Both John de Jesus and Jamey Simmons feel that they are ready to take the next step in their professional mixed martial arts careers. The only problem is, each would have to go through the other to take that step.
Simmons and de Jesus are set to square off in Brawl in the Burgh 3’s main event on March 14. And, while both featherweights recognize that the 247 title is on the line, neither is prepared to let their dream of making it to a national stage take a hit—particularly given how confident they are in their own abilities heading into the match.
Simmons (6-2 as a professional) comes into the championship fight with a strong wrestling background. The 145-pound fighter out of Milwaukee’s Pura Vida BJJ & MMA has been wrestling since he was three years old, continued that career into high school, and now works with other high school and Division III collegiate wrestlers in his region to improve their own wrestling game.
“I’ve wrestled my whole life,” Simmons said. “I’m a student of the sport.
“I’d say my strongest point is taking you down. I think I’m hard to take down, and I’m hard to get out of position. I hand fight well too.”
Yet, this is just the thing sort of background that de Jesus, a fighter out of Pittsburgh’s The Academy of Martial Arts and Fitness has taken years to train and prepare for.
As de Jesus (12-8) said, “Back in the day I used to think…I used to look at a wrestler and think that I couldn’t do too much because he’s going to take me down. Nowadays I just go up and wrestle the best in the area so that I can have the confidence to do what I want.”
De Jesus then went on to speak specifically about Simmons when he said, “I know [Simmons is] going to try to wrestle-(expletive) me. He’s going to try to lay-and-pray, and aggressively hug me because he doesn’t want me touching him with my fists and shins. But that’s just not going to happen.”
De Jesus continued, “I’ve been going up against some of the best wrestlers in the area. I might even take his ass down.”
De Jesus credits his upbringing with American Top Team in Florida with providing a base for his skill set. But, de Jesus is also quick to note that his move to the Pittsburgh area has allowed him to polish those skills—particularly when it comes to the ground game.
“Now, I’m just sharpening everything, getting better at everything, leveling-up everything,” de Jesus said. “My ground game has gone through the roof. Pennsylvania is one of the best states in the United States for wrestling, so I’m over here getting better every day—day-in and day-out.”
However, to think that Simmons is a one-dimensional athlete would be, as he says, foolish. Simmons has taken great strides to improve his striking game since he first turned professional in 2017. And, he has a pair of back-to-back knockout wins on the strength of his right hand to prove it.
“I definitely look to land that power shot more than any other shot. If I can set up, get that angle and take that right-hand shot, then I feel like that’s my ticket to putting somebody to sleep,” Simmons said. Simmons then went on to say that, despite de Jesus’ reputation as a deceptive striker in his own right, if de Jesus is only looking for Simmons to wrestle on March 14, that de Jesus very well might in for quite the wakeup call.
“I would say that if that’s what my man thinks, he’s going to be in for a rude awakening,” Simmons said. “I think that my hands have come a long way in the last 3 ½ years.”
For his part, de Jesus is well aware of Simmons’ right hand. Yet, that doesn’t stop the Pittsburgh fighter from having faith in his camp and in his own abilities leading up to this fight.
“He’s coming off of two knockouts. Of course you have to respect that. He knows how to put people out,” de Jesus said. “I just believe in myself that much to know that: I’m going to do whatever I want, stuff everything that he does, make him look silly while he’s doing it, and finish him.”
In the end though, both de Jesus and Simmons want the same thing. Each fighter believes that he is ready to take the step onto a bigger stage in the world of MMA. Each fighter has seen others in their gyms take that plunge. And, each knows that winning this fight is their next step to getting there themselves.
“At the end of the day, my mentality is that I’m getting to Bellator— that I’m getting to the UFC,” said de Jesus, who trains with, and at the gym of, current Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter and 247FC alumnus Khama Worthy. “Another finish, and keep doing what I’m doing. That’s all it is. Keep grinding, and keep looking good while I’m doing it. And eventually, one of [those promotions] are going to have to call me.”
Or as Simmons, who trains in the same gym with UFC fighters Montel Jackson and Ode Osbourne, said, “I’m hoping that this win gets me onto Dana White’s Contender Series. I think this is my shot…It’s going to be a good show.”
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