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How Nate Landwehr conquered M-1 Global (and why he just might stick around)

Nate Landwehr
@natethetrain, Instagram

On Dec. 15 in Ingushetia, Russia, Nate Landwehr improved to 4-0 in M-1 Global and successfully authored his first defense of the promotion’s featherweight title with a third-round TKO of Andrey Lezhnev, proving that he was definitely not a one-hit wonder.

There may have been skepticism after he earned a split nod against Viktor Kolesnik in November 2017, snapping the 22-year-old’s eight-fight unbeaten streak, and also when he punched out Khamzat Dalgiev eight months later to capture M-1 gold, but Landwehr has proven that he is one of the company’s bonafide stars.

So how does a boy from Clarksville, Tenn., become a champion over in Russia, a country that’s about a 5,000-mile hop, skip, and a jump away from Landwehr’s hometown?

“Just luck and just being a bad son of a gun,” Landwehr recently told MMA Fighting. “Whooping ass when asses need to be whooped.”

That settles that, then.

All it really took was a phone call to convince Landwehr to compete overseas. He’d done his fair share of traveling, having competed in Pennsylvania as well as North Carolina, and while neither of those were too far off, every step out of his comfort zone helped Landwehr to develop the mentality of a fighter who can compete anywhere.

When M-1 asked him to sign on, Landwehr remembers how thrilling it was for both himself and his wife Robyn, who has been with him since high school.

“She’s always been a part of the team so it was like a dream come true for us because we knew that M-1 was a big enough promotion to change our lives as far as financially and designating yourself as a true, legitimate, professional fighter,” Landwehr said. “If you are a professional fighter and you’re a world champion of an organization and you’re poor, then you’re probably not with the right promotion.

“I’m not saying you should be wealthy, but you shouldn’t be needing to beg people for this, that and the other. You should be at least able to make more money than somebody working at McDonald’s every day.”

Landwehr’s partnership with M-1 would never have materialized if he’d been scooped up by one of the major North American promotions. The 30-year-old began his pro career with eight wins in his first 10 fights, five by KO, and he was getting exposure early on with Xtreme Fighting Championships until the promotion shuttered in 2016.

But for whatever reason, Landwehr didn’t catch on with the likes of the UFC or Bellator. He attributes much of that to the politics of the sport. Landwehr proudly fights out of SSF Submission Academy in Clarksville and he thinks that the relative anonymity of the gym led to him being overlooked compared to fighters from more well-known teams that regularly get scooped up.

“I just feel like my style’s a little wild, man, it’s not cookie cutter like these other cats,” Landwehr said. “I don’t tuck tail and go to these lame gyms, I stay true to what I do and a lot of promotions just wasn’t ready for that, they’re just trying to find their next little do-boy from one of these monopolized gyms and I’m not gonna be about that. I can compete with anybody on the planet and I can do it right out of my city.”

Landwehr has plenty of praise for M-1, both in how the organization conducts their business with him and how easy it is for his friends and family back home to follow his career even though he’s on the other side of the planet. M-1 has a free app and regularly uploads full fights to their YouTube channel, including Landwehr’s bloody scrap with Kolesnik.

The feeling is clearly mutual as Landwehr is poised for another big fight in 2019 as soon as he heals up some bumps and bruises from his December bout, and the promotion is already drumming up interest in potential opponents for him.

Featherweight Champ Nate Landwehr

It took Nate Landwehr just three fights to win the #featherweight title! He already defended it once and now he is waiting for the next challenger! He mentioned two names: Viktor Kolesnik (Виктор Колесник) and Busurmankul Abdibait Uulu. What would you like to see: a rematch against Kolesnik or the fight against the most popular fighter of the promotion Busurmankul?

Posted by M-1 Global on Thursday, December 27, 2018

Landwehr favors a rematch with Kolesnik, if only so he can put him away in more definitive fashion, but otherwise he’s put his trust in the company. It’s paid off so far and he’s been pleased with how much freedom he’s been accorded in M-1, especially in comparison to the UFC.

“It depends on what you’re looking for,” Landwehr answered when asked how M-1 stacks up to other promotions. “For example, I’m free to do what I want to do with my walkouts and they don’t bother me. They don’t put a limitation onto me and what I gotta do with my celebrations, I can do whatever I want.

“It’s not like, ‘Walk through this aisle. Walk here. Stand here. Go here. Do this like this. Wear this gear. Can’t do this. Can’t do that.’ I got all the freedom I can wish for with M-1, they treat me nice. Of course, the UFC is the premier and most known promotion in the world but again, they pretty much own you. If it’s not Reebok, you can’t wear it basically. I like my freedom right now that I have.”

Landwehr’s M-1 contract has a clause that will allow Landwehr to go to the UFC after he records two successful title defenses. He has one in the bag already, so his next win could see him become a sought-after free agent. Landwehr stressed that staying at M-1 would be just fine for him, though he was happy to name some names when suggested that there are fun matchups for him inside the Octagon.

“I would really love to fight Cub Swanson, that would be a f*cking bangin’ ass fight, that would be a fight to remember,” Landwehr said. “I would love to fight the ‘Korean Zombie.’ I would love to fight Jeremy Stephens. He’s a f*cking killer. I would like to fight all the tough fighters that bring character, you know what I mean? The main thing for me is character and fighting tough fights.

“I’m gonna do well with any promotion that I want to go with, it’s just depends on what promotion is ready to give me the platform that I need,” he continued. “Don’t sign me and just keep me in the dark. Sign me on to bring me into the light.”

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