Ask Charles Byrd how he spent his summer and the phrase “craziest ever” might show up.
“Yeah, by far,” laughs the newest member of the UFC roster.
“Newest member of the UFC roster” has a nice ring to it for the 33-year-old from Dallas, who took the long road to the big show over the last eight-plus years since his pro debut in 2009.
But he always stayed the course.
“This is what I love to do,” he said. “It’s something I always wanted to do as a kid, I’ve grown up in martial arts and this is me. I realized this is who I am and what I was meant to do.”
So even though he lost his share of fights, saw other fights fall by the wayside due to injury or opponents pulling out, there was no stopping “Kid Dynamite,” even as his stress level built up by the peculiar machinations of the fight game.
“It’s stressful dealing with that,” he said. “I had situations where injuries kept me from being able to continue with fights, and you’re dealing with the up and down of getting ready for something and it not coming to fruition for me to continue or compete.”
A 2015 loss to current UFC fighter Bojan Velickovic left him with a 6-4 record, and Byrd knew he had to move quick if he was going to turn things around. A year later, he stopped Quentin Henry in less than three minutes, and that victory kept him on the radar of future UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard.
And when Maynard joined the UFC and the Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series was announced, Byrd was on the lineup for the first show on July 11. Then Byrd’s opponent, Justin Jones, was injured and replaced by Jamie Pickett on less than a week’s notice.
Byrd didn’t blink, and he submitted Pickett in the first round. But he didn’t get a UFC contract.
“I was in this limbo of ‘What do I need to do?’” he said. “I took on a different opponent last minute, a guy that, on paper, was a lot bigger and came from a good camp. So, of course, those thoughts of what’s gonna happen next definitely ran through my mind. But, at the same time, I wanted to prove myself again as soon as possible. So I reached out to Mick and said I’ll do it again as soon as possible.”
He got his wish, as he was added to the Aug. 15 edition of DWTNCS to face Randall Wallace. It was back to Vegas and back through the whole process, and that was easy because he had been through it before. Yet as Byrd sat in the locker room, everything hit him.
“I didn’t really feel the pressure itself until right before fight time,” he said. “That’s when it set in. ‘All right, this is it, do or die.’ I knew I had to go out there and just be myself, but those nerves and the pressure came back twice over.”
When the Octagon door shut, though, Byrd repeated his win from week one, this time submitting Wallace in the second round. He had to get the contract this time, right?
“I still had doubts,” he laughs. “It’s the fight business. You just never know.”
This time, fortune was smiling on Byrd and he got his UFC deal. And while he doesn’t have a date or opponent for his UFC debut, he’s back in the gym and he feels like he’s got those first-time jitters out of his system already.
“I do feel like this whole Contender Series process was introducing me to that next level,” Byrd said. “I don’t care what any fighter says, when you’re fighting in the UFC, you fight for your family, but you’re also fighting to be impressive. And that setup, with it being in the Ultimate Fighter gym, and having the fights go on your record, and the pressure of having to finish with Dana White and the matchmakers sitting right there and you know that’s what they’re looking at, I think the UFC jitters won’t be there. It will be more a feeling of excitement.”
And if anyone earned it, it’s Byrd.
“I appreciate this journey that I’ve had in getting here and going through what I had to go through and all the setbacks,” he said. “I appreciate it all and I look at it differently. It allows me to stay grounded so that when I do succeed in the UFC, it will mean a lot more to me."