Born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, Toby Misech just needed some home cooking to right the ship.
The 30-year-old bantamweight is on the verge of a breakthrough heading into Friday’s Bellator 215 show at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. With about one month to prepare, Misech (11-6) signed on to replace an injured Manny Vazquez and fight two-time Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas.
Misech’s Bellator debut this past December couldn’t have gone better. Coming off a disappointing decision loss to Ricky Palacios on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (a fight in which Misech says, “I wasn’t even myself”), Misech hooked up with the Boss MMA team at the Penn Fitness & Training Center in Hilo and that decision led to a third-round TKO win over fellow Hawaiian Edward Thommes at Bellator 212 in Honolulu.
It remains to be seen whether the change can push Misech towards an upset of Dantas, but for now the transition has gone as smooth as it possibly could.
“I’ve been back home for a while now,” Misech told MMA Fighting. “Every time I come back home in Hilo, I always feel right back home in the gym. It feels like nothing changed.”
Growing up down the road from B.J. Penn and having known his fighting family from a very young age, one might assume that it was only natural Misech was destined to become involved with MMA. But that wasn’t the case. His early days were spent on the hardwood, not the mats, and getting into bloody brawls was the last thing on his mind.
If anything, basketball games were enough of an outlet for his aggression anyway.
“I guess I was always a punchy kid on the court and my oldest brother is a black belt in kyokushin,” Misech said of how he eventually made the move to martial arts. “We got into some sparring sessions in high school with some kids in the backyard and I was kind of good at it. My brother seen a video and he pushed me to get in the gym and try it out.”
Though Misech has had some ups and downs recently, with a 2-2 stretch following a three-fight win streak, he’s seen much of his trials as blessings in disguise, including his flat Contender Series outing. If he’d been signed to the UFC off of that show, it likely would have been a while before he was matched up with an opponent of Dantas’s caliber and he definitely would not have had the chance to fight in Hawaii.
“Everything happens for a reason and I’m kind of happy it did,” Misech said. “I got to experience that loss and how it felt to have a layoff and just to experience all that and learn from it so now when another opportunity comes along, I’ll be ready for it.”
Dantas represents a huge step up in competition for Misech, whose most high-profile win aside from his lone Bellator appearance is a fourth-round TKO of Jared Mazurek that earned him the Alaska Fighting Championship bantamweight title two years ago. And even though there’s an abundance of game footage to study from the former champion’s 13 Bellator bouts, Misech leaves the majority of the film work to his team.
“I used to watch him from before, I just watched a couple of films and that was it,” Misech said. “I don’t really like to watch film on guys anymore because it gets me thinking and it throws me off of my game when I’ve got to worry about this, worry about that. So I haven’t really been studying him too much.
“I’ve just been really focusing on me and knowing what I’m gonna come in and do. But that’s basically it.”