New Jersey native. California transplant. MMA writer. MMA fighter. All of these are applicable descriptors of Andrew Richardson. Richardson has been breaking down fights and providing analysis for Bloody Elbow’s sister site, MMA Mania, for nearly four years, and competing on the amateur MMA circuit the entire time. That all ended on March 31, 2018 when young Andrew made his professional debut on the Gladiator Challenge: Redemption card, which saw him victorious via TKO inside the first minute of the fight.
While not the first time a writer in the community has made the crossover to fighting, it is still a rare occurrence, and one that warrants attention, so I reached out to Andrew to get more details of his journey. From his first amateur bout, where some questioned if he was even old enough to be fighting, to his goals for the future, Richardson’s tale is one of dedication, hard work and a willingness to go the extra mile—or 2900.
One of our video editors, Case Harts, flew out to Sacramento to document Andrew’s first outing as a pro, catching everything from the weigh-in to the win. The three-part series is being released over a three-week span, with the first having dropped here, the second here and the third will be available later this week.
Leaving Home for Team Alpha Male
I graduated high school in June, I had my first amateur fight that August, and I was at Team Alpha Male in September. It definitely moved real fast. I did a couple 4-5 day trips to visit the gym during my senior year—three days for my 18th birthday and instead of going on the senior trip, I used that week to go and visit, as well. So, I did get out there and visit a few times to get the vibe of the place.
Even though I was a real skinny 18-year-old who looked 14, and wasn’t a two-time All-American, super impressive, athlete-looking guy, everyone there was still very friendly and inviting. They were willing to help me after practices and all that stuff. I knew pretty fast that’s where I wanted to be and that I would do well there.
I was drawn to TAM because I knew that for me, the max weight class I would be at would probably be 135. But, another part of it was that I was just a big fan of their staple names. Joe Benavidez has been one of my favorite fighters since I got into the sport, and guys like Chad and Urijah are also people that I’ve enjoyed watching and respected that were part of the team.
Funding the Relocation
It definitely was helped along by my parents, but part of it was when I moved out to the West coast, it was just me at first. I lived with a roommate from the gym for the first three months. I just rented a room for like $400 a month. I’d spent most of high school saving money towards this goal from my work at MMA Mania.
After the three months, my dad moved out here, and now we share an apartment, which has been for the last three years or so. My parents have definitely helped me make this dream and goal work.
My work at Mania helps me a ton because it’s a job that I can do without a set schedule. I don’t have to work from 9-5 or anything that would prevent me from getting to the gym when I need to. As long as I meet my deadlines, it’s no problem.
I made my amateur debut when I was 18 and they put me on the little promotional poster. I looked so young in the picture they used of me that some lady I didn’t know called twice to ask if I was old enough to be fighting.
Team Alpha Male Dynamics
We’re seemingly in a state of constant transition, but the bright side is that no matter who our head coach has been, we’ve always had a ton of great assistant coaches who have been elevated to different roles at different times. Right now, there’s not really a head coach, not officially, at least. Between Urijah, Danny Castillo and Chris Holdsworth, they’re probably the big three right now.
They have their set practices that they run. Chris Holdsworth runs the pro practice every Friday morning. Normally, Danny and Urijah are there to take it and drill with us or to walk around the room and correct technique and help coach the class. I think they do a good job of being so involved that it’s not one person showing one thing and the other coach is showing something completely different. They are all pretty good about communicating and connecting.
That’s the situation right now, and I don’t know if it’ll change or if it’s permanent. Aside from Danny Castillo being one of the wrestling coach, there’s also Alex Munoz who teaches a wrestling class. In jiu-jitsu, we have Chris and another three black belts that help out. Joey Rodriguez is the TAM boxing coach and has been for years, and he’s the coach I work with one-on-one the most.
Selling Tickets (not the wolf variety)
I’ve sold tickets for probably half of my fights, counting amateur and pro, and it’s a lot harder since I moved out here. Since I grew up on the east coast, I had all my family, extended family and friends—all the people that you know in life—and then when I transplanted, I knew like eight people outside the gym.
My teammates are very supportive, but most of them are broke fighters, like myself, who can’t drop $60 on tickets every time someone fights. So, it’s a lot harder to sell tickets in big numbers as someone who didn’t grow up on this coast, but I still managed to sell 20 or 30, depending on the fight. My teammate, Andrew Coyne, grew up here and went to high school here and has all his friends here, he can sell 100 of them. I definitely make less money off ticket sales then the guys here.
At this level, that’s pretty much your only option. The promotions running smaller shows don’t make that much money, so you kind of have to carry your weight. At the end of the day, it’s about how many tickets you can sell. It sucks being the transplant guy that can only sell 20 or 30 tickets instead of 50, because then I’m not as valuable, but I try to make up for it by bringing attention to my online fights. If you’re picky about it, you’re not gonna get anywhere, so you’ve got to roll with the punches.
Training with the Girlfriend
I have two gyms, TAM where I do all my MMA training and I have another gym, Capital Strength & Performance, which is my strength and conditioning gym. She works out with me there and has for about a year-and-a-half, but for the last six months or so, she’s been doing the Olympic lifting program there. She doesn’t do jiu-jitsu or box or anything, but she does work out strength and conditioning with me and a few members of the team.
She’s definitely around the gym a good bit and drives me to practices. She’ll stay and watch and do homework, that sort of thing. She’s very involved and is more excited to go to our local team fight stuff than I am a lot of the time.
The Trouble with Bouncers
We had Case following me around as my documentary guy, and we had gotten prior permission, but somehow, after he had filmed my fight, the bounder started giving him trouble. We had wanted him to film Andrew Coyne’s fight and another TAM guy, but the bouncer wouldn’t let him walk. Case told him, ‘But I’ve done the last three,’ and the bouncer was like, ‘You don’t have a wrist band,’ because they ran out of wrist bands earlier in the evening.
Casino bouncers are pretty serious and this guy was having no part of Case walking, so when Bulldog fought, I actually had to grab Case’s camera and film it for him, since I had my fighter wrist band. He wasn’t going to get by and the fight wouldn’t have gotten filmed otherwise.
Similarly, my girlfriend, who I had listed as the other media person because she helped film a little bit, she got locked out of the venue before my fight. She was freaking out trying to get back in because she knew I was fighting first. I didn’t even know any of this was happening. She told me she thought the guy only let her in because he could see she was about to have a breakdown. So yeah, security was a little tighter than usual.
I always try to pick my words carefully because I don’t want to sound like I’m Chuck Liddell with ice in my veins, but even back to my first amateur fight, I’ve never gotten all that nervous or worried before a fight. I think it’s just part of my personality that in sparring or really hard workouts or whatever it is when you’re pushed to extremes or exhaustion, I feel like I can kind of keep a pretty good poker face, both externally and in my own head.
I would say for this fight, I was more nervous than usual, just because of the mystery, the X-factor. I didn’t really know what I was getting into. Fighting a weight class and-a-half up, the guy could have been a lot bigger than me and been very good. It was a situation that I had to be prepared for that is not ideal.
Mentally, it was a little more taxing, but I just told myself, ‘I fight with plenty of guys that are a weight class bigger than me that have success on the pro scene at high levels. If I can handle had training with those guys, I can handle this.’ That thought helped my confidence level and helped me stay relaxed before the fight. But for sure, this fight was definitely more stressful, but I don’t think I was ever overcome by it or scared to compete.
Goals for the Future
DWTNCS is a goal and an expectation. Last year, they had six or seven weeks, and we had five guys from our gym—pretty much one a week, almost. Our gym has a good connection, so once we have a guy with a good record, it’s a very attainable goal to compete on the Contender Series. It’s definitely something I have my eye on in the next two or three years, because I have to build up my record, obviously.
For my bigger picture career goals, I’m in this to fight as long as I can find success. You have to be self-aware, and if I start getting knocked out three times in a row, I will certainly reconsider my options. That said, I’m in this sport to compete and see how far I can go.
At the same time, if two years from now, I’m doing well, but someone offers me a fulltime gig in sports coverage or as a TV analyst or something like that, I would have to seriously consider it. It would be hard to move away from fighting before I was truly ready to retire, but I’m open to it, for sure. That’s just a helpful side benefit.
A Few Words from Documentarian Case Harts
When you only know someone online, it can be hard to pin them down. Andrew, like his online persona (outside of articles), is not an avid social media user. He can be quiet and reserved, but when he is with his friends and training partners, he breaks out.
I really admired his ability to observe, study and break people down. Something I ironically thought I was decent at. I have met a lot of people who ‘want to be a fighter,’ but have only met a few people that carry themselves with his confidence and professionalism so early in their career.
There was something so routine about this whole experience, and 99 percent of new fighters would have found themselves thrown off, but he was constantly aware and adaptable while always being relatively stress-free for a guy about to fight into the cage for the first time as a pro.