EXCLUSIVE: Chris O'Brien, "You got to realize, I was a fat kid that had no prayer of fighting in this sport".
Cage Titans 37, ended being the precise send-off ceremony for one of Plymouths beloved fighters, Manny Bermudez. As Owner and promoter, Mike Polvere said he himself just before the fighter exited the CTFC (Cage Titans Fighting Championship) cage for the final time, “No offense, I do want to see you in here again”.
That fight seemed to loom large over the event, before it began. Yet, once the fights began, it almost served as desert. Each fight stood out from one and other, due to what can only be described as diversity of outcome. The main event ended up as a topping to an overly filling meal consisting of flying triangles, knockouts, and one incredible comeback. The latter, stands tall in the early list of candidates for ‘Fight of the Year’. If not for the distinct honor, then from the walk-outs to the official call declaring the winner, it measured among the highest of decibels levels I have experienced.
January 27th, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, hosted the fight, which saw Chris O’Brien vs. Chris Sniger for the vacant Cage Titans Amateur Lightweight Championship. It was a matchup between two highly ranked regional fighters. Sniger, coming into the match-up, held the promotions amateur Featherweight title. He earned the strap by way of 1st round KO, at the previous Cage Titans event (CTFC 36) against Pat Gilbride.
The battle between the two Irish fighters, Sniger and O’Brien, was a back and forth affair, only lasting two of the five scheduled rounds. Ultimately, Chris O’Brien won by triangle choke, after withstanding a massive barrage of punches in the midst of the second round. His incredible victory can be seen in full, here and Youtube via the promotions channel.
O’Brien hails from Norwell’s’, South Shore Sport Fighting, where he trains with top regional fighters such as Bermudez, as well as Jimmy ‘The Tooth’ Manning, and Johnny Cambell, the two of which fight on the upcoming Cage Titans 38 card on April 14th.
Upon meeting the Champion, a curious sight came about the corner of my eyes. A common occurrence among these circles, a cast. O’Brien bore a cast on his right hand, black in color, yet small. When asked of it, he joked, “An overhand right if you can believe it. I throw an overhand right in a fight”.
He then continued to explain, “The first punch I threw in the second round. Just caught him (at a) kind of weird angle. (I) didn’t turn my hand over completely, caught him in the side of the head and just snapped my thumb straight through. The second I pulled my hand back, I was like, ‘Okay yeah, somethings out of place, something is not right’”. Amazingly, the SSSF product managed to continue to throw with his dominate yet injured, right hand, “I was trying to play it off, and actually if you go back and watch, I pulled it back and I immediately faked an uppercut and a hook with the same hand. I was like, ‘I really hope he doesn’t know I hurt myself’. So I was faking the hand just to throw him off”. His injured hand later saved him from getting stopped with his back to the cage. The condition of his hand only became a concern once the fight had concluded. He stated, “No one knew I hurt my hand until I pulled my glove off and the doctor was like, ‘Oh my god, that might be broken’”.
Usually, the newest Cage Titans Amateur Champion, blacks-out in fight. During his fights, he claimed to be very attentive. O’Brien has no problem follow direction from his corner or understanding their instructions, his memory simply falls victim to the moment. Normally that happens to be the case, in this circumstance, both rounds were fairly clear in his mind. “I felt like I got a slow start in this one which I’m not totally opposed to. If you look at all my fights, I think I’ve lost most of the rounds that I’ve fought but, I’ve always found the finish”.
He continued, “A couple of my buddies call me, ‘the comeback king’. Like you got kicked in the teeth when you fought Quentin, and you almost got knocked out, and then Sniger. It almost got stopped on the cage but it didn’t. And I always find the submission or the knockout or whatever. But that’s kind of my style, I can take a shot, man. I know a lot of guys say (that), I’m not saying I’m any different than anyone else. But, I can take a punch, man, until I find that submission. And then in a championship fight, you’re giving me two more rounds to find a submission or a knockout? Yeah dude, whatever man”. He nudged out as a laugh burst from him, “I got cardio for days”.
Just like any person training out of the famed South Shore Sport Fighting, O’Brien had nothing but praise for his head coach and owner of SSSF, Bill Mahoney. He described gym owner in claiming, “It starts and ends with Bill Mahoney. He’s the mastermind behind everyone’s career. Whether its, you are coming up as an amateur to fight once for a bucket list… or if you’re trying to go to the UFC, and make this an actual professional career and everything in between. It’s what he brings to the table”. He added, “His understanding of the sport is where our success comes from and I really truly believe that. Just such a knowledgeable guy, been around the sport for a long time and just so easy to work with. And he’s such a good tactician in the fight. Anything he yells out in the cage, I’m doing”.
“It really honestly begins and ends with Bill Mahoney… That’s why we’re all there man. He is South Shore Sport Fighting. And that’s why we found success where we have, is because of him. So all the guys there, you won’t hear anyone saying anything differently, we all owe any success we have to that man”.
When it comes to O’Brien’s goals, his outlook differs from that of many of his similarly successful teammates. Despite his growing list of impressive accomplishments, “I have no plans on turning pro. I know a lot of people get like, ‘Wait, what? You’re 4-0, you just won an Amateur belt, why wouldn’t you at least want to try pro?’… I’m not trying to make this a career. I’m not trying to make this my job. This is a hobby, this is a sport for me, and that’s kind of like where I draw the line”.
Fighting doesn’t seem logical as a career path for O’Brien, one main reason behind that is he already has a career. “I’m a 9-1-1 dispatcher for one of the towns here on the South Shore. So, basically we do Fire, Police, EMS, all there dispatching. We actually do three towns, going to be taking a fourth town soon. Over for Duxbury’s Regional Old Colony Communications Center… so if you have an emergency in one of our towns, there’s a good chance you’ll be talking to me”.
The motivation to fight as amateur came from a couple places. As a lifelong fan, O’Brien admired the sport for much of his life. The main reason, he explained by stating, “I had the goal training at (South Shore Sport Fighting), I want the honor to fight for that team. Because I had seen so many guys go (fight for), even the local circuit or even making it to the UFC… they’re such a highly touted team in the area. So (I thought), ‘I want to represent this team, I want the ability to represent this team’ and you got to earn it there, man. A lot of gyms, you got to earn it, you can’t just walk in be like, ‘Hey, get me a fight’. I put my time in and my goal was just to have that one first amateur fight and that was it”.
When thumbing through the thought of it all, he remarked, “That’s crazy to go from like just wanting to fight once to fighting for the title, I was happy with that… So like my goal right now, is to be the #1 55 Amateur in New England… I think they got me ranked #7 right now (in Tapology.com ratings). I mean if I had one or two more Amateur fights, and I found myself at #1, maybe I’d have to reconsider, going pro… maybe I’d have to sit down and really give it some thought and mull it over especially you know with my team. But as of right now, I’m just taking it one fight at a time… like I said I’m just a kid who didn’t want to put the weight back on”.
“I’ve already done so much more than I thought I could and its funny, you hear pros in the area, ‘dude you talk like you’re the next going to the UFC’. It’s like nah, man you got to realize I was a fat kid that had no prayer of fighting in this sport. When your ceiling is the UFC and you’re trying to be a world champion, obviously an amateur title doesn’t mean anything but like to me, it means the world, man. I think my ceiling is a little bit lower than everyone else’s, but I don’t know, I’m kind of happy where I’m at, I’m happy with what I’ve been able to achieve with my team”.
Although he has no plans on turning pro, that burning passion some would consider missing, is easily found in his determination to return and defend his Amateur Lightweight title. O’Brien plans to attend next weekend’s Cage Titans 38. At the event, he hopes an Amateur Lightweight prospect emerges to challenge him on the next CTFC (Cage Titans Fight Championship) card coming up in the summer month of June. The champ is not only a fan of MMA but of the promotion he fought his entire career under. While he does seek a challenger for the next Cage Titans event, he understands and trusts Owner/Matchmaker, Mike Polvere to make the decision, “I feel like whoever (Mike Polvere) is like, ‘That’s the number 1 guy’. That’s who I’ll be fighting”.
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