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Lansing fighter Dequan Townsend reaching for MMA stardom

Austin Short

He’s in training to win a professional contract with UFC, with the tryouts coming later this month in Las Vegas.

LANSING, Mich. – Dequan Townsend heads up the stairs of the large warehouse complex and enters the doors to train with his teammates at Murcielago MMA facility. It’s a modest room; no speed bags, punching bags or weights. But what it lacks in equipment it more than makes up for in good company. 

Townsend enters the room and immediately cracks jokes with teammate John White and his coach Joaquin Rodriguez. The three of them are practically yelling at each other, over the sounds of the room’s running heaters.

“We have four fighters fighting this weekend, we need to make weight,” Rodriguez said. 

Townsend, who stands at 6-3, is not preparing for a fight that weekend, but is training for his own fight on May 20. He will square off against Tim Woods in Birch Run, Michigan, in a catch weight fight at 180 lbs.

An even bigger test looms for Townsend, as he is striving to earn a UFC contract on the promotion’s television series, “The Ultimate Fighter”. Townsend will be attending tryouts for The Ultimate Fighter on May 23 in Las Vegas, home to UFC’s headquarters.

“There are three stages to the tryouts. The first stage is grappling. If they like what they see, you make it to the next stage. The next stage is pad work,” said Townsend, who lives in Lansing. “They want to see you hit pads and see how you perform striking. And the third stage is the biggest stage, which is the interview. If you make it to the third stage you have to show charisma, you have to be energetic, you have to have a story.”

Credit Austin Short

Townsend, who has a 15-6 professional record, always aims to put on a show for those who support him, whether it be friends or family. His exciting style of striking even earned him his nickname, “The Taruntala”, which is an ode to a legendary MMA fighter known as “The Spider”.

“I trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai and I do a lot of fancy kicks and stuff like that. A lot of people said that my fighting style is similar to Anderson Silva’s and I have long arms and legs like a tarantula,” Townsend said.

His coach also noted that that his style of fighting makes him unpredictable and leaves fans wondering what will happen next.

“He’s a knockout artist. To this day he still has an unorthodox style, as it relates to striking, and it has been really effective. Without a doubt his standup is his greatest attribute,” Rodriguez said.

Townsend’s greatest motivation to fight are his four sons, one of whom passed away due to cancer three years ago. He still recalls the date, with pain in his voice; March 15. His son was just four years old.

“I like to look at it like if I don’t win, my kids don’t eat. I have always been a provider for my family. That’s my motivation man. When it comes down to it, like I said, everything I do is for my babies, and losing my son to cancer, this is a promise I made to him,” Townsend said, in a somber tone.

The 30-year-old fighter not only cares for his sons deeply, but he also works as a nurse full-time for Riverfront Towers, providing home health care to four patients.

“It’s difficult, I’ve been fighting for so long and having the clients I’ve had, I’ve developed bonds with them. Sometimes I might come late to training, basically coming straight from work like I just did,” Townsend said. “But most of the time I have this time where I can train, and my clients they understand it. Some of them have actually came to fights.”

Credit Austin Short

Until then, Townsend helps the other fighters on the Murcielago MMA team get ready for their fights. Before they begin grappling, Townsend puts on a hair cover to avoid ripping out his dreadlocks. Then they begin to “roll”, as they call it. Basically, they are practicing their ground game. Townsend escapes a triangle attempt. His teammate is dumbfounded at how Townsend squirmed out of the submission attempt so swiftly, so Townsend gives him a brief lesson.

“Dequan is a veteran of the sport so a lot of the guys, and women for that matter, look up to him. I want him to take on that lead role where he is that go to person. He is always willing to help out with various things. I didn’t personally show it to him, I just showed him a video so he must have looked at the video and he made it work for him,” said Rodriguez.

His dream of reaching the UFC takes another step at The Ultimate Fighter tryouts, and it could ultimately bring him one step closer to finally fighting one of his longtime rivals, UFC fighter Bobby Nash.

“He literally just escaped the jaws of a shark. He got signed to the UFC maybe three weeks before our fight. I’ve been wanting to fight Bobby since we were amateurs,” said Townsend.

At the end of the day though, his biggest inspiration is still his family.

“My babies man, being a father I love all of my boys and you know, I do what I do for my babies. I feel like, in the fight game you’re either in or you’re not. There is no in between. My goal is to make it to the top and make it to the UFC, so if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right,” said Townsend.

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