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South Carolina Fighter Profile: Steve Banks

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Standing 6'5" and weighing in at around 260 pounds, Steve "The Panda" Banks is hard to miss. He compiled an 11-0 amateur record and turned pro just over a year ago, earning a 5-2 record so far. He has kept a very active schedule over the past year and seems to be consistently improving. This 28-year-old fighter is originally from Morganton, North Carolina, but now lives and trains in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Steve is athletic for such a big guy, having played in the Arena Football League and even earning invites to workout for a few NFL teams. Banks appears to truly have a natural talent for fighting. He next steps into the cage this weekend for the MMA Big Show promotion in Belterra, Indiana.  

Rich Wyatt: Tell us a little about how you got involved in training for mixed martial arts. Did you have a background in any fighting discipline beforehand?

Steven Banks: I actually got started in '05. I had become friends with some fighters based out of the Cincinnati area: Kerry Schall (who was on TUF season 2), Josh Rafferty (who was on TUF season 1) and Rich Franklin. Kerry called and said that they need a few bigger guys to train with. I'd been training for Arena football and was busting my butt but training for this sport was something else entirely. At the time that I started training I was around 320-330 pounds. I went in the first day to train and Kerry Schall kicked me square in the mouth. I enjoyed the training and just figured that I'd learn some self defense. After a couple of weeks of training there some of the guys at the gym were discussing which guys would be fighting on an upcoming amateur show and I was sitting over in the corner gasping for air after a training session. They talked me into competing in an amateur Super Heavyweight tournament. Shortly after that I told a buddy of mine that I was fighting and he couldn't believe it.  When I stepped in there to fight the first guy in that tournament, I was scared. I'd done my share of stupid stuff in college and had some fights. But I really had hardly any formal training or experience in boxing, Toughman competitions or anything. I didn't know any Jiu-Jitsu. The first guy I fought had a 28-3-1 record. I figured I'd get whooped and I was shocked that's who I had to fight.  I ended up winning that fight in 36 seconds. Ever since that first fight I've been hooked.

More after the jump:

Rich Wyatt: Having that connection with veterans like Kerry Schall and those guys must have been really helpful.

Steven Banks: It was. I'm still close to Kerry and get his opinion on anything and everything involving my career. He's a great friend.     

Rich Wyatt: Where do you currently train and who are some of the coaches and fighters that you train with?

Steven Banks: I train at Fitness Edge. I had come down to Myrtle Beach for my sister's wedding and knew that Maurice Travis trained fighters in the area so I decided to stop by. I had seen footage of Maurice Travis fight in one of the very first SuperBrawl events. I got to meet him and he let me work out. He let me practice takedowns with him and he actually punched me square in the nose with no gloves on when I shot for the first takedown. He asked me if I knew what I'd done wrong and then explained that I didn't guard my face. Maurice is an amazing guy and is great to work with. I started training with he and UFC veteran Nissen Osterneck. It truly is a great place to train and the owner at Fitness Edge is great. He follows us wherever we travel to fight and is very active and supportive of our careers.

Rich Wyatt: Being a heavyweight, how difficult is it to find other quality big guys to spar against?

Steven Banks: It's unbelievable. It sucks. We do have another big heavyweight that trains with me.  We work different schedules so it's sometimes difficult to coordinate our training. I get to train with Tomar Wasington, who is very talented. He walks around at around 205-210 pounds. It's hard to find lots of quality heavyweights to spar with, though. A school near us, Myrtle Beach Martial Arts, has a few solid heavyweights  that I plan on training with. I get to spend a little time training at a few different gyms around the area. It is always hard to find quality heavyweights to train with, though.

Rich Wyatt: What does a typical week of training consist of for you?

Steven Banks: On Mondays and Thursdays I teach a class here. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I work on wrestling. I usually spend a few days a week on training Jiu-Jitsu, lifting weights and working cardio. I've got to mention that my wife does a great job supporting me through all of this. She fusses at me if she sees me napping when I could be training. She gets me back in the gym.

Rich Wyatt: What do you feel are your strengths as a fighter and what is one area of your game that you'd most like to improve on?

Steven Banks:  The clinch is my favorite position. I love training in Muay Thai and, of course, Maurice has a great background in that discipline. I love the clinch and expect to finish fights when I'm working from the clinch. The area that I need to continue working on more than anything is takedowns. I hate working them and I dread them every day in practice. My wrestling coach, Mike Senacore, helps me a lot.  He's a 205 pound guy and he throws me around like a ragdoll. He was a three time All-American up in Albany, New York. He's unbelievable. He's one of the strongest, most athletic guys that I've ever gone against.  He has helped me a lot with wrestling.

Rich Wyatt: You've had seven professional fights thus far. What have you learned during your first year as a pro?

Steven Banks: It's been great. I've gotten a lot smarter about picking my spots and not being as reckless. Fighting has provided me lots of opportunities, including travel. I actually got to travel to China within the past year where I fought on a K-1 show under kickboxing rules. I fought a former K-1 Japan tournament champion and won a unanimous decision against him, even knocking him down a few times.

Rich Wyatt: What's next for you?

Steven Banks: I'm actually fighting this Saturday, October 24th in Indiana near the Speedway. Brian Heden is my opponent. I know that he's fairly well rounded and he once held the Big Show organization's title belt. He gave Josh Hendricks a run for his money. I was supposed to fight Hendricks for the title but he got sick and had to pull out of the fight and Brian stepped up, which I'm very thankful for. So if I win this fight I should get a shot at Josh Hendricks for the title soon.

Rich Wyatt: Are there any pre-fight rituals that have become part of your routine?

Steven Banks: Yes. I say the Lord's prayer before every fight. I talk to my grandmother as well.

Rich Wyatt: Cool. Too often guys are encouraged not to talk about their faith but I think that's great. So what goals have you set for yourself to achieve in MMA?

Steven Banks: I'd like to use the money to help pay for my college tuition. I'm hoping to start school in the Spring.

Rich Wyatt: What are you going to study?

Steven Banks: Mortuary Science.

Rich Wyatt: You're going to be a mortician? Awesome. You've got to make "The Mortician" your nickname.

Steven Banks: (laughs) Yeah, that would be a good one. I was told early on that you stick with the nickname others give you early in your career. The one I was given is "The Panda". So I guess that's going to be my nickname.

Rich Wyatt: Who do you like in the upcoming bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Brett Rogers?

Steven Banks: I don't think that Brett has enough experience yet. He comes straight forward and solely depends on bullying you and walking you down. You have to have a heck of a gameplan to fight Fedor and I'm picking him to win this fight. Hands down.

Rich Wyatt: What are your thoughts on UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar?

Steven Banks: I'm ready to see somebody punch Lesnar in the mouth. I respect him as an athlete. I really do. But I don't respect his behavior after he beat Frank Mir. I'll bet money that if Nogueira fights him, he'll break his arm.

Rich Wyatt: Is there anything that you'd like to say, in closing, to our readers or your sponsors?

Steven Banks: I'd like to thank Fitness Edge. Big thanks to them for helping me out tremendously. I'd like to thank Senor Frogs here in Myrtle Beach and Hero Tattoos. I'd like to thank the fans for supporting us. (Laughs) My teammate Tomar Washington is fighting this weekend and told me to tell everybody that Myrtle Beach is taking over. thanks Steve Banks for taking the time to speak with us and we wish him the best in his upcoming fights.