Ben Parrish may have shocked the MMA world on Saturday night, but he certainly didn’t surprise himself or those closest to him.
Parrish, as high as a 7-to-1 underdog heading into Bellator 266, opened the main card of Saturday’s event with an emphatic 38-second KO win over Christian Edwards in his promotional debut. The victory improved his pro record to 5-1, but the legend of “Big Tuna” has began to take on a life of its own.
“A lot of people in my family are messaging me, ‘You’re famous now,’” Parrish told MMA Fighting. “No, I’m me, just one of a kind, unique. You don’t worry about fitting in when you’re custom-made.”
Bellator 266 was the third time the fight between Parrish and Edwards was booked, with both fighters having to pull out in the past. Prior to Bellator 266, the 28-year-old Parrish was forced out of his second attempt to face Edwards in June after testing positive for COVID-19.
Had the third meeting between the two fallen through, Parrish would’ve been ready to walk away from the sport outright. Luckily, things went forward, and the Tennessee standout got his chance to shine.
“I kind of feel bad for him,” Parrish said of Edwards. “I don’t feel bad knocking him out, don’t get me wrong. But, you have to think, I just crushed his dreams and mine came true. That’s the nature of the sport and it’s kind of painful to admit that but it had to be said.
“I don’t really like hurting people. I really like winning though, and I’m really good at doing that. It is what it is, but I’m right back on top of things. I don’t want to stop here. I don’t want to slow down.”
The victory only widened Parrish’s eyes even more so. He always knew what he was capable of and finally got his chance to show it, despite things feeling somewhat hopeless following his prior fight. When facing Logan Woods at Summit FC 33 in November 2019, Parrish suffered his first pro loss after breaking his leg in the fight, an injury that took a lot from him.
Now that he has garnered a lot of extra attention from people who didn’t know his name before Saturday night’s win, he’s not going to let it get the best of him — although he has an idea to bring a big fight to his home state.
“They didn’t love me when I was beating people up for 10 years so loving me now, it’s great and all. But does it affect me? No,” Parrish explained. “I’ll tell you, I do a lot better on television in front of how ever many thousands versus fighting locally where everybody I know is in the crowd watching me. There’s more pressure there, I feel like.
“Having said that, I would love to sell out the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, or the FedEx Forum in Memphis, because I know if you get me, Hannah Guy, Jaleel Willis, just to name a few, you stack all of us on there, you let me fight ‘Rampage’ Jackson in Memphis, it would be pretty cool. It’d sell it out.”
During the post-fight interview and press conference, Parrish addressed people trolling and verbally harassing him prior to the matchup. He was well aware of what was being said, and even responded to many of them along the way. Those comments were used as gasoline that he could throw on the fire in preparation for his biggest opportunity to date.
With a successful and memorable Bellator debut now on his résumé, Parrish is willing to forgive those who have doubted him in the past one final time.
“I grew up in the ‘Halo 2’ and ‘[Halo] 3’ and ‘Call of Duty’ lobbies, there’s nothing they can say to me that can hurt my feelings,” Parrish said. “I’ve just always thrived off of it. Something like wanting me to lose, or get hurt, anything that they can possibly say to me, I just take it, put it back, remember it and we’ll come visit this later. We can talk about it. And I did, I went full Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Me and my brother taking turns going back into the comments, hit them with the question mark, quotes, screenshots, all of the above.
“I’ve even gotten flagged, and I don’t try to be super ugly to anybody, and I’ve had some pretty ugly things said to me that I’ve screenshotted and I just laugh about it, but I called a guy a b*tch, because I said I would b*tch slap him or something like that, and they threatened to ban me on Instagram. I’m like, do you understand the things I’ve been called in the last two weeks?
“Now listen, I want everybody to hear this, I’m letting everyone know that ever harmed me — verbally, physically, any of the above — but I’m gonna let you off the hook. I’m gonna give you a pass one last time. One last time. Do not doubt me again. Do not bet against me again. My own people here in town, at home, surrounding areas from Memphis to Nashville, Little Rock to Atlanta, Baton Rouge to West Monroe, you know what time it is. Get on board, or you’re gonna be left out in the deep water. Last warning.”
At the moment, Parrish’s appearance for Bellator was a one-time occurrence, although he hopes the victory will be parlayed into an exclusive multi-fight deal.
Parrish has his sights set on big fights if he can get them. One name that has been consistently thrown out since Saturday night is Yoel Romero, who fell short in his promotional debut when he dropped a split decision to Phil Davis in the main event.
If it’s not Romero, “Big Tuna” would be happy to stand across the cage from the man who just defeated him.
“I’d be down, man. Let’s do it,” Parrish said about a potential fight with Romero. “I’ll fight him, I’ll fight Phil [Davis], I’ll fight whoever. Anybody. Anybody from Las Vegas, London, Cuba, I’m here for it. This time, with a little bit of notice, I hope, I’m gonna give it my everything. We’re talking three-a-days, the whole nine.
“Right now, I work 7-3, pick up my daughter from school, drive 30 minutes straight to the gym, work out for an hour-and-a-half, rinse and repeat. As much as I can, I just do it. I work with the straps that I’m given. But I’m telling you, when you’ve got [your mind] on lock, I’m playing five-card poker with seven cards, my friend.”