At an age when a lot of guys still haven't even stepped out into the real world yet, 21-year-old Josh "The Juggernaut" Eagans is on the brink of possibly breaking through as one of the top young MMA middleweight fighters in the South. If you ask fighters or managers throughout the Carolinas to name some of the top young MMA talent around, his is a name that you will consistently hear. After going 5-0 as an amateur fighter, Josh has solidified himself as a talented pro prospect. He is 4-1 as a professional and is already the # 3 ranked pro middleweight fighter in MMA For Real's ranking of fighters in the Carolinas. On June 26th, Eagans will travel to Georgia to take on Aaron "Tex" Johnson in what should be an entertaining clash between one of the best middleweights in the Carolinas against one of the best middleweights in Georgia. All of Josh's wins have been within the first round and the same is true of his next opponent. I recently caught up with Josh to find out more about his background and how he is improving as a fighter.
Rich Wyatt: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and what is your sports background?
Josh Eagans: I was born here in Columbia, SC. We moved to Georgia for awhile but I moved back here in 10th grade and started wrestling. It was tough. I had no training when I first started and I was getting demolished by guys early on but had a great coach and really ended up improving my conditioning a lot. I remember walking into practice and wanting to quit every day. It made me into a better person, though.
More after the jump:
Rich Wyatt: When were you first introduced to training for MMA?
Josh Eagans: I first started training about three or four years ago. I remember seeing a local commercial for a MMA gym. I remember thinking that I was pretty sure I could do that. So I tried it out and got demolished my first day but had a lot of fun. MMA has just always felt right to me. And the thing is, I've never been someone that wants to fight in the street. I know that a lot of guys in this sport grew up fighting in the street a lot. My experience has been the opposite. I've always been a real calm guy. I've probably only been in three or four street fights in my life. But training for MMA has just always felt right.
Rich Wyatt: What gym are you currently training at? Who are some of your coaches and training partners?
Josh Eagans: I teach at Ridge Point Fine Arts Academy in Columbia. There are a lot of guys that come in and help me train. Derrick Kennington just got back from Iraq and he's a pro 170 pounder that helps me a lot with Jiu-Jitsu. Kelly Anundson is my wrestling coach and he pushes me. When I'm outside throwing up he's screaming at me and motivating me. Tim Goodwin helps me a lot also. The entire gym really pitches in to help get me ready. We go for five minute rounds with a minute break with a new sparring partner every round. The team really does a good job of pushing me. I'm fortunate to have a great group of people training with me.
Rich Wyatt: Tell our readers what your strengths are as a fighter.
Josh Eagans: I think I'm pretty well rounded. I don't consider myself great at anything, though. I have a big heart. I listen to my coaches and I always try to follow their game plan, no matter how tired I am. I can take some damage and a shot to the head. I'll do what it takes to win a fight. My heart and my ability to take punishment, though, get me my wins. You can hit me and I'll keep coming back at you.
Rich Wyatt: Are there any fighters that you particularly enjoy watching or that you'd like to pattern your game after?
Josh Eagans: Like a lot of fighters, I'd have to say Fedor. He's an absolute monster. He doesn't care. He's one of the nicest guys outside of the ring/cage but he's trying to hurt you in there. I really respect that guy a lot. He fights for his family. That's what I try to do. I'd like to put them in a better position. That's what makes people the most dangerous.
Rich Wyatt: What do you currently do for a living?
Josh Eagans: I actually teach as lead instructor at Ridge Point. That and bouncing and fighting are how I make my money.
Rich Wyatt: You were 5-0 as an amateur and have gotten off to a terrific start in your pro career, going 4-1 thus far. In what area have you improved the most?
Josh Eagans: Really, I think the number one thing for me was the mental aspect of MMA. I was going into fights and questioning whether I'd get hurt. I wasn't scared, but I would be somewhat tentative. I didn't want to hurt somebody. It sounds crazy but as an amateur that was a real mental hangup for me. I'd choke people sometimes just because I didn't want to knock them out. After losing for the first time, though, I woke up to the fact that I need to lay it all on the line every time. I think positive and go over the fight plan in my head every night before I go to sleep. I have the date of my only loss hanging up on my wall so that I see it every day. That pushes me every day to keep training.
Rich Wyatt: Excellent point about the mental aspect of the game being so important.
Josh Eagans: Definitely. In fact, my first pro fight was in Camp LeJeune and they had me fight one of Carlos Condit's wrestling coaches. This guy had a better record than me. I was nervous. The Tapout guys were filming at this particular event. It was definitely a different atmosphere than any amateur fight I had previously. There's a part in that Tapout show where I'm seen on camera and I'm in the corner with my headphones on and you can tell I'm nervous. I did well, though, and got the win.
Rich Wyatt: You're scheduled to take part in one of the more anticipated main event fights in the Southeast region later this month, taking on Aaron "Tex" Johnson (6-2) from Georgia. What can fans expect to see in that fight?
Josh Eagans: That's going to be a sick fight. I've watched footage on Tex. He's a nice guy. He trains hard and he's going to try to knock my head off. He's got heavy hands. I think it will be a brawl. We have very similar personalities and I know that we're both training hard. We've both got that "You've got to kill me to win" personality. Somebody's getting KO'd or submitted in this one. We're both going to push the pace. He's a game opponent. I don't like to fight guys that come in unprepared. He'll have his cardio ready and he won't give up. That's what I want. I want to push myself. I don't want to fight nobodies. I want to fight legitimate guys.
Rich Wyatt: That should be an outstanding fight. Both you and Johnson are considered up and coming young fighters and the friendly MMA rivalry between Georgia and the Carolinas continues to get better. They've had sanctioned MMA a lot longer than we have and are, admittedly, ahead of us right now but the Carolinas are coming on strong. This fight should be an exciting matchup between two of the better pro middleweights from both regions.
Josh Eagans: It will definitely be a good fight. We've got some really good guys here in the Carolinas. We've got to get our guys training together more instead of staying in different gyms, though. There are some really talented guys from the Carolinas coming up.
Rich Wyatt: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Are there any sponsors that you'd like to thank?
Josh Eagans: I'd like to say thanks to Never Tap, Get Rung, Body Maintenance and Ridge Point Fine Arts Academy.
MMA4Real would like to thank Josh for taking the time out to speak with us. We would like to wish him good luck in the future and we hope to speak with him again soon.