The Prodigal Son Returns
In Ford, Mark Pavelich’s Edmonton-based promotion had a hometown star to build around and the athletic welterweight delivered, winning his first five fights, including forcing former UFC competitor Pete Spratt to submit in his fifth professional fight.
A loss to then-champion Pat Healy was followed up with another victory, positioning Ford for to take a second run at the 170-pound title. Once again, the veteran Team Quest member got the better of his younger, less experienced opponent, handing Ford a second defeat. That would be the last time Ford fought under the MFC banner.
Ford and Pavelich, who also served as the fighter’s manager at the time, had a very public and very heated falling out over the terms of his contract, sending the face of the franchise to The Fight Club, a rival Edmonton organization. Four fights and nineteen months later, “The Real Deal” is returning to where he began his career.
“No, I never thought I would be saying it, but here I am saying it,” admitted Ford of his reunion with Pavelich and the MFC. The two put their personal and professional difference aside after Ford was able to exercise an out clause in his contract when TFC was forced to postpone a July event he was set to headline.
“I had already put in six weeks of hard training camp,” said Ford of the late cancellation of his bout with Carlo Prater that voided his contract. “I got offered a contract from the MFC that I could not pass up, so I took it.”
When they parted ways last March, Ford emphatically stated he would never fight for the MFC again. Pavelich countered by calling his contract demands “outrageous,” adding that Ford hadn’t achieved the level of success needed to merit the kind of money he was seeking. Returning to the MFC roster shows the growth Ford has experienced outside the ring since his departure.
“It’s all about business now, you know? I need to put food on the table for my family,” offered Ford, who recently married his long-time girlfriend in Mexico. The two are expecting their second child, a son, early next year.
“I want to be able to give my kids what I never had when I was young,” stated Ford candidly. “I want them to know that with the heart, dedication and hard work that you put into something, you can be whatever you want to be. I wake up every day and I see my family, and it pushes me to get into the gym. If I want to pay my bills, I have to be in the gym training.”
After Ford left the MFC, he began training under the watchful eye of Adam Zugec at his ZUMA training center in Victoria, British Columbia. His four-fight sabbatical resulted in four wins, unification of the welterweight title, and a combined six-minutes-and-change in the cage that showed his continued development from being a superior athlete to a complete mixed martial artist.
The 28-year-old welterweight will get the chance to show the MFC fans how much he’s improved since departing on Friday night when he takes on Douglas Lima in the main event of MFC 26: Retribution.
“He looks like a tough dude,” assessed Ford of the American Top Team Atlanta product who comes in on a two-fight winning streak and faced UFC regular Matt Brown and recent TUF cast member Charles Blanchard in the past. “He’s another guy in my way of getting to where I want to be in this sport. I don’t believe he’s fought anybody with my athletic ability or my fighting style though.”
As with most fighters, the UFC is the ultimate goal for Ford, and his return to the MFC puts him in a better position to showcase his skills for Dana White and company. The Edmonton-based organization is the top promotion in the country and has become a popular transitional territory for fighters coming from or aspiring to the highest level the sport has to offer.
“I’m back live on HDNet now, so the world can catch up and see what I’ve been doing,” Ford stated. “MFC has a good talent pool, they can bring in some good, top name opponents for me that some other organizations can’t, and I’m just going to make sure that whoever the put up against me, I put them down.”
Despite his dreams, Ford is focused on the task at hand, starting with earning a win in his return and perhaps handling some unfinished business after that.
“Obviously I believe I can compete in the UFC, but I fight in the MFC, so Douglas Lima is the guy that’s on my mind right now,” said Ford. “I believe that whoever they put in front of me, I train my ass off in the gym every day and I don’t think anybody is going to stop me here for a very long time.
“From what I’ve heard, this is a #1 contender bout for the Maximum Fighting Championship [welterweight] title,” Ford added. “Obviously I’m not looking passed this fight, but I am looking to get that belt that I should have had before I left the MFC.”
While the Edmonton native will enter the arena to Young Jeezy’s “I Put On” as he always does when fighting at home, it’s a hip hop quotable from House of Pain’s “Jump Around” that is even more apt heading into Ford’s fight Friday night:
And just like the Prodigal Son I’ve returned / Anyone steppin’ to me, you’ll get burned
Though Ford will stick with “The Real Deal” as his nickname, he is very much The Prodigal Son of the MFC and his homecoming Friday night is sure to be something special.