Josh Sampo isn’t a household name in the world of MMA but he’s certainly getting it out there.
‘The Gremlin’ has turned heads with his last two victories at flyweight. Sampo won a unanimous decision over Antonio Banuelos at Legacy Fighting Championships 14 in the fall. Then he started 2013 with the biggest win yet of his career, a submission of Alexis Vila for the Championship Fighting Alliance flyweight strap in January. Both wins came on his opponents’ home turf.
Sampo stands at 9-2 and though the win over Vila was a milestone, he isn’t looking at it as the benchmark of his career.
“To me, it was like winning a high-level wrestling tournament in high school,” Sampo said. “Yeah, it was for a title but the belt I want says UFC on it.”
Fightmatrix.com, a website that tabulates world-wide rankings for all fighters, has Sampo ranked as the No. 3 flyweight in the world, sandwiched between Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga and ahead of much more prominent fighters like John Dodson and Ian McCall.
The St. Charles, Mo., resident has bided his time, waiting for the call from the UFC, but so far, nothing.
“A lot of people were talking before my last fight that it was Vila’s ticket to the UFC,” Sampo said. “But why hasn’t that carried over to me? It’s more like, you just beat a 41-year-old. I didn’t expect to get signed the next day or next week but it seems like what I do is never good enough.”
Sampo’s home gym is St. Charles MMA. Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall, a golf shot away from a bustling interstate, SCMMA may be the best kept secret in the Midwest. The gym not only houses Sampo but UFC welterweight Lance Benoist, former Strikeforce vet Matt Ricehouse (who handed the UFC’s Ryan Couture his only career loss), Bellator’s EJ Brooks and a stable full of Missouri’s top pros and amateurs.
“We are a small gym but I feel like we are starting to make waves,” Sampo said. “We’re doing it the hard way. We’re grinding through the small shows and then on to bigger and better names.”
Sampo had a sensational 2012, going 3-1, with his only loss coming to Will Campuzano in the final minutes of a fight Sampo dominated. His other wins in 2012 were over Czar Sklavos and Carson Gainey. An incredible athlete, Sampo was a three-sport state champion in football, wrestling, and track from his native Nevada, he has slowly but steadily grown his game from being a grinder on the ground to a complete mixed martial artist with some high-profile professional Muay Thai fights under his belt.
Sampo is equally brains and brawn. He is currently in the midst of his final semester of graduate school at nearby Lindenwood University.
“I really need to concentrate on finishing grad school before I take on another fight,” Sampo said. “My time is pretty cashed out. I wish I could fast forward to June. It will be a huge relief when I can only concentrate on one or two things.”
When pressed, there is one mustachioed flyweight that Sampo would love to tangle with.
“Honestly, I’d fight anybody next but I would really, really like Ian McCall,” Sampo said. “He is a big name in the sport and that’s who I would like next.”Tags: EJ Brooks, josh sampo, Lance Benoist, Matt Ricehouse, mma, MMA NEWS