When a mixed martial artist has all of their wins come via submission, they get labeled, but don’t be so quick to judge Jason Zentgraf.
Zentgraf (Twitter: @JasonZentgraf) is a Maximum Fighting Championship middleweight, sporting a 7-1 record, with all his victories coming by way of submission. His next visit to the ring is Friday at “MFC 37: True Grit” against Luke Harris at the Shaw Centre in Edmonton, Alberta.
Zentgraf trains at Dogpound Fight Team in Missoula, Mont., alongside the likes of Bellator Season 6 lightweight semifinalist Lloyd Woodard, amongst many other talents. He said his jiu-jitsu is feeling crisp from working with Woodard and heavyweights like John Ragsdale, who weighs approximately 300 pounds, but that’s not to say his striking isn’t just as fluent as his ground game.
“It hurts when people say, ‘He’s just a jiu-jitsu guy,’” Zentgraf said. “I’m like, ‘Nah, not really.’ It’s frustrating, it doesn’t really affect me that much, but it’s kind of annoying to keep hearing it. I want to go out there and put on a good show, and for fans that aren’t as well educated, they think the ground is boring. When someone doesn’t understand the ground, they look at it as two dudes just rolling around on the ground, and they want to see strikes. Even if you don’t know anything about the sport, a fan can understand what’s going on when they see striking.”
Ironically, Zentgraf’s opponent, Harris (9-2), is also a mixed martial artist that earned all his wins via submission.
When two combatants square off with recorded victories or backgrounds that are similar, such as, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, judo; the fighters cancel each other’s strongest attribute. This forces them to utilize what striking techniques they have in their arsenal. Therefore, a match with Harris could be the perfect bout for Zentgraf to demonstrate his stand-up abilities that have caught everyone’s eye in the gym.
“It could very easily go to a submission, but hopefully I am able to keep it standing,” Zentgraf said. “I’d like to work some of the striking that I am so good at and hopefully put him on his butt. I’m disappointed in my last two performances. I won, they were pretty decisive, but I wasn’t able to showcase my striking in either of the fights, and a lot of people don’t think I have striking, especially when you look at my record-all submissions. But most people that train with me, they remember my striking over my jiu-jitsu. My jiu-jitsu is very good, but it’s my striking that usually gives people more problems, so that’s what I’m hoping to implement. But if he does want to clinch and go to the ground, obviously I am very prepared for it.”
Providing he gets a victory over Harris, Zentgraf will be on a five-fight win streak, with his most recent three triumphs occurring under the MFC banner. In that instance, there could be a case made that the Big Fight Management signee deserves a title match.
Being granted a chance to win one of the few coveted belts in MMA, the MFC middleweight title, also brings more face time with the media and fans. Their broadcast partnerships with AXS TV and TSN result in garnering new fans all the time. It would be a big commitment, but one Zentgraf is ready for.
“I love interacting with the fans,” Zentgraf said. “When I talk to the fans, they remember who I am when I fight. It helps to build my name a little bit and fans remember who I am when they see my fight, then want to see me in a title fight. Actually, if I can put Luke Harris away, which, if I am on point I know I can, and make it an entertaining fight, I hope to get a title shot.
“There were talks if I put Clay Davidson away decisively, I would get a title fight; unfortunately that didn’t happen. It wasn’t a very exciting fight, second round was alright, first (round) was kind of boring, a lot of clinch and stuff. When I watched it, Michael Schiavello could appreciate the technique I was using, but there wasn’t much action besides a few liver shots I landed. I’m hoping this fight will be more action, more blood, more punches in the face, more excitement, and then I get a title shot.”
Zentgraf isn’t a grappler, or a striker, he’s a mixed martial artist seeking a world title.