Sherdog Prospect Watch: Jacob McClintock

By Tommy Messano Jun 29, 2009
In the world of mixed martial arts gyms, Arizona Combat Sports compares favorably to a hungry pack of wolves. For the past five years, Jacob McClintock has sat at the back of the pack, biding his time. Now, the 21-year-old from Yuma, Ariz., projects as the next big thing to come out of ACS.

Arizona Combat Sports has built a reputation for teaching elite-level wrestlers -- Ryan Bader, CB Dollaway and Aaron Simpson come to mind -- the skills necessary to become complete mixed martial artists. In McClintock, ACS coaches were presented with the challenge of transforming a top-shelf jiu-jitsu player into a fighter who could compete anywhere in the cage.

“When I started training jiu-jitsu, it was always a goal of mine to start doing MMA. I always enjoyed competition,” McClintock says. “I like to test myself against other people. Jiu-jitsu is good, but there is not quite the money to make. You have to either open up a gym or be one of the top guys in the world and get paid to compete.”

McClintock comes from a blue-collar background. His father worked in construction and moved the family to Phoenix to find work in one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. His work ethic never translated to success in the classroom or other extracurricular activities, however. In McClintock’s circle, he was always known as the “jiu-jitsu guy.”

“Training has always come easy to me,” he says. “Doing school work … I was never that type of kid. I couldn’t sit in class and pay attention. It’s easy for me to watch a jiu-jitsu move, then imitate it.”

When probed by the question about what he might have done with his life if professional MMA was not an option, McClintock quickly cringed and answered with candor.

“Honestly, I have no idea,” he says. “I was always into cars, so maybe something with that. Nothing really ever tickled my fancy like jiu-jitsu. Everybody here on the planet is sent here to do something. I think jiu-jitsu and MMA is something I was put here to do.”

When McClintock began training at Arizona Combat Sports in 2004, the gym was in the process of trying to establish its name in the MMA world. He described the facilities as “one jiu-jitsu mat and a ring,” only four times the size of the gym’s current back office. After two years of jiu-jitsu training under ACS’s Gustavo Dantas, McClintock made his MMA debut at the age of 19.

“It was his first fight, too,” McClintock says. “He was supposed to be a kickboxer for New Zealand. I ended up just getting double under hooks, taking him down, passed to mount and getting a TKO in the first round. That was good because for your first fight you really don’t want to get your faced smashed in.”

Undefeated in five fights, McClintock’s last two appearances have gone down as perhaps his most impressive. A win over fellow welterweight regional prospect Zach Taylor at a Total Combat show in 2008 provided McClintock with a good sense of how he stacked up against other up-and-coming fighters. His last bout in February was accompanied by a 20-hour flight to St. Petersburg, Russia, followed by a match with Sultan Tikhaev, a veteran of the Russian MMA circuit. Other young fighters may have crumpled under the outside pressures, but McClintock and Team ACS took it all in stride, from the weight cut to the five thousand Russians who packed the stands.

“I actually fought at 11 p.m. and got on a plane to come home at the 3 a.m. the next morning,” McClintock says. “It was not my night. He took me down, ground-and-pounded me pretty good. Everybody thought he broke my orbital bone. I ended up getting an armbar with one second left in the first round. The referee said if he didn’t tap, the doctor would have stopped it.”

McClintock has the pedigree of a can’t-miss prospect. He has youth on his side, trains with a professional camp full of top-level fighters and his jiu-jitsu expertise will give him an edge over the majority of opponents standing across the cage from him. McClintock’s next move remains uncertain, and a scheduled fight with “The Ultimate Fighter” castaway Paul Bradley at the end of June fell through because of a scheduling conflict.

McClintock sees the success of his Arizona Combat Sports teammates and believes he has what it takes to follow in their footsteps.

“I want to get into a decent show where I have some stability,” he says. “I am having a kid Sept. 30. It’s time to buckle down and take care of her.”

With fatherhood on the horizon, the 21-year-old will look to get into the cage two to three more times by the end of year. A strong showing in those bouts may lead to bigger paydays and a deal with an established promotion.

“This is too fun to stop,” says McClintock, who has finished all five of his opponents. “Even if the money stayed the same, I would still want to fight because it’s fun.”

Martial arts and family ground McClintock’s life. In 2009, those passions will converge, as he continues his transformation, from the teen-ager who walked into Arizona Combat Sports for the first time to the gym’s latest fighter to make noise on the national stage.

“As long as I’m successful and still involved in this sport, I’ll be happy doing that,” McClintock says. “Right now, if I’m doing something productive with my career, I’ll be happy. As long as I can support myself and my family, I’m going to be OK.”

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