By: Rebecca Paredes
On March 5, 2016, Chris “Crash” Kirtley will step under the bright lights of the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California. It’ll be far from the first time that Kirtley steps into a cage — the professional MMA fighter’s career has spanned 13 years, beginning when he was just 15 years old.
This time, though, the stakes are higher. Not only is the fight a live televised event on MAVTV, but Kirtley is competing in the main event for the vacant King of the Cage World Lightweight title. A win would give him his third belt in an eight-year professional record.
“I just want the belt so bad,” Kirtley said, who trains with Team Fight Syndicate. “Everybody at Fight Syndicate hypes and pumps everybody up. The team gets me so focused.”
In the cage, Kirtley’s fighting style is as violent as it is entertaining. Of his past five fights, four have been won via TKO. This style is unlikely to change, especially since Kirtley describes his opponent — Thor “TNT” Skancke from San Fernando, California — as “a scrappy stand-up fighter.”
“I’ve been working a lot on my countering,” Kirtley said. “I know I’m a lot faster.”
Kirtley comes from a history of sports. As a child and teen, he played baseball, football, and soccer, but it wasn’t until he started getting interested in MMA that his family felt an understandable level of hesitance. “They didn’t know if I was going ot make it in the sport,” Kirtley explained. “how I just always want to strive hard and achieve my goals because there’s always a little bit of doubt from people on the outside — old friends, some family. They know it’s a tough sport and they know you’ve got to train hard for it.”
Despite committing himself to a tough sport, Kirtley feels support from his friends, family, and sponsors. “I fight for my fans, my family, and my team,” he said, adding that it’s the “best feeling in the world” when someone approaches him to ask about his fights.
Sponsorship is an important part of Kirtley’s career, particularly since “they’ve been helping me with everything for the fight coming up. It gets me pumped up talking to them every day.” In fact, those tight sponsorship relationships have impacted where Kirtley sees his career going after his three-fight contract with King of the Cage is up.
“After my contract with King of the Cage, I’m hoping to get into Bellator because you can pick and choose your sponsors,” Kirtley said. “A lot of UFC fighters are going down to Bellator because it seems like they have more freedom. It seems like the UFC owns their fighters and controls them a bit more — like they more of a say-so about things. In Bellator you can do things your way, and that’s what I like most about it. I don’t like people telling me what to do. I’m going to do it my way.”
Among Kirtley’s impressive number of sponsors — Sea 7 Tech, Cal State Construction, Brutal Gear Clothing, OC Taverns, NPG Asphalt, Supreme Soldier, Black Flys, and Shurfit Mouthguards — his latest one, Fight Connection, is a newcomer to the MMA scene. Fight Connection is a network for fighters and sponsors. Its goal is to easily connect actively training fighters with companies who want to sponsor them.
“When I first started out as a fighter, it was kind of hard to find sponsors,” Kirtley said. “For up-and-coming fighters, you have to build a name for yourself. I think it’s going to be an awesome thing for fighters to get on Fight Connection.”
With his sponsors, family, fans, and team behind him, Kirtley is prepared to put on a show on March 5. “Be there at Citizens Bank Arena to watch a big, first-round KO,” he said.
The event, called Night of Champions, will feature three additional title fights alongside Kirtley’s. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out the King of the Cage’s event page by clicking here. Follow Kirtley on Instagram at crash499.