I Don’t Want No Smoke, I Want The Flame – Rakim Cleveland To FightBook MMA

Credit Extreme Challenge/Extreme Kickboxing

Professional Fighters League’s Rakim Cleveland wins a unanimous decision over Jaquis Williams in Monte Cox’s Extreme Kickboxing October 19, 2019. This event was held at the Wild Rose Casino In Jefferson, Iowa. Monte Cox’s Extreme Challenge has held over 200 MMA events. As of April 20, 2019  Extreme Challenge began promoting his Extreme Kickboxing events. Rakim Cleveland, recently eliminated from competition for the 2019 PFL tournament by submission artist Vinny Magalhaes via armbar, first round. Last year again in the 1st round, Cleveland a #8 seed in the PFL light heavyweight tournament was submitted  by #1 seed and eventual 2018 PFL tournament champion Vinny Magalhaes by Flying triangle. 

Cleveland, Training at Florida’s American Top Team for a year and a half full time, recently decided to move back home in the Des Moines, Iowa area now training again with Extreme Kickboxing 185 Champion Victor Moreno at his new gym, Absolute Martial Arts & Fitness in Johnston, Iowa. Recently, I interviewed the Bogeyman to get his take on winning his pro kickboxing debut, back training with his long-time teammates, and why his decision to move back up to heavyweight.

Cleveland: “I think it was a solid fight. It felt good to get back in there and display my striking skills without having to worry about grappling. Jaquis came with it. He came out tough & he kinda stayed that way. He stayed steady, so ya know I enjoy having a solid opponent to push me. I’m happy with the results of getting a win, I wish I could’ve got the finish, but that’s the fight game. You don’t always get want you want, but like I said I’m really happy.”

Chrisp: I thought you won 1 & 2 but 3 was a little harder to determine for me. How did you see it?

Cleveland: “1 & 2 I was fresh, I felt good. Round 3 I kinda knew I was ahead. I started relaxing and taking my time more, & he picked up the pace. He caught me with a few good shots, we traded back n forth. You know, I was comfortable. I knew I had won the first 2 rounds, I started kinda coasting, and I kinda took some heat for that.”

Chrisp: When I asked Monte Cox what he thought the difference in the fight was, he said this

Cox: “The Difference in the Rakim fight was his power. He worked hard on his stand up at American Top Team in Florida & wanted to show how much he has improved. He did that.”

Chrisp: What’s your response?

Cleveland: Well, definitely. When I hit him, he definitely reacted. I wobbled him a couple times in the first round. I wobbled him in the 2nd round too. I backed off and was looking for that perfect opening, that didn’t really seem to present itself vs just pouncing on him & going crazy. I definitely had a power advantage on him and I kinda marched him down knowing I had a power advantage with me pushing forward, putting pressure on the guy. Landing those power shots like that will typically get it done. I was just staying busy. You know I hit him with a lot of solid shots, I stayed busy, and I landed more power shots. I was more effective with my striking, I had him hurt a couple of times. I let him off the hook, but it’s been a while since I had just a straight striking bout, that factors in there. I had a little adrenaline dump in the 1st round. I was out there throwing nothing but power, my first few exchanges. I had to kinda back down a little bit to value my percentages rather than try to knock him out every punch.

Chrisp: It’s probably a little soon, but any word yet on a new fight, and what weight do you plan to focus on here forward?

Cleveland: I haven’t. I’ve been kinda taking it easy, not push’n it too fast. I’m in the process work’n my way back up, I’m going back to heavyweight. You know I was hoping to fight Dec 21st for AFC at Hy Vee Hall in Des Moines, but I have had a hard time finding an opponent that were willing to fight me. So, I’m just taking one step at a time. I’m working to become a better version of myself every time I step in there. You will see a different, more evolved version of me, with me moving up a weight class. I just can’t wait to get another shot, wherever I do, get another opportunity. Of course you’ll see a bigger version of me, moving up a weight class. I just can’t wait to get another shot wherever it is, or whoever it’s gonna be against to show, I’m still here.

Chrisp: With AFC so close, have you written off fighting on that card? If so, what reasons exactly, made your decision?

Cleveland: I’m open to still fight. I talked to Rider (Matt Rider AFC promoter) a few weeks back. He told me he’s having a hard time finding someone for me to fight, that no one from this area wanted to get in there with me. That’s the biggest thing, finding an opponent. I always been that-I’ll step in there with whomever, whenever, I never back down from a fight. So, if he does find someone out there and I feel like I’m in good enough shape on a short notice fight, then look for me on the 21st. (Dec.)   

Chrisp: Why are you deciding to go back to heavyweight,?

Cleveland: I decided to move back to heavyweight because I feel I can make a good run on my return to the weight class. 

Chrisp: How is training going now that you are back training with your regular crew, again?

Cleveland: Training at Absolute is like coming back home. Me and my core guys there have history and nothing can beat home, when push comes to shove.

Chrisp: Closing words?

Cleveland: I just want to thank Matt Rider. I’m always willing to fight, anytime. I want to give a shout out to The Terp House CBD, & Dakota Fight Wear. As far as fighting goes, I don’t feel like I’m done. You know, a lot of people have been asking me when I’m gonna hang it up. I’ve been fighting for a long time, even though I’m only 30 years old, I’ve been fighting for 11 years already. I got a lot of fights under my belt and I’m not in such a hurry as I was when I was younger. I’ll take the right fights, at the right time. I gotta fight smart, and I’m willing to do the work to make it to the next level again, that’s always my goal. Whether it’s Bellator, UFC or back in PFL, all the big organizations out there, ya know if I get my shot, I’ll be ready. Moving up a weight class, any heavyweights out there willing to get in there with me, ya know I don’t want that smoke, I want the flame, you better bring it, whoever wants it come, bring it!

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