(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series about Conner Cordova by Jason Kelly. Find Part I HERE)
Conner Cordova’s aspirations of becoming an MMA journalist were not fulfilled overnight.
After being rejected by multiple websites, Cordova finally got his break working for Matt Kaplowitz, a.k.a. The Fight Nerd. The Grudge member is grateful that Kaplowitz granted him an opportunity, but they had different visions for the future and Cordova eventually created his own website.
“Matt was willing to take a chance on me and give me a place to shine,” Cordova explained. “My career didn’t have a warm-up. My second interview ever was Wanderlei Silva; I was in Vegas and thought I would ask. I never expected them to say yes, but they did. I was hooked after that.
“Matt treated me well, but we wanted to go in different directions. I wanted the younger market and more lifestyle as opposed to breaking news and stuff like that so I started MMAReligion.com. I knew if I wanted to do things my way I had to create my own outlet.”
MMA Religion was an ideal place for Cordova to develop, but running the website, along with the other priorities that consume his hectic schedule, became too much to handle.
“I was training, teaching, going to school, and traveling,” Cordova explained. “Managing a website on top of all that was too difficult. I accomplished all my goals with the site. It boosted my career and brought me in the public eye. Now I’m working at places like MMADieHards.com and Fighter’s Only magazine and FightersOnly.com, and it’s a lot less stressful. I’m having a ton of fun.”
Cordova’s charismatic on-camera personality made fighters and others in the MMA world take a liking to him despite his obvious youth. Perhaps it’s because the person you see on camera is not acting. His Muay Thai coach, Ludwig, describes Cordova as an “ass kicking comedian.”
Grudge head coach Trevor Wittman is astounded with Cordova’s success as a journalist and admits that it’s a pleasure to have him in the gym. Wittman notices a complete transformation when Cordova trades his microphone for his mouth guard.
“I know him as a reporter and as a training fighter,” Wittman explained. “The kid changes his whole mentality, his whole posture changes, his look on his face changes and his ability to adapt. He focuses so hard. When you tell him something his eyebrows get this angled angry look and he’ll listen to you and he catches it in one or two tries. He’s an athletic kid and his transition from karate to fighting is spectacular to me.”
There is a drill conducted at Grudge that Wittman created that gives even the best fighters fits, but Cordova sucks it up and pushes through it without any complaints.
“There’s a funny drill I call ‘Bitch Better Have My Money,’ ” Wittman explained. “Eight people stand in line and kick your ass for 30 seconds in an area that’s about 10 feet by 10 feet and you have to fight your way out of it. It forces you to get in a panic mode. Conner did it one day and he did better than some of the professional guys. He made it all the way through the drill and he was completely exhausted when he was done, but he didn’t complain.”
Even though Cordova’s life has been extremely demanding with his journalistic duties and teaching martial arts at his parent’s school as well as Grudge Training Center, he could not neglect his desire for competition. Cordova’s craving to exchange blows led to his first Muay Thai fight recently, with a camp fit for a pro.
“I had the itch man, I haven’t fought competitively in a really long time,” Cordova explained. “I love to fight; fighting’s a big part of my life.
“I had a four-week training camp for this fight with all the bells and whistles. I had a dietary planner, a strength and conditioning coach, a Muay Thai coach, a boxing coach and I came in and sparred, so it was a full training camp.”
Cordova has competed in karate tournaments his entire life, but this was his first Muay Thai fight, and yet he managed to keep his nerves in check.
“I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous than I was,” Cordova confessed. “I was really calm and collected. Everything leading up to the fight was stressful, but once you’re in there nothing is more relaxing. I love when it’s you and another guy testing your mettle, I love that feeling of supreme confidence.”
Cordova’s “supreme confidence” and dedication to martial arts training paid off with an impressive victory.
“It couldn’t have got any better,” he recounted. “I went out there and knocked the guy out in 37 seconds. I missed with my right hand, which I was really angry about because I think my right hand is my best punch, and I tagged him a few times, but that first head kick hurt him. I flurried on him and didn’t allow him to get his composure again, then I kicked him in the head two more times and it was done. They waved it off because the guy was out on his feet, and I was like, All right! Awesome!”
Wittman viewed the tape of Cordova’s fight.
“He thoroughly impressed me,” Wittman admitted. “For him to come out and look so poised, so controlled, so confident and so relaxed, those are the things I look for. He looked perfect, he looked like a trained killer in there. I’m proud to say that I work with him.”
It’s no stretch to imagine Cordova could use the video to promote himself as an MMA journalist. However, the intelligent young man has personal reasons for not doing that.
“A lot of people want to see the fight video, but they have to understand that’s not the reason I did it,” Cordova explained. “I didn’t do it for people to be like, ‘Oh it’s cool that you fight.’ I did it because I love to do this and I’m very competitive at it.
“I didn’t even post it on Facebook, and I post everything on Facebook. I’m not the guy who peels out of the parking lot at two in the morning for attention. I’m not trying to impress anyone, I did this for me and I’m going to do it again.”
Cordova entertains the thought of fighting professionally, but not becoming a professional fighter.
“I think fighting professionally and being a professional fighter are two different things,” Cordova explained. “If I keep doing this I could see myself fighting professionally, but I don’t want to make it my career.”
Cordova’s career has rapidly taken off. Within just a few years he has managed mind-boggling success and progression, but he does not take any of it for granted and he recognizes who helped along the way.
“My family has been so supportive,” Cordova stated. “I attribute a lot of my success to my mom; she just keeps me motivated and keeps me focused. She’s one of the most supportive parents you could ever want. Another good friend of mine is Eric Williams, I met him in Chicago at UFC 90 and he was just a cool guy. He’s a photographer, and if you’ve ever seen Eric’s art it’s really incredible. He’s helped me a lot, he’s mentored me through the industry and he’s helped me achieve my goals and realize my aspirations.”
Cordova has accomplished an astonishing amount of goals already in life and he is proud of all of them, but there are still times he gets ahead of himself and needs to be reminded that he has a lot more life to live.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am young and I’m only 19,” Cordova admitted. “Sometimes I think, God, how I haven’t done this yet, or how haven’t I seen this yet, but I have to remember I have a lot of time. I’ve had the opportunities to do in my life already what some people don’t get to do their entire life. A lot of kids my age are working at the DQ (Dairy Queen), so I’m very happy and proud of where I am, but I have a lot more I want to accomplish.”
Cordova has been involved in multiple fundraisers for charities throughout this journey and he has met some incredible people. He is currently looking into attending one of the state universities in Colorado, dabbling in business endeavors and perfecting his journalism craft.
When you break it all down, Conner Cordova is simply a 19-year-old kid who is becoming a man, exploring possible careers and enjoying an adventurous life. And you thought all this kid did was take Arianny Celeste to prom.