Fight Hard: Rustemeyer vs Noblitt - Preview
A pro heavyweight tournament semifinals will be at the forefront when Fight Hard MMA takes over the Family Arena in St. Charles Saturday night. The winners of the main and co-main events will meet in March for the Fight Hard MMA heavyweight championship.
Saturday's all-pro card is a first for the promotion as fans will be able to print free general admission tickets by visiting www.fighthardmma.eventbrite.com
The four-man heavyweight tournament features an array of talent, both up-and-coming and established and the rest of the card is similar in structure.
To close the show, Kyle Noblitt will face Steve Rustemeyer in the final semifinal showdown.
Rustemeyer is 2-1 and Saturday will mark his first time back in action in well over a year.
The 27-year-old Noblitt is from Republic and lives in Lee's Summit where he trains at Glory MMA, the well-established school with locations in Kansas City and Northland that are headed up respectively by UFC vets James Krause and Zak Cummings.
Noblitt was a two-time state and national champion wrestler in high school. We went on to dual scholarship briefly in wrestling and football at Central Missouri State. Then the surroundings in Noblitt's life went way worse than south, coming to a head in the summer of 2012 when he stared down the barrel of multiple felony charges.
"I've been up and down like a roller coaster," he said. "I was charged with a crime and threatened with 18 years behind bars for something I was accused of and eventually found not guilty of. I ended up serving four months, which is not much, but it changed my life."
A story told many times, Noblitt found martial arts and a new life emerged from shattered and charred rubble.
"I had to wear a GPS ankle monitor for three years, so I couldn't go pro," he said. "I was a troubled kid. Young and stupid. But it made me who I am. It was a hard lesson to teach."
Since finding his muse in MMA, Noblitt's weight went from 320-pounds as a defensive lineman to the 225 that he walks around at now. Noblitt has won all four of his pro bouts, all by finish in the first round. He's fought for Bellator and Victory along the way. As he surveys the three other contestants in the Fight Hard heavyweight tournament, there is little that he is dazzled by.
"A lot of people think McNeely will win," Noblitt said. "I've had multiple sources say (McNelly) shouldn't have gone pro and that he wasn't ready. I'm not worried about either one of them. I'm on a whole other level than these other guys. I'm just a couple of fights away from the UFC."
McNeely, out of Gladiator MMA, will set the table for the tournament when he welcomes back Mike Wright to competition in the co-main event.
While McNeely has been active, fighting four times during a 14-month stretch, Wright has been on the peripheral.
"I don't know much about him," McNeely said. "He's like a ghost online. He's 1-1 apparently and the last time he fought was in 2013 from the video I saw, it was sloppy and against, frankly, a bum. I will be ready for anything. He likes to brawl and I don't play that shit."
McNeely and two of his teammates from Gladiator MMA will be represented on the Fight Hard card. Christopher Gideon kicks the show off against Galen Livingston in another heavyweight bout. Chris Petty, another Gladiator product, faces Montuelle Prater.
From the outside, Gladiator MMA looks like a rag-tag collection of fighters in a garage gym but it has become more than that. McNeely, Gideon, and regional standout Kyle Kurtz formed the workouts, held at Peak Performance in Cape Girardeau after their first school went strictly jiu-jitsu.
"Us fighters weren't done," McNeely said. "We have coaches, but not a head coach. We all learn and train with each other."
McNeely will have a watchful eye on the evenings main event. If all goes to his plan, he will meet the winner of Steve Rustemeyer and Kyle Noblitt in March.
"It should be fun," McNeely said. "Personally, I'm leaning toward Noblitt. I think his takedowns, athleticism, and quickness will nullify Rustemeyer's striking. I think he gets it down to the ground and gets it done quick."
The 25-year-old McNeely wrestled and played football in high school in Jackson. He discovered MMA soon after graduation and took his first amateur fight in 2011. Though athletic enough, McNeely took the long route through his amateur career. He built up a 14-fight resume before going pro in the summer of 2016.
"I wanted to take my time," he said. "I didn't want to rush in. I moved my way up to where eventually I had title fights in Branson and St. Charles."
His pro debut was under big circumstances when he main evented SFC: 277 against Bo Kunz. Kunz - one of the area's more popular fighters over the last five years - had announced the fight would be his last and the pre-fight jawing was at a high pitch. But McNeely stayed composed and earned his seventh submission victory in the sport, this one coming in the second round.
"That was a great way to kick off my pro career," he said. "I was happy to spoil the show."
SCMMA & Fight Hard MMA
A contributor to Fight Hard MMA since the promotion launched in August of 2010, St. Charles MMA has three on Saturday's docket in featherweight Travis Draper, bantamweight Charles Johnson, and welterweight Lucas Clay.
Fans should really make sure they arrive in time for the People's Main Event as Travis Draper faces Fazlo Mulabitinovic in just the second fight of the night. The matchup pits two young yet skilled and established combatants against each other.
The well-rounded Draper faced an over-matched Johnathan Akers in December and improved to 5-1 when Akers tapped to strikes early in the contest. Mulabitinovic, known for his creativity on both his feet and on the floor, started his career 3-1, including a victory in 2015 under the Bellator banner against Scott Ettling (which was one of his two, first-round submissions). He lost to Yohance Flager by decision in January, 2016. Mulabitinovic lived in Bosnia until he was seven before coming to the United States. A basketball player at Bayless and a curious athlete in general, he made his way to Absolute Martial Arts. He had his first amateur fight at 18 and rattled off a 6-0 amateur career.
"Fazlo is a really tough guy," SCMMA head coach Mike Rogers said. "Team Absolute will send out some solid guys. I think Travis will have a bit of a size advantage. This is probably the most exciting fight on the card."
Johnson tried to make his Fight Hard return in September but his bout got scrapped at the last minute. For Saturday, he is pitted against Ray Allard.
A three-sport standout at nearby Hazelwood East, Johnson was an all-state selection in track and field, cross country and wrestling. He was part of state championship teams in both track and football and was a two-time AAU National Champion in the 3,000m run. In college, he earned all-conference honors while at SEMO running both cross country and track. Johnson's successful 14-3-1 run at amateur MMA came to a halt in the summer of 2016 when he made his pro debut. Johnson finished Austin Ward via second round TKO at a Blue Corner MMA event in Kansas City. He improved to 2-0 in the fall with a win in Burlington, Iowa. Johnson, 25, has been with St. Charles MMA for two years and he has become a common name to the Fight Hard fans, having fought for the promotion five times. His combination of speed and smarts makes Johnson a difficult out for any in the region.
The greenest of the trio, Clay, has a tall test for a pro debut.
Clay faces Anthony Livingston, whose pro career has been a submission win over Bo Kuntz, a KO loss to Kyle Kurtz, and a rebound win over Frank Cortez in a wild donnybrook at the September Fight Hard show that earned an STL MMA Fight of the Year nomination.
"Another tough guy, (Livingston) has been around a long time and he has good hands with decent ground and he's a good guy too," Rogers said. "A lot of the 70s are signed with Shamrock so it's not always easy to get fights."
You can read more about Clay, one of the bright, up-and-coming prospects in St. Louis , in this feature story KJ published in November.
Doors for the event will open at 6:00 p.m. with the first fight of the evening starting at 7:00 p.m. For more information about the event visit www.familyarena.com, www.fighthardmma.com, www.facebook.com/fighthardmma or call 636-515-9161.
Steve Rustemeyer vs. Kyle Noblitt (Main Event)
Max McNeely vs. Mike Wright (Co Main Event)
Charles Johnson vs. Ray Allard
Mike Carwile vs. Frank Cortez
Lucas Clay vs. Anthony Livingston
Chris Petty vs. Montuelle Prater
Fazlo Mulabitinovic vs. Travis Draper
Christopher Gideon vs. Galen Livingston
Fight Hard MMA: Rustemeyer vs Noblitt
Saturday, January 7th
Family Arena, St. Charles, MO
River City Casino, St. Louis, MO