A non-athlete as a youngster, Steve Mowry surprised friends and family by jumping to MMA — where he’s one of the building blocks for the future of Bellator’s heavyweight division.
Standing 6’8″ tall, the first thing you’re going to notice about Bellator heavyweight Steve Mowry is his height. Yet despite his towering frame, believe it or not, Mowry did not have an athletic background as a kid. “My parents both played sports, but it wasn’t something that was for me,” he told Cageside Press ahead of Bellator 231 this Friday.
His introduction to the sport was the same as many fans in the early days of MMA. “I read about it in magazines. I’d always seen the promos and stuff for it, I never understood what it was. I read about it in a magazine one day, and something about it really just spoke to me,” he recalled.
By then a teenager, Mowry made the decision to pursue the sport. “Not coming from an athletic background, it was strange probably for my friends and family to hear that I was going to all of a sudden just pick up this athletic endeavor and decide to pursue it. And that’s what happened.”
Mowry was 17 years old. Weeks later, he tried out his first jiu-jitsu class. “Here we are coming up on ten years later.”
His stature, even as a youngster, did not go unnoticed. Others were eager to push him into the sporting world. “It wasn’t for lack of trying. I remember being in elementary school, and even the high school coach knew about me,” said Mowry. The high school basketball coach encouraged him to try out for that sport, dangling the idea of a scholarship in front of him. At that age, “I didn’t even know what a scholarship was.”
“I was always looking at sports from afar, thought they were cool, but it wasn’t for me,” he added. Even that first jiu-jitsu class took a bit to get used to. “When I first tried it, it definitely took a little bit of an adjustment period.”
Mowry, however, enjoyed it enough to stick with it. Enough that it has taken him all the way to Bellator MMA. Mowry made his debut for the promotion last year earning a submission win in his debut, and following that up with a second submission victory earlier this year.
The jump to Bellator was fortuitous timing. “I was at a point in my career where I already had a few wins with Titan FC. The call from Bellator came, and I really liked what they bring in terms of— it really looked like they were doing something special with their athletes. They wanted to put the focus on the athlete, and developing them and their careers. All that stuff.”
“It was an offer that I liked, especially when I first heard it,” he added. “And it just worked out.”
At 27, Mowry is far from the youngest athlete on the Bellator MMA roster, but at heavyweight, he’s pretty much a spring chicken. And youth is one area where Bellator has excelled. “It’s fun to be part of.” Mowry said.
“It’s cool to see other guys, like Tyrell Fortune, I’ve done a little training with him,” he added. “I lived with Tywan Claxton for a little while, so I’m always glad to see him out there doing good things.” Claxton was part of the promotion’s featherweight grand prix. Fortune, like Mowry himself, is an undefeated heavyweight, two building blocks for the future of the weight class in Bellator.
Heading into Bellator 231 against Gokhan Saricam, Mowry sits at 6-0, but the perfect record isn’t something he feels pressured by. “I don’t really put the focus on numbers so much as I do on executing. I’ve been blessed to say that so far, I’ve kept that 0 intact.” Rather than focus on the numbers, the idea is to execute “a game-winning performance every time. Let’s just say it’s been that way so far.”
Aung La N Sang
Mowry trains at Hard Knocks 365, under coach Henri Hooft and alongside a wealth of training partners. Among the stars at the gym, ONE Championship middleweight and light heavyweight champ Aung La N Sang.
When we spoke with Mowry, ‘The Burmese Python’ was set to clash with Brandon Vera at ONE’s Century event in Tokyo, Japan. He’d go on to finish Vera in the second round, defending his light heavyweight title against the promotion’s heavyweight king. A number of fighters at Hard Knocks have suggested that a third title could be in the cards for Aung La N Sang.
“I think he can do it. Aung’s a special athlete,” Mowry said of his teammate. “He’s somebody that works really hard in the gym, he does the best he can to develop and add to his skillset, and more than anything, Aung’s a guy that’s just a force whenever the lights are on.”
“As a teammate, it’s something beautiful to behold,” he continued. “Every time the cage locks behind him and the bright lights hit him, he turns into an absolute killer. He doesn’t take a backwards step. And he somehow always finds a way to get the job done.”
“I think if he went up to heavyweight, I think he’d do really well.”
Like Mowry himself, Bellator 231 opponent Gokhan Saricam is undefeated. He’ll be making his promotional debut in the fight, and isn’t someone Mowry was familiar with prior to the bout being booked.
“Not really, honestly,” Mowry said. “I saw a couple of his fights, I saw an old boxing match of his, I saw his most recent MMA fight.”
What Mowry is familiar with is Saricam’s camp. “He actually trains with Stefan Struve. I know he works with good guys. He’s under some good direction out there, but I feel like I’m under the better direction, no offense to those guys.”
That’s something he plans to show in the fight. And Mowry doesn’t think training with the similarly towering Struve (who Mowry has also trained alongside) will give Saricam much of an edge.
“We fight very differently. I think I’m going to go out there and execute, I’m going to the job done.”
Mowry isn’t a fighter who likes to get too specific or give predictions, but he does see himself getting his hand raised. And after that, he’ll get to check out the heavyweight main event between Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson and Frank Mir.
“When I first got into this sport, Frank Mir had just knocked out Nogueira,” Mowry recalled. “That happened, and he was getting ready to fight Brock Lesnar. Roy Nelson had just got signed to the UFC, and Nelson was bombing everybody with that overhand. Those guys have been around the sport forever, and here I am fighting on the same card as them.”
“It’s really cool to be able to share a space, and a card with dudes that I grew up watching,” he added. “It’s incredible.”
Steve Mowry takes on Gokhan Saricam at Bellator 231 this Friday, October 25 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main card airs live on Paramount Network following online prelims you can catch right here on Cageside Press.