USCS Amateur Spotlight: Combat Training Center's Erik Flannigan
The future looks bright for Wisconsin MMA. As homegrown products such as Anthony Pettis, Ben Askren, and Sam Alvey continue to thrive nationally, gyms around the state are busy revamping their rosters with the next crop of aspiring fighters.
One of the most promising prospects has emerged in the form of Combat Training Center featherweight Erik Flannigan. Following a stellar start to his career that has included four impressive victories and a tough loss at the hands of James Barber, Flannigan is currently preparing to meet undefeated Minnesotan Kazim Khan at Downtown Showdown 8 in Minneapolis on July 14.
USCS: Last year you really came out of nowhere winning four fights in exciting fashion. What is your background and how did you become involved with MMA?
Erik Flannigan: My background came from a little bit of wrestling in middle school and three years in high school. I would say I got into fighting because of the competition; it is far different from team sports because you don't rely on other people to achieve a victory. It's just you without any handicaps or tools to success.
USCS: You're training at Combat Training Center - a gym that has had its fair share of turnover in the lead department - has it been strange going through a few coaches so early on in your career?
Erik Flannigan: Yes, I am still at CTC and I look at training and coaching the same way I look at life: you can either be negative about the situation, or take it for good. Being through so many coaches has been hard [as] you tend to start seeing that connection of a team fade with every new coach, but at the same time you need to take what you have and learn the most from it. With Gerald being my head coach I quickly differed those negative feelings of all the change that has happened. He has taken the team and only turned for the better; he is really good at making the connection a team needs.
USCS: Can you describe how Gerald Meerschaert has aided your early career as a coach and how you describe the team atmosphere in the gym?
Erik Flannigan: GM3 is really good about connecting with the fight team. He understands us (more than we like sometimes) because he is a fighter too. He is still in the game and knows how we think or should be thinking. The gym is to be called a family, that's for sure. We all have our times in the gym and what not, but connect outside of it as well. That's a tough thing to find in some areas.
USCS: Your last fight obviously didn't end how you wanted and you looked upset about it not being five rounds. Were you not told it was only to be three rounds and how do you think the fight would have ended if it went the full five?
Erik Flannigan: Well let me just say what happened has happened and I don't want to take anything away from James Barber. From the time that I signed the contract 'til the time that the round bell went off, I was under the impression and complete understanding that it was a title fight, thus consisting of five rounds.
I knew Barber was a bigger guy with more weight, knew that he wanted to go the ground, and knew he had quite a bit more weight on me. So, I trained for the later rounds and kept things calm to finish in the fourth or fifth once he was done with the submission attempts and takedowns like most wrestlers will stop in later rounds.
But the biggest thing to take out of any fight is a learning experience, turns out you have to win every round if you are going to let it go to the cards. And who knows if it had went five rounds, can't really say where it would have went or what would have happened. Maybe we will find out at a later date.
USCS: This card you will be on is a big one in Minnesota. How does it feel to be competing on another big stage so early on?
Erik Flannigan: It's definitely a privilege that I look to keep earning, Being on the big stage is a thing most amateurs don't get to experience as quickly as I have. It's awesome but I'm just going to keep doing what I've done and keep gaining the opportunities that I have been.
USCS: What areas do you think Kazim Khan excels in? Also, what areas are you better than him and what areas should you be able to get the upper hand?
Erik Flannigan: Well, from what I have heard he is supposed to be a decent jits fellow, and like any other training day, we continue working on all aspects, whether it's Monday or Sunday we just put in the work that needs to be done.
USCS: How do you envision this fight playing out and do you have a prediction?
Erik Flannigan: This one could be similar to the Barber situation where he wants it to go to the ground right away, try and submit a couple of times and stay away from danger on the feet. But I have heard he is going to fill the fans excitement and maybe bang for a bit. Either way I am more than comfortable with and hope to give the fans what they expect out of a title fight.
USCS: What is your goal in terms of an amateur career? How many more fights are you looking to take as an amateur? Is there a certain goal or task you are looking to complete before turning pro? When would you like to turn pro?
Erik Flannigan: Well like any amateur I would like to make it to the big stage, but for now we just take that calendar and fill every spot with training. Not sure about how many more fights it will take, I don't think there is a golden number that guys have to get in order to go pro; it's when your comfortable and ready to do it on your own. I'd like at least one belt starting with that good looking one from Minnesota.