OMAHA, NE - Prior to 2008, Rakim Cleveland was spending most of his time playing college football at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, which also serves as his home town. Weighing in at around 200 pounds and standing 6 feet 3 inches tall, Cleveland felt at home on the gridiron. Little did he know, though, that the majority of his future success would come not on the field, but in the cage.
In part because he grew up in a family of boxers, once he caught wind of the fastest growing sport in the world, it didn’t take long for Cleveland to show interest in mixed martial arts. His natural size and power provided him with an inherent advantage physically, and he has made sure to not let it go to waste. He capped his amateur career with an extremely impressive 5 titles, and his professional career, though not without its ups and downs, has also raised some eyebrows in the MMA community.
Cleveland’s professional career started in 2011 and he currently sits at 13-7-1. He is coming off of a huge victory at VFC 48 in Des Moines, Iowa against big-time opponent Jaquis Williams. Between his win in his home town, his 2 professional titles, and his record at the WWFC for the fastest knockout (7 seconds), Cleveland has all of the confidence in the world in the days leading up to his next matchup.
“I got right back into the gym. I need to be ready for my next fight.”
Though he has worked with his fair share of promotions, Cleveland has nothing but good things to say about Victory FC and the way it’s operated. He said he is especially grateful for the close-knit and comfortable atmosphere created between the athletes and the administrators.
“They treat you like family, and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
Cleveland also discussed his future in the sport of MMA, and despite his admiration and respect for VFC, he fully anticipates moving to an organization like Bellator or the UFC within the next couple of months.
“The jump will happen, if not after this fight, then after the next. Hopefully by the end of May I’ll be competing at the next level.”
As Cleveland continues to deliver incredible performances, VFC continues to send fights his way. On April 1st at VFC 49, Cleveland is set to face off against the heavy-handed Brian Houston, who, interestingly, also made the transition from the football field to the cage. These are two of the most powerful athletes that have ever stepped foot in the cage and the fans know it, causing “fight of the night” expectations from many here in the city of Omaha, Nebraska.
When asked about his chances of leaving the cage with a W on the 1st, Cleveland was quick to point to his extensive training regimen.
“I have more experience and I am more well-rounded. My power and my abilities will overwhelm [Houston.]”
It can’t be ignored, though, that some speculation is circulating regarding whether or not Cleveland can approach this matchup with the same confidence in his size and strength that he has relied on in previous matchups. After all, as a fellow former semi-professional football player, Houston is equally well-equipped and is arguably just as strong and fast.
“It’s a little different since he is so athletic and explosive. I’m still well-rounded, and looking to be comfortable in any position I end up in, but it definitely is different this time.”
Cleveland made the respect he has for his opponent very clear. He wasn’t, however, willing to let Houston enter the Baxter Arena without fair warning.
“Be ready for it to go anywhere, be ready for heavy shots, and be ready to bite down.”
Tickets for VFC 49 start at $25.00 and are on sale now through Ticketmaster.com
About Victory Fighting Championship:
Victory Fighting Championship is the premier mixed martial arts organization in the Midwest. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, Victory has provided its thousands of fans with high-quality, competitive, and entertaining fights since 2002. A catalyst for success, Victory has launched the careers of numerous elite fighters such as former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, Spencer Fisher, Josh Neer, Kevin Burns, Jake Ellenberger, Jason Brilz, Anthony Smith, Justin Salas, Tecia Torres, Kamaru Usman, Chris Camozzi, John Halverson, Joe Ellenberger, Mirsad Bektic, Drew Dober, and Travis Browne. These Victory fighters have made their way to the largest, most competitive stages across the United States including the UFC Octagon®. As an organization that continues to grow, thrive and gain strong, consistent momentum, Victory Fighting Championship presents between eight-10 live events per year in the Midwest’s top venues, which can be seen exclusively through the world’s largest digital combat sports subscription service UFC FIGHT PASS.