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Arlington's Kovacs loses MMA title to Braker
TACOMA — Oddly enough, mixed martial arts fighter Matt Kovacs prefers his opponents on their feet.
It’s when the fight goes to the floor that Kovacs, who has a traditional boxing background, has trouble.
That much was seen when Kovacs failed to defend his CageSport Heavyweight title, losing to Nick Braker in the second round Oct. 2 at the Emerald Queen Casino.
“It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time,” said Kovacs of his boxing ability. “When you’re knocking guys out, you think you can get by until you meet a guy with a good chin.”
Which was the case for Kovacs, who has won as many as four regional championship belts in the heavyweight division since turning pro just over a year ago. The 29-year-old entered the fight with a 5-2 record and hopes of a jump to more publicized bouts but came away knowing he had to literally keep himself down to re-emerge.
“It just means that I have to go back to the drawing board and learn how to be on the ground,” Kovacs said.
Braker, who comes from a jujitsu background, took Kovacs down twice in the first round, holding position for a large portion of the time. The first time he went down, however, Kovacs efficiently worked his way back to his feet and broke Braker’s hold.
“The good news is that he did some things that just a few weeks ago he would have never done,” said Kovacs’ trainer Landon Showalter, who owns the Arlington Kickboxing Club. “He’s great at boxing, and it’s gotten him this far, but you have to be more than one-dimensional at this level.
After emerging onto his feet, Kovacs attacked Braker with a barrage of punches that seemed to stun him for a minute, but Kovacs was soon on his back again.
The second round, however, Kovacs was not as fortunate, as he was taken down right away and eventually chocked out.
“That was weird,” he said. “That was the first time that’s ever happened to me before.”
This is the strategy most fighters take with Kovacs, as they quickly find out that they can’t fight toe-to-toe with him. This time, however, it worked.
Kovacs enjoyed a one-year amateur boxing career before switching to mixed martial arts. He saw the sport on television and thought about giving it a try. Living in various areas in north Snohomish County, Showalter caught his eye at a fight.
“I actually looked up Landon,” Kovacs said. “He’s a devastating striker, but he knows how to fight on the ground. If I could emulate anybody’s style, it’d be Landon’s.”
After losing that title, and another a few months ago, Showalter is giving Kovacs an ultimatum to either take more submission classes or he won’t look for another MMA fight.
“If he comes in to train on the ground, I’ll get him a boxing match somewhere, but not right away,” Showalter said. “He’s got a lot of talent and ability, but it’s just not all the way there yet.”
Kovacs still owns the Professional Fighting Association’s “Champion vs. Champion” title and the UMMA Super Heavyweight title.