READY FOR THE BIG TIME
By BRANDON HURLEY
It’s all been building toward this moment. The bright lights are ready to shine on Greene County’s newest professional fighter.
All the excruciating body blows, the long, sweat-inducing hours in the gym, the winning-streaks and the humble yet quick ascent to the top have paved the way for Dylan Forkner’s latest breakout.
Come Saturday, the small town of Paton, population all of 230, will be home to their very own MMA professional.
The 2014 Greene County graduate and Paton-native makes his professional fighting debut Saturday, Oct. 20 at Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson against Nathan Endres.
Forkner knows he’s got the chops to hold his own among the seasoned vets – Saturday is the five-foot-nine, 140 pound fighter’s chance to prove his worth.
“My coach and I thought it was the right time,” the 22-year old said. “I felt like there was nothing else to prove in the amateur ranks. It was time for us to make the jump to the pro ranks.”
As a wrestler for the Greene County Rams, Forkner compiled a 103-22 career record and qualified for state his senior year. Forkner entered the 2014 state tournament ranked No. 8 at 126 pounds with a 37-4 record in tow before losing back-to-back matches.
Following his high school days, Forkner (11-2) navigated his way through the amateur ranks with relative ease, winning his last four fights and rising to the No. 4 in the midwest lightweight division. He’s won a remarkable seven titles in three different weight classes and is No. 2 in Iowa.
The professional ranks not only present stronger and tougher opponents, but the physicality ramps up as well. Forkner can now legally throw knees and elbows. As an amateur, the former Ram used his bone-crushing punches and wrestling tactics to out-work opponents. As he’s been rolling more elbows and knees into his repertoire, Forkner feels it has only made him a better fighter.
“It was a big change at first but I’ve sharpened my ‘blades’ up and I’m ready for whatever comes my way,” Forkner said. “I am feeling the best I have felt in a long time. I’m just really excited to go out and perform in front of my hometown again.”
Fighting for a cash prize and in front of his friends and family has added quite the extra push as Forkner nears the debut. He’s ramped up his training in anticipation of Saturday’s main event.
Like it or not, this is the most important fight of his career.
“My motivation and drive have increased a ton. I bust my butt day in and day out for this opportunity to perform in front of everyone that is coming out to see how far I have come in this sport,” Forkner said. “I feel like with the extra incentive that I’m going to be making money off of this now has stepped up my game and my preparation a lot.”
Forkner has also tightened his diet, helping him stay in the best shape possible. He rarely takes a day off while attending MMA classes and working out with a daily strength and conditioning coach.
Endres enters Saturday’s bout with a 2-2 professional record. He’s a 134 pound, 28-year old from Saint Charles. Endres stands five-foot-five coming off a loss to Justin Morrison back in December of 2017.
Forkner is bracing for a well-rounded fighter, one who’s itching for his first win in more than a year. Endres is ranked 127th out of 255 U.S. Midwest Pro Bantamweights.
Fans should be ready for a quick-hitting fight, right out of the gate.
“I’m expecting him to come out fast and hard right off the start,” Forkner said. “Watching his fights, he likes to keep a high pace throughout the fight. He is actually pretty decent in every aspect of the game, so it will be a good, hard fought fight.”
There’s only one thing on Forkner’s mind once they enter the ring – he wants to win quickly and emphatically. He knows he has an advantage.
“I believe that my size and power will be too much for him,” Forkner said. “I look to finish this fight with a knockout.”
Beginning his pro career with a win is priority number one. That, and putting on a dazzling display full of energy and headache-inducing violence. Forkner is not one to wait around and feel out his opponents, he attacks once the opening bell rings.
“(I’m excited) to go out and perform. Thats what I do,” he said. “I love performing and putting on a show. Last time I fought in Jefferson, I had a lot of support show up. This time, it’s almost sold out, so its going to be rocking. First pro fight and you’re the main event plus it’s in your hometown, what more could you ask for?”
Saturday’s fight card starts at 7 p.m., with Forkner and Endres battling in the main event.
Forkner’s approaching the fight as just another match. He’s excited, but nothing out of the ordinary. The lingering pro debut has only pushed him harder.
“Honestly, I haven’t been feeling any different than I normally do,” the fighter said. “There are some nerves involved, but if you don’t have some nerves a week before you get into a fist fight, then you’re not human. I see it as just another fight but now there is money involved.”