· Kenneth Crowder ~ Fighting Is Easy; Life Is Hard
Few fighters make their professional MMA debuts and become overnight sensations, especially those that do not have collegiate championships, gold medals, or famous lineages. However, Kenneth “Pit” Crowder has done just that. A few short weeks removed from his first professional fight, the video of him elbowing his opponent’s ear halfway across the cage has spread like a wild fire. MMA Spot’s Andrew Yount sat down with the Team Arrichion product in order to get to know more about the man behind the highlight.
After an impressive, but brief, amateur career flyweight Kenneth “Pit” Crowder made his professional debut in January. As Crowder stood waiting to hear the final scores, he looked as though he was still waiting for the fight to start. His breathing was slow, not a drop of sweat anywhere, and he looked as though he had just awaken from a nap. His opponent on the other hand, drenched in blood and sweat, was exhausted and waiting to be pieced back together by the ringside physician.
That scene was a paradigm for how Crowder has found his way into MMA and on to stardom.
Born and raised in Charlotte, N.C., fighting became second nature for the diminutive Crowder. It wasn’t punches and kicks that he had to defend against, but becoming another tragic story of adolescence lost. From a young age Kenneth, his brothers Keith, Kelvin, Kaison, and Kendall, as well as his sister Ki’Brittany had to face an almost unbeatable opponent.
“Growing up for me was pretty hard. My parents got hooked on drugs when I was very young. Luckily my great aunt and uncle, Dorothy and Samuel Smith, took my five siblings and me in to care for us and keep us together. I’m so grateful for them. Even though times were hard, its hard times that mold you as a person.”
An underdog from then on out, Crowder could have gone the path of so many others, but rather than fold to the pressures of a tough childhood, he fought. “Through high school I tried to keep a busy schedule to keep out of trouble. Between wrestling, playing football and running track I had a busy regimen. Education wise, after high school I attended Brookestone College of Business and Management. At Brookestone I majored in accounting systems and technology. The school did not have athletic teams, so one Saturday I went and tried out for a semi-pro football team [Carolina Falcons]. I made the team as starting running back and kick returner. With school and football I stayed busy.”
Crowder’s desire to compete in combat sports had not waned while in college, but he knew that a continued career in wrestling was not likely. “My dad was a wrestler, so I just followed in his footsteps. Coming from a wrestling background if you’re not in the Olympic trials the next best thing is MMA. But I know for a fact I would not be doing MMA if it wasn’t for Clay Reynolds. I always thought I was too small. We got in touch on Facebook and he asked what I was weighing at the time which was 155, the next message I received was when the next practice was and to be there. I’ve been training ever since.”
“When I first started training Clay sat me down and made me write out my goals for myself and becoming a pro-fighter was one of my top goals. So I set out to become a pro-fighter. But how fast that happened [was] determined on how hard I worked towards it.”
Sticking to how he had done everything in his life to that point, Crowder would not let his size, position in life or the pressure to perform at a high level hold him back from achieving excellence.
“So far, everything from my amateur run to my recent pro debut has been a learning experience for me. Even though I have a couple of fights under my belt I am still young and have a lot to learn in the MMA game. As far as stress and pressure I can’t say that either one of those hits me at any time. I guess because the training and fighting is easy, it’s life that’s hard. You can say I have an underdog chip on my shoulders so I live for proving people wrong. As for my size, every MMA site that I am on I am listed as 5’ 3”, but I’m still waiting on my growth spurt, but for now I’ll take 5’ 3”.”
As for his recent professional debut, the video of his coming out party has gone viral and made it’s way across the MMA landscape, drawing astonished comments from fans in comments sections everywhere. But how does “Pit” recall the now infamous ear-splitting highlight, “Well, I landed a clean elbow to the side of my opponents head and the next thing I know the ref stopped me and his corner men entered the cage to try and stop the bleeding. One thing I know, it was from a left elbow thrown by me, definitely.”
Rather than basking in the glow of the highlight reel or kicking back satisfied with reaching one of goals, Crowder quickly moves the conversation toward what he did wrong and where his next goal lies.
“After watching the video I saw a couple spots where I should have finished the fight. After every fight I take away something, whether it is gaining experience or watching the mistakes I made and correcting them. My ultimate goal as a young fighter is to reach the UFC. I know, with that being said, I will have to bust my butt. I know I’m going to have to pay my dues and I’m willing to do that and more to showcase my skills on the big stage.”
As for how the heavily muscled fighter is able to make the flyweight limit of 125 pounds he contends that the weight cut is smoother for him than many that struggle to get down to that weight and stay healthy. “The cut to 125 isn’t hard due to the fact that I train six times a week with multiple times a day. That’s not even including my hot yoga classes. Therefore it was really just putting forth the extra effort to get down to 125. I cut anywhere from 20-25 pounds and by the night of the fight I am between 145 and 150 or maybe even a little more.”
Unlike many athletes that cut a great amount of weight prior to a fight, Crowder seems to handle the cuts with ease. He barely broke a sweat during his three-round affair with Tyner and looked as though he had just awaken from a nap when the final scores were read in that fight. Crowder explains his phenomenal shape, saying, “As far as my cardio goes I feel that I’m in great shape. Primarily because of my Arrichion Circuit Training—and from wrestling practice to running long distance during the week. When it comes down to my cardio that will never be an issue. Clay Reynolds will make sure of that.”
As with any young fighter, Crowder knows he still has lots of holes to fill and improving to do. Fortunately for him, his wrestling and strength are good enough to conceal those shortcomings for the time being, but he knows its only a matter of time before he will be tested. “I think my development in other areas is coming along very well. In my past fights I haven’t exactly been put in the situation where I had to rely on anything else. I know the day is going to come where I will need something else. Therefore I’m in the gym working, wrestling, striking, and even my BJJ. Just to be prepared for it all.”
One commentator that has watched Crowder come through the amateur ranks, and make a successful pro debut, says that he is as impressed with Kenneth’s striking defense and ability to move as he is with his wrestling. When Crowder hears this he says, “It’s something that my team and I spend a lot of time on. When we’re warming up for practice we spend a lot of time on foot work to avoid punches and take downs. So all I’m really doing is using footwork and reacting.”
But at a generous 5’ 3” there will be opponents that will eventually test the chin of this rising star, and it appears that Crowder has a plan already in place for when that does come to fruition. “I have it set in my mind that I just may have to take a punch or two just to be able to do some damage and I’m fine with that. As far as coming up with a style, I haven’t. I do watch film on people like Sean Sherk, and Frank Edgar. Just to see what tactics they use to get 'inside' only because they have a height disadvantage in their weight class as well.”
Crowder is one of the first of a promising crop of fighters coming out of Arrichion Fighting Systems in Charlotte to turn professional. Whether he sees himself as a leader or not he is setting the stage for nearly a dozen young guys that will be looking to follow in his footsteps into careers in MMA. “I would like to consider myself a leader but when you’re on a team that consists of young hungry fighters it’s hard to pick one leader out of the bunch, just because each one knows what they have to do to be successful in the game of MMA. Each fighter is in the gym day in and day out to better their craft. As of now I’m just looking forward to taking advantage of the resources. I have to improve my abilities all around as a fighter and enjoy it while I do so.”
One question that every young fighter has to face is the obligatory “The Ultimate Fighter” question. To that, Crowder offers, “I would definitely do an edition of "The Ultimate Fighter." That would give me a chance to fight different styles from all over.” But what about potential UFC championship caliber coaches, he answers, “A few guys I would enjoy training with and gaining some experience from would be Frank Edgar, Clay Guida, B.J. Penn, or Sean Sherk. That’s just a few, but my top choices.”
Throughout the conversation, it became evident that Crowder has tremendous amounts of respect for the people that have supported him or showed him that he can be whatever he set his mind to. Through those influences the up-and-coming flyweight has learned to carry and humble himself knowing that there are so many people that have invested so much into him, not only as a fighter, but as a person.
“When it comes down to heroes I have quite a few people that I will consider my heroes. I would have to say all the adults that played a part in my life when I was younger and even now. I would say my great aunt and uncle Dorothy and Samuel Smith, also the guys at my barber shop where I’ve been going since I was a young kid: Wayne, Early, Joe, John, and Chris. My little brother Keith, as well, who I looked up to considering the fact that he has worked hard to come out on top even when his back was against the wall. I have to say my dad and stepmom also. Last, but not least, the Reynolds family, who have done more than just train me to become a good wrestler and MMA fighter. They have done so much for me that I can never repay them no matter how much I tried. That pretty much does it for my personal heroes. I don’t really look up to too many celebrities, unless you’re talking Peyton Manning, Frankie Edgar, or Floyd Maywhether.”
The Mayweather and Edgar influences are almost obvious based on their sports, size, and championship accomplishments, but what does this former running back turned mixed martial arts fighter take away from an NFL quarterback? Crowder explains, “He carries himself so well as a professional athlete. Coming up in today’s modern sports world it’s rare that you see that out if athletes. Also when it’s game time you hardly ever see him crack under pressure. He also has a poker face that can compete with the best”
The best? Only time will tell where Kenneth “Pit” Crowder will end up. Will he be the best? Will he reach his goal of fighting on pay-per-view? The future is unknown for the flyweight, but —and with full pun intended—we’ll be keeping our ears out for his name in the months to come.
Kenneth Crowder would like to thank: “My sponsors Tyber Creek Pub and Koko Design. My teammates at Arrichion and everyone that supports us. My hot yoga instructor Quinn Reynolds. My trainers and friends; Clay Reynolds, Ty Reynolds, and Anthony Dunbar. I can’t forget all the young wrestlers that I train with like Parker Von Egidy, and Garrison White.“