yet still underrated, fighters in the sport.
From high school football to underground fighting, and now professional fighting, Drago has balanced it all with a full-time, grueling job as an ironworker.
The man who embodies the underdog mentality recently caught up with Joker Mag to share an update on his MMA career, his approach to fighting, and much more.
Can you provide a brief update on your career since you last spoke with Joker Mag?
I recently completed a first-round knockout win.
Two body kicks fractured my opponent’s arm and then after tying him up against the cage, I was able to land knees to his face, dropping him and finishing the fight 34 seconds into the round.
What has been the biggest reason for your rise in success over the last 6 months?
Besides winning and stopping my opponents, a reason for my success on a personal level is what I call the “gift and the curse” mentality. It’s a mentality that I take with me no matter what I’m doing whether it’s fighting or ironworking.
No matter what task is at hand, I will work at it until my bones collapse – which is a gift. But no matter how much I do, how many miles or sprints I run, or rounds I spar, in my own head, I am never doing enough; this is the “curse”.
With every camp I complete, I’m better conditioned and more well-prepared. I believe it’s because of that mentality that I keep growing as a fighter and individual.
Describe the training process for a fighter making their way through MMA, and possibly up to the UFC ranks.
Most make it to the top because they eat, sleep, and breathe the fight game.
Amateurs turn into professionals, and once a professional establishes himself with a solid record and finishes some or most of his fights, then that person will get a shot in the UFC, Bellator, or Professional Fighters League (PFL).
Some make it there off a great record and stunning finishes. Others make it by fighting for a contract on the contender series or Ultimate Fighter.
What is your mindset surrounding a fight, from the week before to the day of the fight?
The last week before a fight, in my experience, is one of the toughest parts of the fight game. It is only because, after 8-12 weeks of grueling training, the body is tired.
On top of that, I am cutting a lot of weight that given week. However, it gets easier and easier. It’s an exciting time because all I want to do is perform. I try not to focus on how I feel during the present moment, but instead remember all of the hard work I put in to get here in the first place.
On the day of the fight, I try and relax as much as possible, breathe, and remember this is the fun part. I tell myself this can go one or two ways, and at that point, instincts take over; it’s now a game of survival.
If these were different times, I’d be fighting in The Colosseum.
What are the qualities that mostly separate an average fighter from a top-tier fighter in your sport?
The comfort zone is where dreams go to die. It’s getting uncomfortable and working on the things I am not so strong in. For some people, it’s their striking, and for others, it’s their ground game.
I believe top-tier fighters are constantly evolving because they are training with the best of the best in areas they need to work on.
What is the biggest misconception about fighters in your sport?
I believe that the biggest misconception in this sport is that once you make it to the UFC or these other big promotions, you will become rich or completely financially stable. This is very far from the truth.
Once you get to that level, you have to continue to win and prove your worth before you start seeing real money.
What is the toughest part of reaching the top ranks of fighting?
The toughest part of reaching the top is the fact that you’re in a fight and anything can happen.
Sometimes it’s not who’s better, as much as it is who makes the first mistake. Thus, maintaining a dominant record in such a high-risk sport is the toughest part.
If there is one thing you’d change about your sport, what would it be?
One thing I would change about this sport is for these major organizations to alter the weight classes. I wish there was a 165-pound division. I walk around at 200 pounds and cut to 170 pounds, making me an average-sized welterweight.
Making 155 pounds instead would be very extreme, but I still think it’s doable. 165 pounds would be perfect.
How has being a fighter improved your life?
Training and competing have changed my life in many ways. It taught me to believe in myself and the hard work I put in every day which I sometimes still struggle with (“the curse as described above).
I train by myself, I run by myself, I get in the cage by myself. It has taught me that if I want something in life, then I have to go out there and grab it. Seize the opportunity and do not waste time; that goes for every aspect of life. And I don’t have to rely on others to make that happen.
All I want in life is to give my family the life I didn’t have after my father passed away when I was 15. Training and competing have taught me that anything in life is obtainable if I work for it.
Massive thanks to Jimmy Drago for taking the time to give us an update on his journey. Go follow him on Instagram to keep up with his career.
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