clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

My First Fight: Yves Edwards

The internet will tell you that Yves Edwards' first fight was against a guy named Todd Justice at the World Pankration Championships on Oct. 26, 1997.

"That's not right," Edwards says. "I fought a few weeks, maybe a month before that, in the same building. I fought this guy, I don't remember his name, Kelly something."

It hardly needs to be said, but they did things differently at "pankration" events in Dallas, Texas back in 1997. For one thing, there were the weight classes. They existed, in a way, but they didn't exactly work in Edwards' favor.

"There were no weigh-ins whatsoever. I showed up and the guy I was supposed to fight was probably about 185 [pounds] or 190. He was huge. I was probably about 160. It was just kind of like, okay. Here we go."

This is where the average person might start to wonder what he'd gotten himself into, or at least come to a sudden realization regarding the necessity of weigh-ins. Not Edwards. He was too busy enjoying himself.

"That whole day was kind of tripped out. It was fun, though. Frank Trigg also fought on that card. I forget who he fought, but he and Guy Mezger got into an argument and he shoved Guy Mezger. Don Frye was there too. It was kind of weird, but really fun."

Edwards had just turned 19. He was studying accounting in school and working two jobs -- one as a bank teller and one as a waiter at Chili's. Somewhere in there he had found time to go down to a local gym with a friend.

One day in the gym Edwards faced off against a visiting fighter from New Mexico in what was essentially an in-house amateur fight. In the other guy's corner? Famed MMA trainer Greg Jackson. Though of course, there was hardly such thing as a famed MMA anything at the time.

"Nobody knew who Greg was back then. He was cornering this guy and the guy had wrestled some and I didn't really know much, but he had me in a kimura for like 18 minutes of the 20-minute match. I just refused to tap. My arm was basically touching the back of my head at some points.

"My buddy asked me afterwards, 'When you heard the ref say there was two minutes left, what were you thinking?' I was like, 'I was thinking I've got to find a way out of this and sub this guy or knock him out, and I don't have much time.' I guess just that mentality is what got me hooked. After that I went back to the gym as much as I could, just trying to get better, and I wanted to fight again as soon as possible. I think that kind of mentality is the reason why I wanted to do it."

When the chance presented itself in the Dallas fight card, Edwards jumped at it. Weight classes were hardly a concern. Until he stepped into the ring and got a look at his opponent, that is.

"I was nervous, for sure. It was weird being backstage and getting ready to go out and fight. It was the first time I'd been in a dressing room or locker room like that. I'd fought amateur and what not, but those were all on mats in gyms. It was nothing like this. It was kind of strange going out there and standing opposite a guy, and really the size didn't mean anything to me until I saw him and thought, man, that guy is huge. But at the time I was just happy to be fighting."

Fortunately for Edwards, on this day he had enough skill to negate his opponent's size. His grappling game was still developing, but a little jiu-jitsu went a long way in 1997.

"I just took his back and choked him out about three minutes in," Edwards recalls. "I think I got paid about $200. ... It's kind of funny, man. My dad found the video of it a couple months ago. Just watching it takes you back and puts a smile on your face. It reminds you of when you were a kid."

Edwards is no kid anymore. Now he's a 34-year-old veteran of the sport with over fifty pro fights to his credit. When he tells these stories to his younger counterparts, they soak it up with eager enthusiasm. It makes him wonder if they truly realize what the sport was like back then.

"It's funny to me when I talk to guys like Cole Miller or some of the other young guys. It's weird to me when they tell me they've been watching me since they were in high school. And it's funny when I hear them say, 'Man, I would love to fight one of those fights with no gloves and basically no rules.' I mean, now I think about those days and it seems crazy. I fought guys that were like, 220 [pounds], and I've never been above 170 in my life, and I fought them with no gloves and no rules. These guys think they would love to do it and I'm thinking, no you wouldn't. That's crazy."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting