Blaine Shutt was expecting to defend his CES MMA flyweight title Friday night, at the now-cancelled CES 61. Instead, with the event called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, his fighting career is on hold — as is almost the entire industry.
On a more positive note, Shutt is coming off a title fight win, which he calls a “dream come true.” One fight prior, he had come up short in a shot at the CFFC title. Falling short for that, Schutt says he wasn’t sure where his career was leading to. “I was in a bad place. So getting that opportunity to fight for the CES belt, and especially winning it, was the revival of the excitement that I had once and the fight career that I had lost.”
Both the timing and setting of the fight were key. Fighting for CES, Shutt knew that 100% of their champions have moved on to the UFC. Of course, “there’s a little bit of stress with that, because what if I become that one that didn’t go? That didn’t get the call? That would kind of suck.” However, Shutt remains confident that at the least, a Contender Series spot is in his future.
And he’s open to taking part in Dana White’s Fight Island concept as well. He came close to an octagon appearance in March, when the UFC cancelled its first batch of shows.
“I was actually out in California for my fight camp at A.K.A., training with Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and stuff,” Shutt told Cageside Press this week. Then things started to shut down. Eventually, he returned home, and so did Nurmagomedov, the very next day.
“There was a little moment when they moved the UFC London card to the United States, and I almost picked up a last-second replacement [spot] to fight on that card,” Shutt revealed. “Then it got cancelled like an hour later.”
Still, if the UFC were to call up and ask Blaine Shutt if he wanted a spot on Fight Island, he would not hesitate. “I’m there. I’m there. If they gave me the opportunity, absolutely, I’d be there in a heartbeat. Whether it’s at 25, 35, or 45. Whatever weight they wanted me at, I’d be there in a heartbeat.”
Until recently (thanks to the coronavirus pandemic), Shutt had been training at the American Kickboxing Academy. “I got out to AKA for all my fight camps. This is my second camp out there,” he told us. Of course, he’s met the likes of Daniel Cormier, and UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, who he’d put a little time in with in the past.
“This time, we were a little more isolated,” Shutt said. Islam Makhachev, Deron Winn, and a select handful of other fighters were in the room. Khabib, of course, was preparing for Tony Ferguson once again. This time, Shutt didn’t get to go one-on-one with Khabib — he has in the past — but “just being in the same room as him, being in his presence, getting to watch what he does, just nitpick at his style. It’s almost kind of like learning off of watching somebody teach you how to do it, even though they’re indirectly teaching you how to do it. He’s such an influential person to watch. Especially me being a wrestler by trade. The subtle movements, and you’re just completely straight-jacketed and you can’t get out, you’re stuck in position, just by his subtle movements.”
“It’s really cool to have been able to sit back and watch and critique it in my own way,” he continued. “Because I would watch him do something, and I would take it, and I would go do it with one of the guys I was going with. We’ve had conversations and stuff, and that’s cool.”
Even just chit-chatting with the lightweight champion, said Shutt, “is a blessing in disguise.”
Working with a high-level grappler is clearly big for the lifelong wrestler. And we do mean lifelong. “I started really, really young. I started when I was three. My dad was a high school coach around the area I was growing up. He was the head coach there,” Shutt explained.
“He put me in the room with all of [the students]. I’d run around, cause a ruckus and everything, but my dad would showboat me to all the guys,” he recalled. “He’s like ‘come on, whoever can’t do more pushups than my son will have to do laps.’ I would sit there, three years old, and I’m cranking out 100 plus push-ups in a row. All those high school kids didn’t like it, because I’d make them do extra laps.”
By age four, Shutt was competing. “My second year into it, I was a youth national qualifier.” He’d go all the way to college, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, to pursue wrestling. “I was at school to wrestle. I wasn’t there to be a student.”
But his whole life, he’s dealt with a mental block. “I get in my own head, and I psych myself out,” he admitted. “It’s been such a halt on my career, even to this day. But the whole CES win over [Johnny] Lopez actually put like a punctuation [on it], or blew up that whole problem that I had. Because not only did I win that belt, but I kind of beat myself, and got out of my head, and showed the true potential that I was capable of having, and held myself back from this whole time.”
Finally, said Shutt, he was able to pull the trigger and let go. Not bad for a fighter who didn’t know about MMA until he dropped out of college. Shutt, far from home, had begun to struggle with his studies. Campus life wasn’t for him. “When I dropped out, I ended up working at the post office with my dad.” There, he’d meet his first manager, and ended up in a gym with Dennis Bermudez, Dustin Pague, and others. The rest, as they say, is history.
These days, it seems like an obvious career path, from wrestling to MMA. “It’s definitely given all the wrestlers an outlet now. Obviously with baseball, you can go pro. Football, you can go pro. Now it seems like fighting is now the wrestler’s pro after their high school and college careers.”
Now it’s just a matter of getting that career back on track, after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Until then, however, Shutt admits that “I truthfully don’t know” what will happen. “That’s such a scary and frustrating situation at the same time, not knowing what’s going on.”
“It’s crazy that I can look outside, I can take a step outside, take a deep breath, look around, and everything looks like normal,” observed Shutt. “But it’s not. So it’s really hard to comprehend the situation and the severity of it, just simply because there’s nothing that’s visually in my face telling me ‘hey, people are dying, you shouldn’t be out here’ or ‘you shouldn’t go to this place, and you shouldn’t do that.'”
At the same time, Shutt realizes the gravity of the situation. “I can’t go train, I can’t go to the grocery store without having a mask on, I can’t go to work without having my temperature checked.”
Until things return to normal, Shutt is trying to stay in shape as best he can. Admittedly, however, “I’m craving to hit some pads. I just want to crack some mitts. The bag’s not enough. Running’s not enough. Lifting stuff’s not enough. I’ve got to spar somebody, I’ve got to take somebody down. I’ve got to squeeze the life out of somebody — I’m going nuts!”
Hopefully, that Fight Island call — or better yet, a return to normalcy — will come sooner rather than later.