The Empire Strikes

On October 9, people worldwide will be focusing their attention on Memphis based MMA promotion, Empire Fighting Championship.

Germantown native and Empire promoter, Tyler Sory considers Empire, the San Pellegrino of the MMA world with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) being Coca-Cola and Strikeforce being Pepsi.

MMA (mixed martial arts) is the fastest growing sport in the world today and the city of Memphis has one of the top fight promotions in the country right here in its own backyard. Empire is so popular that people as far as California, Brazil, and even Israel were ordering the Empire fights on worldwide internet pay per view because they couldn’t be there in attendance. Because of its growing popularity, Empire is on the verge of signing a sports network contract.

According to Bartlett native and Empire matchmaker David Ferguson (Memphis Judo and Jiu-Jitsu owner), the people of Memphis can witness, first hand, the best professional card that the mid-south has ever seen. “I think that any of these guys who are on this card could be a main event on other cards and they have been. All of these fighters, whether amateur or pro have potential to be in a main event fight on any show in the mid-south and we have them all on one card.”

We sat down with Empire matchmaker David Ferguson and he broke down some of these high profile matchups for the event:

AUSTIN LYONS, Memphis Judo and Jiu Jitsu (Memphis, TN) vs.
ZACH UNDERWOOD, Team Relentless (Union City, TN)

“This fight made the most sense to me simply because both Austin and Zach have earned two wins on Empire. They are both 2-0 for Empire and are both two of the top 155’s in the entire area. Zach is experienced having won his Stikeforce debut. Both are extremely tough guys and I do think that there are certain things each fighter can exploit in the other and that makes it a good match up. Both guys like to throw hands. Zach has knock out power, but Austin has more technical hands in my opinion, so it’s going to come down to which guy can really impose their will on the other. Zach is good in the clinch and Austin is good on the ground. Zach is a survivor and he always comes in shape and in a five round fight, anything can happen. I think this is a breakout fight for both of these guys and whoever wins this fight and is the Empire belt holder will definitely have a target on their back. I think for sure they can fight for Strikeforce or Bellator and go in as an up and coming fighter. “

CHARLIE RADER, Power MMA (New Orleans, LA) vs.
ANDY UHRICH, Team Vortex (Memphis, TN)

“Rader is on a two fight win streak with Bellator and Uhrich won his Strikeforce debut. But both guys have lost to a guy named Jake Hecht who is out of St. Louis. The winner of this fight will move on to a rematch with Hecht for the welterweight belt on the next Empire show. The guy who wins this fight definitely puts himself on the next level. If I were a matchmaker for Bellator, Strikeforce, or even the UFC, then I would take a very strong look at the guy who wins this fight. They are both ready for that next level. “

JACOB NOE, Memphis Judo and Jiu-Jitsu (Memphis, TN) vs.
TEL FAULKNER, Gorilla Squad MMA (Natchez, MS)

“This is an interesting fight because Jacob Noe has always fought at heavyweight. He’s been around for a long time and has been fighting in the area off and on for about ten years. I’ve seen him fight in some battles and this is his first fight at 205.  Tel Faulkner is one of those guys who is a gatekeeper. If you beat Tel Faulkner then you move on with your career, and if you don’t beat him you need to reassess. Tel is 5-5-1 and is very tough.  He is always down for a battle.”

DAN SCHROEPELL, Germantown Martial Arts (Germantown, TN) vs.
BOBBY TAYLOR, Striketeam (Lewisberg, TN)

“Both guys were undefeated as amateurs. Dan Schroepell who fights out of Germantown was 6-0 as an amateur and is extremely strong. Schroepell is very athletic and is as strong as a middleweight. He hits very hard and has good ground skills. Bobby Taylor is a guy who completely flies under the radar. Nobody knows who Bobby Taylor is. I know who Bobby
Taylor is. I’ve seen him fight twice already. He is very heavy handed. I think 8 of his 9 wins are by way of knockout. The first time I saw this kid I was extremely impressed with him and he fought off of natural ability. He never even had a trainer, didn’t have a team, wasn’t coached and now he is. Jason Woods of Striketeam is training him hard and his coach was looking for him to turn pro and what a better matchup than a guy who also likes to hit hard and bang it out in Dan Schroepell. There is no doubt…. somebody is getting knocked out.”

CODY FLOYD, Tupelo BJJ (Tupelo, MS) vs.
HARRY JOHNSON, Team Vortex (Memphis, TN)

“Both of these guys have very contrasting styles. Harry Johnson is 4-3 as a pro and is one of those guys who puts it all on the line and gives 100%. No matter what fight Harry is in it is going to be exciting. His weakness is the ground, but he has good takedown defense and he gets up from the ground really well. He is probably the most athletic guy we have on the card. He has knockout power and a little bit of swagger to him. A win for Harry would definitely put him in title contention for Empire in my opinion.

The same goes for Cody Floyd, who recently won his Strikeforce debut. Cody is one of the most talented fighters in the mid-south pound for pound right now. The kid learns so fast and is very humble and has great coaching over at Tupelo BJJ. The kid is like a sponge. He has only been training for two and a half years but he is extremely refined in his skills and looks like a veteran out there. His first pro fight was for Strikeforce in Nashville and he has a real test in front of him in Harry Johnson. This fight is a toss up in my opinion and the one who imposes their style will be the one who comes out victorious.”

The event features seven other bouts incuding  Dustin Rhodes/Flatline MMA (Florence, AL) vs Abe Wilso/Germantown Martial Arts (Germantown, TN), Taylor Callens/Team Relentless (Union City, TN) vs Jonathan Burdine/Team Paragon (Corinth, MS), Chris Hall/Integrated Martial Arts (Lebanon, TN) vs Thomas Vasquez/Bang Gym (Southaven, MS), Brian Hall/Memphis Judo and Jiu-Jitsu (Memphis, TN) vs Brian Horton/Team Rock (Camden, TN), Dave Martin/Bang Gym (Southaven, TN) vs Mike Houston/Memphis Judo and Jiu-Jitsu (Marion, AR), Austin Garner/John Hubbard Martial Arts (Russelville, AR) vs Jeremiah Trundle/Memphis Judo and Jiu-Jitsu (Millington, TN) and Jimmy White/21st Century Martial Arts (West Memphis, AR) vs Adam Denton/Memphis Judo and Jiu-Jitsu (Memphis, TN).

By Rodrigo Galvan, Photo by Jay Johnson. For VIP table tickets call 615-887-8131. For tickets for this event go to, or

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