Throughout the history of combat sports, different regions have been known to produce a certain type of fighter. Industrial footholds churn out gritty, blue-collar types, while fighters from coastal areas seem to possess a particular brand of finesse. While there are exceptions to every archetype, the rule has usually remained consistent.
In the scope of that mix, Texans have always been known for their willingness to get in and get after it, and Chas Skelly is “Lone Star State” born and bred.
The Arlington representative’s hard-nosed style is reflective of the brand of fighter his home state has been known to forge, and his willingness to tussle proved to be a big factor in the immediate success he found in mixed martial arts. Skelly used his solid wrestling pedigree to venture out into a new realm of combat inside the cage, and his grinder mentality and tenacity paid immediate dividends.
“The Scrapper” notched victories in his first 11 showings as a professional, and that impressive run earned Skelly a call from the premier promotion in the sport. The 29-year-old made his UFC debut against Mirsad Bektic at UFC on FOX: Werdum vs. Browne back in April, and he had every intention of keeping the momentum rolling into and through Orlando. Nevertheless, MMA is an unpredictable sport by nature and one where adversity has the potential to draw out an athlete’s best, and the end result of his first showing inside the Octagon saw Skelly stumble out of the gates.
That said, years of forging his skills inside wrestling rooms and on mats all around the country taught Skelly to embrace the grinding mentality that only wrestling can build, and the Team Takedown fighter quickly found himself eager to prove there was more to him than what he showed in South Florida.
“I should have been a lot more aggressive in that first fight,” said Skelly, who lost a decision to Bektic. “It was a good experience overall and I did learn a lot from that fight. My cardio was still really good toward the end of the fight and I feel I could have pushed a little harder. I made a few mistakes in the first round. I landed a good punch and took a bad shot. He ended up spinning around behind me and I rolled for a kneebar instead of popping back up to my feet. Had I done that I probably could have taken that first round.
“I just need to be more aggressive and go out there and do what I normally do. I need to be looking to finish the fight the whole entire fight.”
While the experience a fighter gathers on the regional scene and competing for smaller promotions is crucial, nothing can mimic the environment that comes with a UFC event. Everything is amplified under the bright lights of the UFC and Skelly was no stranger to the fabled “Octagon jitters” during his promotional debut.
Yet, while those nerves were present during his tilt with Bektic, the former collegiate wrestling standout chalked up his night in Orlando as much needed experience. Granted, walking out of his first bout with a victory in tow would have been ideal, but Skelly recognizes every step is part of a greater journey.
“Every fight - no matter where it takes place - makes you grow as a fighter,” Skelly said. “You take a bit of experience and learn something from each one of them. But fighting in the UFC makes you see how much better it is run than other shows, how much more professional it is and how much better you are treated. It’s definitely a good thing I have a UFC fight under my belt and now I know what to expect. Now that little bit of nerves won’t be there and I’ll be going out looking to do what I normally do.”
Where his initial showing under the UFC banner resulted in the first blemish on his professional record, Skelly has spent the past three months sharpening his arsenal to find redemption in his next outing. That opportunity will come against savvy veteran Tom Niinimaki at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Dos Anjos on August 23, and the proud Texan will be looking to make a statement in Tulsa.
“I definitely feel like there is something to prove,” Skelly said. “I went into that first fight really wanting to knock him out. Everyone sees me as just a grappler or a wrestler and I kind of changed my game plan. I didn’t play to my strengths and really wanted to knock him out, and I pretty much did that in the second. He put his hand down when I was throwing a knee and I got a point deduction for it. I need to stick to my game plan and what I’m good at and I’ll be fine.
“This fight is a great matchup for me. [Niinimaki] is a good fighter and he’s been around for a long time and he’s beat some good guys. He’s fought some good competition, but I think stylistically this is a tailor-made matchup for me. He has some decent striking, but it looks to me like he looks for the takedown when he gets hit. I’m without a doubt a better wrestler than he is. If I can go out there, hit him hard and make him feel uncomfortable out there; I really see things going my way.”
Chas Skelly: The Scrapper Heads to Tulsa
"I just need to be more aggressive and go out there and do what I normally do. I need to be looking to finish the fight the whole entire fight." - Chas Skelly