Lee Hagel takes on Obinwa Ikebunna on Saturday, November 9, 2019. The bout takes place in Brandon, Manitoba at Teofista: Fight for the Troops. Kicking off at 10:30PM ET and emanating from the Keystone Centre, the middleweight bout will go down in the confines of a ring. Young pugilist Hagel has seen some big ups and downs already in his relatively short career, and speaking to Cageside Press ahead of the fight, explains that so far it has been quite the ride.
Hagel trains out of Alliance Martial Arts Systems. The kinship among those in the gym goes beyond athletes preparing for an event. Though the sport is ultimately an individual one, it creates a real sense of community and kinship with teammates. “We’re all there to help each other, right? We all get pretty excited,” Hagel explained. “We’ve all put in the hard work with each other. You kind of build that bond over the years, for sure.”
Hard times are par the course for an MMA fighter’s journey. It can be a make or break moment where they are galvanized by what happened or it causes irreparable damage. Case in point, Hagel was violently knocked out by Drayton Angus 14 seconds into the first round of their fight in 2017.
When asked if there were mental hurdles to overcome after the Angus fight, Hagel said “There was lots. Also, I just wanted to take the time to get better. I took a year off after that. You’ve got to let your brain heal. You’ve got to clear your mind as well of all the emotions and shit. So I kind of cleared my mind, just got better with techniques. Jumped in there whenever I feel ready and it felt great. Felt like the perfect timing.”
That perfect timing came in the form of Hagel’s XFFC debut. He garnered submission of the night honors by choking Cassian Alexy out cold less than thirty seconds into the fight.
Asked about having that performance after the Angus roadblock, Hagel stated, “Honestly that was how the whole fight was planned out. We just didn’t expect it going in 29 seconds obviously. But we predicted the guillotine. We came in; just wanted to throw some crisp shots. We knew he was going to shoot in for a takedown. That was going to be my time to capitalize on the submission.”
Lee Hagel has never been to a second round in his pro career. He’s curious about getting into those later rounds though. “I’m hoping for a decision honestly,” he quipped. “I just want some experience. Some cage time in there.” It’s been close to a year out of action for Hagel since that aforementioned XFFC win. Lee Hagel has been chomping at the bit to compete again. Just some circumstances got in the way.
Hagel explained that, “I was looking to get a fight for a little while now. I had that XFFC debut last year. It went really well and then I kind of wanted to keep the ball rolling but then I kind of bumped into some injuries that kept me out of there. I was in shape for a while and then this popped up. It feels like great timing again.”
Though inactive in MMA competition, Hagel keeps busy with submission grappling tournaments and has taken muay thai bouts in the past. “You jump in a tournament every couple of months, I feel it’s really good for you,” Hagel said. “Just to keep you sharp and see what other techniques are out there among other gyms.”
After the time off Hagel wants two more fights this winter. He’s looking to push the pace before 2019 is done and make up for the lost time. The crowd for this one is intriguing because Brandon, Manitoba doesn’t get much in the ways of combat sports. The crowd will be raucous and taking advantage of the fact they’re getting a rare night of combat sports entertainment.
Hagel won’t let the moment get to him and will enjoy himself out there though. “I don’t think the crowd will get to me,” he predicted. “The more people the better to be honest. It’d be fun to bring some good fights out there you know. They can sit back and enjoy the fights.”