Before Blaze Gill kickstarted his professional MMA career, he had a successful run as an amateur fighter with nine wins under his belt.

His last bout at that level took place September 2016 in Las Vegas; he was to fight in the main event in a vote-in style tournament promoted by King of the Cage.

The fights were broadcasted live; viewers were urged to text in their votes “America Idol”-style, naming their favorite fighters. The fighters with the most votes would be awarded with contracts. Gill won his fight and placed third in vote tallies, earning him a King of the Cage contract and a chance to go pro.

Not bad for a fighter whose last cage bout occurred about six years prior to the Last Vegas tournament. Back then, Gill had grown comfortable living a more domestic life, eating lots of food and weighing close to 220 pounds at one point.

He didn’t have to cut weight. He didn’t have to practice his form. He didn’t have to fight his way out of the ring. But that burning urge to compete never fully extinguished, and it eventually gave him the drive and confidence to step back into the octagon and close the gate shut behind him.

Now, with mere days before his top-of-the-card King of the Cage fight at WinnaVegas, Blaze “The Inferno” Gill is reignited with his desire to fight.

DEDICATION & MASTERY

Gill has already reacquainted himself with his fighting lifestyle he had grown accustomed to as a teenager and fought in two professional King of the Cage matches in January and April – both of which were wins. The Sioux City-born fighter is scheduled to fight as a lightweight this weekend, weighing in at 155 pounds.

While Gill’s focus is zeroed in on his upcoming match, he can’t help planning ahead and making preparations to cut his weight down even further to 145 pounds by winter. “The 145-pound class is going to be where I’m going to be a real terror,” he said. “The guys in 155, I keep running into people who are 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet tall and have seven inches of arm reach over me. And that’s fine. I’m fine with dealing with that.”

Gill is confident in his skills and background as a wrestler to close the distance on his opponents with longer reach. “I take your distance away from you,” he said. “But I focus a lot -- more than any other aspect on my training -- on boxing and my kickboxing [with Bret Welling] in Red’s Boxing Club inside Four Seasons.”

Not wanting to give his opponents the edge, Gill has worked hard to make sure he’s more than comfortable fighting on his feet and relying on the quickness of his hands to demolish his adversaries. So much so that he’s starting to feel more like a boxer than a wrestler.

“That focus is going to help propel me to where I want to be,” he said. “And that’s the elite of the MMA world, whether that’s taking a world championship from King of the Cage or going on to an even bigger promotion. Everyone’s goal is to be in the UFC. How you get yourself there is the big thing.”

Someone who can dictate the pace and flow of fights has the upper hand in that regard. Having control of both standup and ground game and knowing when to defend is crucial as well. “When you can conquer those things, you become the ringmaster – the cagemaster, if you will,” said Gill.

ONE WAY OUT

During those six years when Gill didn’t fight or train, he came to the realization that he was ending his prime years as a true competitor and athlete.

He was 9-0 as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter. Nobody had ever slowed him down. Gill prided himself in finishing his opponents. That feeling he got being locked inside of a cage with someone else was missing from his life. He has to win.

“If your hand gets raised at the end of this thing, I die,” said Gill. “It’s a weird way to look at it, but it will take you there. For every fighter it’s different. Some people want to have fun and enjoy it, and you can. But there is that aspect where the person in front of me is going to physically harm me. It’s like a modern day gladiator-type of sport.”

There’s a primal feeling that comes over Gill when he’s fighting. He wants to get out as fast as he can. Because once that gate closes, there’s only one way out for Gill. It’s staring right at him.

“For the next 15 minutes, you’re stuck within this moment,” he said. “There can’t be a thought of the future. There can’t be a thought of the past. It’s only what’s in front of you. That present moment where I have to be in-tune with every move you’re making, because every move you make is trying to cause harm to me.”

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