B/RBIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA — The gym is big enough to hold 20 people scrambling around on mats, and small enough that fighters are slammed not into a cage, but into a wall shared with the Mexican restaurant next door.
"It would be a god-damn catastrophe if we knocked over their dishwasher," head coach, owner and former Marine Chris Conolley bellows in the direction of heavyweight Kem Oti and middleweight Eryk Anders. "
Oti is there, 91 long miles on I-65 from his home in Decautur, Alabama, to prepare for a fight on the undercard of Roy Jones Jr.'s final boxing bout down in Pensacola, Florida, on Feb. 8.
With his team clinging to a one-score lead, Anders demolished the Longhorns quarterback Garrett Gilbert, forcing a fumble that led to the touchdown that secured the game.
Conolley, a black belt in the same Straight Blast Gym system that has bred world champions like Randy Couture and Conor McGregor, was the only man in Alabama who had the experience to take a neophyte to the big time.
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