There have been ample sacrifices that people around the globe have been forced to make throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, not the least of which has been perseverance in the absence of sports. Fight sport fans have been somewhat fortunate, with the UFC’s stubbornness to succumb to this disease, and the persistence of Dana White to put on shows for the last two months, despite other major sports organizations being unable, and/or unwilling, to do so. Following in the UFC’s footsteps, regional promotions from several states have begun booking and hosting fight cards with success. Atlas Fights looks to be one of the first promotions on the Gulf Coast to resume live fights, and they’ve got a stellar card in the works. Atlas Fights 54 – Biloxi MMA Beach Bash will be held on Saturday, August 1st, from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. With the return of live fights, I wanted to reach out to some of the professionals fighting on this card to help have their stories told.
From his roots as a promising young athlete, Jonathan Eiland’s trajectory was forever changed from football player to professional MMA fighter when he suffered an ankle injury. Jonathan is currently 4-0 as a professional, and he’s the #7 ranked Bantamweight in Louisiana. Riding a combined (professional and amateur) 9 fight win streak, Jonathan looks to extend that streak against the #4 ranked Bantamweight in the United States, Levi Mowles – and to cement himself as one of the top contenders in the nation. Jonathan Eiland faces Levi Mowles at Atlas Fights 54 – Biloxi MMA Beach Bash on Saturday, August 1st, so we decided to give Jonathan a call to help share his journey.
Every superhero has an origin story. What’s yours? Where are you from?
Actually, I’m from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but I moved to New Orleans after college in 2008 and have been here ever since.
What got you into fighting?
I was pursuing playing professional football, I was pretty fast and athletic, looking to be a return man or receiver in the NFL or arena football league. I had a couple of invites, but before I could go, I ended up hurting my ankle and was put in a boot. I couldn’t do anything that I had been doing, except upper body workouts. So, I went back to Hattiesburg and started rehabbing in a gym, that happened to have two MMA fighters that had fights coming up down in New Orleans. And, I figured since I couldn’t run because of my injury, I might as well do some kind of grappling. After a while, I got in touch with some friends who knew some promoters, and they told me that if this was something that I wanted to do, I needed to train and learn some grappling. So, I moved back to New Orleans and stated training with Shawn Gayton and started competing in BJJ competitions, which led to an MMA fight in 2012 and the rest is history.
“Everything now is proving things to myself. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone else, I’m ready, and I’m out here trying to prove that I’m one of the best Bantamweights around.”
What’s a typical week like for you?
I still work of course, and I would say it’s not something easy. I’m waking up early, sometimes getting in a workout that morning. I’ve got a 40 hour work week, and most of my training comes at night. It’s a constant grind, training on the weekends, but every day is a full day.
Where are you training, and who do you get to go against?
I’m training at Mid City MMA. I’ve rekindled the connection that Shawn (Gayton) and I had at the beginning. I’ve still got T-Webb (Thomas Webb) in my corner, he’s my striking coach. One of my main training partners is Jewel Scott, and look for him to make his return soon! I also train with Thanh and Vinh Le. There’s a lot of amateur guys and competitive grapplers there that train at a high level, too.
What do you like most about fighting?
At this point in my life, it’s exciting to still be competing. Most of my friends that I used to play ball sports with aren’t really doing anything athletically, so it really reminds me of playing ball back in the day. Fighting has got to be one of the most adrenalin-packed things you can do. Fighting to me is like catching an 80-yard touchdown in football, that’s what I enjoy.
“If you can beat the people that they put in front of you, typically that’s a good thing. I feel like I’ve got the skills and athleticism, and the size, that compliments me, to be a top contender.”
What do you feel is your biggest strength?
It would have to be my athleticism.
What was it like the first time that you stepped into the cage? What was going through your mind?
My first opponent was a big ripped dude. I mean, I thought I was ripped, but this dude was much bigger than me. I walked in weighing around 147, I didn’t have to cut anything to fight him, and he was big! And, that first fight, it proves to you if you want to do this or not. Leading up to the fight I was a little nervous, but when I got to the arena and saw my opponent, he was all in my face and giving me looks. But, I used that to fuel myself, and I really wanted to fight after that. And, I did it, and ended up choking him out in like 2 minutes.
You’re a 4-0 professional fighter, who’s obviously on the right path. What do you feel you need to do in order to get to that next level?
Continue to keep winning, continue to grow and learn. If you can beat the people that they put in front of you, typically that’s a good thing. I feel like I’ve got the skills and athleticism, and the size, that compliments me, to be a top contender. Of course, I’m fighting for Atlas’ Bantamweight belt, and I feel like I’m on the right track, and I’m looking to capitalize on every opportunity that I get. This next fight is going to be a huge stepping stone for me!
You’re fighting Levi Mowles, a well-seasoned veteran with 17 fights and a fantastic record (13-4). He’s also the #4 ranked professional Bantamweight in the country. Without revealing too much, what do you think he brings to this fight, and what have you been doing to prepare?
Obviously, he’s got experience, I know he’s tough. But, I’ve been doing really the same thing to prepare for him that I do for everybody. It’s nothing different than what I normally do. It’s mixed martial arts, so you train everything.
Who has been your biggest challenge in the cage thus far and why?
I’d say Abe Sellers and Brandon McMahan have been the toughest. Both of them had their own unique style
I remember the fight you had last year against Gladiators’ Abram Sellers. He came into that fight with a ton of momentum riding a 4-fight win streak and having won 6 out of his last 7. He had a few moments early, but then you turned it up and got the 1st-round finish (and I believe on short notice?). What do you remember about that fight, and what did finishing a fighter of Abram’s caliber do for your confidence?
I actually almost didn’t take that fight. I ended up taking it because I was getting frustrated. I had only one fight as a pro, and I had been looking for fights for a while. It was difficult to find opponents for some reason, and It started reminding me of my amateur career. So, they called me Thursday, and I had to weigh-in on Friday, so no training camp, nothing. But, it didn’t matter to me, I was able to go out there and fight and get the win, and that’s what’s most important.
To be honest, I was already confident. I wasn’t going to take a fight that I felt like I was going to lose. I felt confident that I could stand up with him, or wherever else the fight went. Everything now is proving things to myself. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone else, I’m ready, and I’m out here trying to prove that I’m one of the best Bantamweights around. That fight with Abe proved to me that I am who I always said that I am!
Do you have anything that you’d like to plug? Would you like to shout-out your school/coaches?
I want to give a shout-out to Mid City MMA, T-Webb MMA, Thomas Webb, Jewel Scott. I want to thank my sponsors Team Reaper, RipLife1 – those two have given me some fight gear for this fight and this camp, nothing but good things to say about those guys! I’d also like to thank Moon College, they’ve been real good to me, especially during the pandemic.
If you liked this article, don’t forget to share, like and subscribe – and go ahead and like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram @fightsportfocus. You can catch Jonathan in his upcoming fight with Levi Mowles at Atlas Fights 54 – Biloxi MMA Beach Bash on Saturday, August 1st, from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. To purchase tickets, please visit http://www.atlasfights.com/ or http://www.mscoastcoliseum.com.