Spellman Ready to Tackle New Sport

By Greg Savage Nov 11, 2006
Alonzo Spellman was once one of the most feared defensive ends in the National Football League. He put fear into the hearts of quarterbacks and the linemen charged with protecting them.

After doing battle in the trenches of the NFL for nine seasons he is getting ready to tackle a new game.

Following a tough stretch of time, Spellman is looking to evoke some comparisons from his football days to his new chosen profession as a mixed martial artist. The former Chicago Bear standout returns to the Windy City this weekend when he makes his MMA debut against Antoine Hayes on Saturday’s XFO card at the brand new Sears Centre.

Spellman may best be known for the public battle he has waged with mental illness. Manic episodes cost him his football career and in 2002 it cost him his freedom.

An All Big-10 defensive end for Ohio State, Spellman was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after an outburst on a flight from Cincinnati to Philadelphia just months after the September 11 attacks.

Earlier this year Spellman claimed that the time he spent incarcerated had a profound affect on his view of the disease that robbed him of his career and liberty.

“Handcuffs, shackles, an orange suit, dark room, that you can't control the light — yeah, that'll pretty much put it in perspective for you,” he told ESPN.com

Having served his prison term, during which Spellman was under court order to take medication for bipolar disorder, the physical specimen — a 6’ 4”, nearly 300-pound monster with a 29-inch waist who ran a sub-5-second 40-yard dash — says he found new outlook on life and plans to make the most of a career in combat sports.

“It’s been a tough world, a lot of adversity and I know that this is an avenue that will enable me to empower myself again,” Spellman told Sherdog.com. “That is basically what led me to the fight game and that’s what’s going on to lead to my success in the fight game.”

While he may be a world-class athlete, Spellman is a novice mixed martial artist and brings less than five months of training into his first fight against a very tough opponent.

“We were training the floor stuff for about, I don’t know, a month and a half, maybe two months, something like that,” stated Spellman. “Then we got a trainer, a boxing trainer, and we been doing that for about the same period of time.”

As for that training, Spellman, a Mount Holley, New Jersey native fighting out of Las Vegas, did not want to get into specifics.

“I’m training against some real nice fighters that really know what they’re doing; professionals in the gym, you know, not just some guys,” said Spellman. “I’ve been training against some real top dudes and you know, it’s a positive thing. Everything’s been working well.”

UFC veteran Mike Whitehead (Pictures) is one of the fighters rumored to have trained with Spellman. For boxing, they have worked with former pro Augie Sanchez.

Sheldon Safran, Spellman’s manager, told Sherdog.com that his client plans to compete in both MMA and boxing beginning in 2007.

With a nascent combat sports career and his mental illness hopefully relegated to the rear-view mirror, Spellman seems like a man at peace. With a confident tone in his voice, the former first-round pick of the Chicago Bears made it clear that he is here for one reason: to be successful.

“I’m gonna win and keep winning,” he said. “That’s where my head is and that’s the only thing I’m thinking about.”

Confident in his ability and eager to make his mark, Spellman feels it’s time to get in the cage and show what he has to offer.

“All I know is, you know, I’m good at this,” he said. “And Saturday y’all will be able to judge how good at this I am. Like I said, I can talk till I’m blue in the face, you know what I’m saying? It’s time to get it on.”

Spellman also commented on his return to Chicago, the scene of his most memorable moments as a professional football player, a place where he was once regaled as a member of the vaunted Bear’s defense.

“This is where my professional career started,” he said. “This is where I grew up professionally. I can’t think of the word — it’s just right.”

Saturday night’s bout will go a long way in showing just how ready he is for the sport of MMA. Could this be the beginning of a fruitful fight career or will Spellman be a flash in the pan like fellow former footballer Michael Westbrook?

A successful debut versus Hayes will go a long way in answering that question, as well as possibly setting himself up with a fight in the California-based Strikeforce.
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