If you sit down and talk with Jake Lindsey long enough, chances are he’ll mention his first run in with the cops, which to this day he still refers to as “cardio training.” He’ll also touch on his deep-rooted love for Manhattan and K-State, while mentioning his passion for reading and video games.
He then may tell you that he’s a UFC fighter, and that he’s set to take the octagon this weekend in UFC 185 in Dallas.
Lindsey, 28, was born and raised in the Little Apple. His training started at the Manhattan High School football field and has remained in town at a local gym, Combative Sports Center.
He’s currently the only UFC fighter from the state of Kansas and, in all likelihood, the first-ever from Manhattan.
“It feels good,” Lindsey said. “It puts a little extra pressure on me, I suppose, but I’m the type of guy that doesn’t think about that crap, to be honest with you. Sometimes I have to stop and smell the roses, because I’m so interested in so many things that I won’t really realize that, like, I’m fighting for UFC. I’m definitely excited to prove that there is talent in this region.”
Lindsey’s interest in UFC sparked prior to 2007. He had no experience in mixed martial arts, but the sport hooked him and pushed him to start training on his own. The early workouts included punching football practice dummies and mimicking YouTube videos.
“I was always a fan of UFC and PRIDE and all the old-school MMA organizations,” Lindsey said. “I always watched, and I just kind of fell in love with the glory of it. I didn’t think about the money or anything at that point in time. I was always pretty good in a fight, and I thought, ‘You know, I can do this.’”
Lindsey’s stock rose quickly as an amateur. He met regional MMA veteran Joe Wilk and began training at Combative Sports Center, adopting a unique style that puts emphasis on cardio, aggression and a well-rounded mix of wrestling and boxing.
After an 11-0 amateur record, Lindsey’s status turned professional. He faced better opposition, but the losses were still nowhere to be found.
Lindsey jumped out to a 9-0 record as a professional in MMA. He was thrilled with every win and, of course, each paycheck, but there was growing frustration by the lack of UFC exposure.
Eventually, Lindsey started questioning whether it was worth it to continue pursing his dream of fighting in UFC.
“I thought, ‘You know, what the hell is the deal? I should be getting a call at any point,'” Lindsey said. “I didn’t hear a damn thing. My manager told me to keep winning and that I’d get a phone call … I honestly almost started thinking about calling it quits, because I wasn’t in UFC.”
He didn’t, though. In fact, Lindsey pressed harder for a UFC fight, calling scouts and UFC officials. His persistence paid off in June 2014 when he took the octagon in his first-ever UFC fight.
“MMA is a very demanding sport,” Lindsey said. “I made no money for the longest time, because you can’t work full time — it’s too much to do that and train full time. It’s too hard on your body.”
Ahead of his third UFC fight (0-2), Lindsey said he often forgets that he’s at the highest level of mixed martial arts, fighting against world-class athletes and not just a Manhattan kid doing what he loves.
“First and foremost, I love this town,” Lindsey said. “There’s something about this town. I may leave for a little bit, but I’ll always come back. This is home. Manhattan is a special town that has given me so many experiences.”
That love extends to K-State as well.
“K-State means a ton to me, more so for different reasons than most people in this town probably,” he said. “I only went there for school for a short time, but it’s been a big part of my life. There’s a special place in my heart for K-State.”
Saturday, Lindsey will face Joseph Duffy (0-0) in the lightweight division of UFC 185. Duffy enters heralded as the last fighter to beat UFC star Conor McGregor.
Lindsey, however, is quick to point out that fight happened five years ago, and much has changed since then – especially for himself.
“I’m excited because I’m going to steal that glory,” Lindsey said. “It’s the perfect fight, because everyone is going to be watching him and after I whoop his butt, they’re going to be like, ‘Who’s this guy?’”