Aside from a deep professional card that features the likes of top regional stars Mark Cherico and Dominic Mazzotta, this weekend’s Pinnacle FC 10 event also possesses a solid amateur card that will be headlined by welterweight champion Malik Epperson (4-1) defending his title for the first time against Ohioan Chris Brooks (4-2).
Epperson won the title with a hard-fought unanimous decision win over Nick Adkins at Pinnacle FC 9 in November, but is actually coming into this fight off of a loss, as he put a mark in the wrong column for the first time in his last outing. And despite being the defending champion, Epperson still wants to stay hungry.
“I really don’t treat it any differently than I would any other fight,” Epperson said. “I feel that if I focus too much on defending the title then I may start fighting to not lose instead of fighting to win and that is something that I don’t want to do. I am just trying to keep the same hunger and drive that I had working to get the title and not get complacent.”
Epperson may have learned from his Fight Club Pittsburgh teammate Cherico about fighting to not lose, as Mark readily admitted that he became a different fighter when the UFC whispers started to surround his name. Then, a devastating loss came for him at Pinnacle FC 9, and Epperson was there to see it.
A man who once battled kidney cancer in 2010 before eventually turning to mixed martial arts, the sport has changed his life as he mentioned after one fight that he had been nearly 240 pounds at one point.
Now a lean and mean 170-pound champion for one of the top regional organizations in the country, Epperson sees that there are holes in his game after coming up short in his last outing against Brandon Vernalli in March.
In order to shore up the holes that plagued him in that outing against the former collegiate wrestler, Epperson put new focus on his wrestling by working even more extensively with Fight Club Pittsburgh head wrestling coach Sylvester Terkay, who is a former NCAA champion and WWE superstar.
“[Terkay] is really good at making the transition from striking to wrestling to submissions very fluid and seamless,” Epperson said. “I learned that my wrestling sucked even more than I had thought!”
Epperson knows that he has a tough challenge ahead of him this weekend against Brooks, who he admits that he doesn’t know very much about.
“He seems to be a good athlete with some quick twitch movement being shown on the film but there are some holes that I and my coaches have seen that we obviously would like to exploit,” Epperson said.
The sky seems to be the limit for “Pittsburgh’s King,” as he has gotten drastically better each and every time out through his first five fights.
With two submission credits to his name he’s looking to add some diversity to his resume.
“I really don’t like to make predictions as I feel that it can cause a person to try too hard to fulfill that prediction and could cause openings to be missed or could create openings for me to lose,” Epperson said. “Truthfully I would like to get a knockout since I have not gotten one yet but I will take the win however I can.”
Pinnacle FC 10 takes place at the Iceoplex in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh this weekend. It will also be streamed via gfl.tv.