Possibly the biggest upset of 2009 occurred in the WEC when relative unknown Mackens "Mack Da Menace" Semerzier upset highly ranked featherweight contender Wagnney Fabiano. It wasn't just that Semerzier got the win that evening. It was the way that he went about doing it. Winning by submission against such an accomplished submission specialist was an outstanding coming out party for the 29-year-old native of Miami, Florida. With a professional record of 5-1, Semerzier now looks to rebound from a recent decision loss earlier this month and make his way up the rankings toward an eventual shot at the 145 pound world title.
Rich Wyatt: You enlisted in the Marine Corps. after high school. What made you decide to do that and what was that experience like?
Mackens Semerzier: Well, growing up, I was a kid that always played army and martial arts. One day a commercial came on and I had been real on the fence about college and what to do with my life so I decided that I wanted to be a part of the Marine Corps. I viewed them as a crew of some really tough guys. I took the challenge and at first I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. Now that I look back on it I realize it was a great decision and I'm glad that I joined when I did. I got to see the world.
Rich Wyatt: What experience in combat sports did you have prior to hooking up with Linxx Academy in Virginia?
Mackens Semerzier: I had first started wrestling in high school and trained a little in boxing after I joined the Marines. During my time there I also started training Marine Corps. martial arts. It is very similar to MMA. After that I would occasionally help train local MMA fighters and I started doing more cross training. I hooked up with Linxx back in 2006, initially training in jiu-jitsu.
More after the jump:
Rich Wyatt: In addition to being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, I've heard that you competed in amateur boxing as well. How much has that experience in live competition, in multiple disciplines, added to your confidence as a fighter?
Mackens Semerzier: It has helped tremendously. Every time you're in competition, you're calmer the next time out. I take that experience out there with me for every fight. I'm glad that I took time to focus on some different styles. I didn't do too much where I'd get burned out, which is good. All of the combat sports that I've trained in encompass MMA. The wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing, everything. Now I'm just putting them all together in MMA. I've had a lifelong interest in the martial arts and several combat sports. I think it all worked out in my favor in the end.
Rich Wyatt: You train out of Linxx Academy in Virginia Beach, VA. It's a well regarded camp. Talk a little about Linxx Academy.
Mackens Semerzier: I actually train at a few different places. I train at Linxx for some jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. I also train at Seven Cities Boxing. I train a lot of my MMA sparring at H.T.C. (Hybrid Training Center) in Virginia Beach. I'm going to Florida soon to train at Freestyle Fighting Academy and Jungle MMA. I try to pull as much as I can from different sources and learn from everyone. I want to surround myself with folks that want to push themselves to be the best that they can be.
Rich Wyatt: The 145 pound division is beginning to be recognized as one of the deeper divisions in the game. Now that organizations like the WEC have brought a lot more attention to this weight class, what do you think the future holds for featherweight fighters?
Mackens Semerzier: Ah, man, the sky is the limit. Guys are figuring out the weight cuts and what's best for them. In fact, I've considering the idea of cutting to 135. Fighting with the elite guys, you take training a LOT more seriously. Figuring out which division is right for you is important. Just as an example, guys like Frankie Edgar and Jim Miller could make 145 if they wanted to. If the featherweights and bantamweights ever get to compete in the UFC, you'll see lots of 155 pound guys drop down. I think there's a lot of good things to come in the coming years for the 145, 135 and, eventually, the 125 pound division.
Rich Wyatt: With all of the devastation that has occurred in Haiti recently, fans were relieved to hear that your relatives were safe. What would you recommend as the best way to support Haitian relief efforts?
Mackens Semerzier: I'd encourage people to just remain aware. It has almost become a little bit of a fad to care about Haiti right now. I hope it's not something that is just "cool" right now, but weeks from now no one cares. I hope people continue to bring light to the situation there. Overall, if you're able to donate to the relief cause through credible charities, I'd encourage you to do so. Other than that, if you can't donate, say a sincere prayer for those folks and others that are less fortunate.
Rich Wyatt: You stunned the hardcore MMA fans with your first round submission of Wagnney Fabiano last year. Most fans weren't aware that you had such a potent submission game. How much of your time spent training is devoted to submissions?
Mackens Semerzier: You know, in that fight I actually had normal training and preparation. I usually try to train as evenly as possible. I always have a gameplan in mind, a direction I want to take the fight, but sometimes a weakness of mine is that I try to worry too much about going for something specific. Sometimes that can be exciting for fans, but I think I need to start leveling it out. I want to be able to stay calm out there and execute without taking too much damage. Work more wrestling, boxing. More MMA specific sparring would do me some good as opposed to too much focus on individual aspects of the game. I do jiu-jitsu a lot, though. I just came from working some jiu-jitsu tonight. I'd say that I train as much jiu-jitsu as any other discipline.
Rich Wyatt: All fighters experience setbacks. You experienced your first one earlier this month, losing a decision to Deividas Taurosevicius. What did you learn from that fight and how eager are you to jump back into competition?
Mackens Semerzier: I'm hyped to get back! I just got some stitches out yesterday and I've got an MRI on my knee tomorrow. I should be good to go. It taught me that I need to be smart. It reminded me that 15 minutes isn't a long time. I need to have more control. I love wrestling and boxing and jiu-jitsu on their own. Like I've said, though, sometimes in my training, close to the fight, I get too specific in one area. I think I might have done that a little too much. I'm going to be working with some folks here locally and some camps in Florida soon that should help me with that. I also want to continue working my strength training and see what weight my body feels most comfortable at. I started writing ideas for improvement down on a napkin during my plane ride home because I had so many ideas in my head after that fight. I CANNOT wait to fight again soon. I'm ready to win and to redeem myself.
Rich Wyatt: Jose Aldo is currently the world's top featherweight MMA fighter. I know that right now you're focused on bouncing back into the division's mix, but if you were to face Jose what would your approach be?
Mackens Semerzier: I would probably try to make it a really rough fight. He's dynamic in the striking game. He's fearless, throws clean shots and throws almost everything with mean intentions. We haven't seen his ground game tested as much yet, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. I'm thinking that maybe using dirty boxing and grinding him down might be the best approach. Keep pressing him, keeping my head in his chin, knees to the thigh from the clinch, stomping his feet. Things like that. You have to make it dirty and not worry about being perfect or pretty. I don't think someone's going to beat him at his own game anytime soon. You have to control him, stay ahead of him. Right now I don't see anybody beating this guy. He's very, very good.