Blake Bilder of Maplewood, MN will make his MMA pro debut tomorrow night with King of the Cage in Ontario, California. Bilder’s original opponent Sergio Perez dropped out a few days ago so he will be moving up in weight to face California’s Matt Gomez. The Minnesotan recently moved to Southern California where he trains with Team Oyama and is ready to officially open the next chapter of his fight career on Saturday night.
Bilder is a mixed martial artist in it’s truest sense. Nicknamed the “Bone Crusher” in elementary school for injuring opposing players on the field, Bilder went on to become an elite competitor in virtually all combat sports including MMA, boxing, muay thai, and jiu jitsu. He began his boxing days at Saint Paul’s famous Rice Street Gym under coach Johnny Johnson before joining Rice Street product “Sir” Cerresso Fort at Fort’s Saint Paul boxing gym. Spartan Martial Arts in Oakdale under Tom Schmitz is where Bilder became an undefeated MMA amateur (7-0) and Brazilian jiu jutsu purple belt. Minnesota Fight News caught up with Bilder following another one of his grueling training sessions in California to talk more about his past and upcoming pro debut.
Can you talk about your fight background? Were you were involved in other sports growing up?
“I played flag football and tackle football for a few years in elementary school where I got the nickname “Bone Crusher” because I injured a kid every game (laughing)! I wrestled for half a year in 5th grade and played basketball in 8th. I tried playing high school sports but I wasn’t allowed game time for football because I got minors during the summer time. I got involved in boxing first because I couldn’t play football. At the boxing gym it was love at first sight. They didn’t care as long as I didn’t come in drunk or high. My buddy got beat up by the number three ranked boxer in the country and I jumped in afterwards and roughed the guy up for beating up my friend. I ended up becoming really good friends with the guy that beat up my friend, his name is Manny Contreras Jr. We started hanging out and I would get him to the boxing gym!
What are some of your awards and accomplishments across the board in combat sports that stand out?
Yeah, I won the 2013 Golden Gloves on the regional and state level in Georgia and won Chicago’s blue belt division for NAGA. I was the Ringside World Champion in 2016, Regional, State, and Upper Midwest Golden Glove Champion where I was voted best boxer in the Upper Midwest in 2017. The 145 pound Three River Throwdown Champion, and 2x kickboxing champion for Savage Entertainment.
You were undefeated in MMA as an amateur against talented competition. Talk about the progression through the amateurs that you feel you’ve made.
I fought the top guys as an amateur and my coach wanted to see certain things from me in order for me to go pro. I went from being scared and uncomfortable, to being confident and ready when entering the cage every fight. My striking has dramatically improved. I’m very aware of my opponent and how I need to react to their strikes. Also my ground game has sky-rocketed. I feel comfortable with any level of grappler on the ground. I feel I can stuff the take down and keep it standing if I so choose to.
Are you a boxer, turned mixed martial artist? Or are you a mixed martial artist that is an accomplished boxer? Do you have a main focus for your combat career moving forward?
I am Blake Bilder, a person who expresses himself through the form of combat. I feel as though I’m not one entity, but a mix and blend of them all together. I’m a boxer, a muay thai fighter, a karate guy, a wrestler. My life is an expression of mixed martial arts in all aspects because when I went back to boxing, coaches would scream, he’s an mma fighter! Don’t let him beat you! When really, I just read their body language, found their patterns, and broke down their footwork and style within a minute of the fight. My main focus is wherever I’m called to go and I feel like right now that’s MMA. Boxing is definitely in the plan for the future though.
You have trained at some of the top gym’s that Minnesota has to offer, with Sir Boxing and Spartan Martial Arts being the most recent. A short time ago you relocated to California to live and train. How did the move to California come to be?
Both Spartan and Sir Boxing are excellent gyms with much attention to detail in their niche. I was trying to book a pro fight for a while and we had no luck in the Upper Midwest. I made a mini documentary for a friend Michael Latawiec so he could compete in a world tournament (in California). We raised enough money for me, him and another competitor to go. I spoke with my manager Jason House about meeting up since he was nearby. He said fights were getting turned down left and right up in Minnesota. I asked if it would be like that in California and he said no. My decision was made right then and there. He got me in touch with head coach Colin Oyama and it’s been magic ever since.
How is life in California? Can you talk about some of the people you work and train with?
Life is very structured, disciplined, and at times difficult, but very rewarding, exciting, and fun! The training is tough and demanding, but it’s at an elite level. I live with 7 other fighters so there’s never a dull moment. I train with top pros like Chito Vera, Alex Perez, Carla Esparza, Anderson Berinja, Alex Reyes, Russel Doane, Louis Smolka, Brent Primus, and more. Also, I teach kids classes for MMA and jiu jitsu and adult cardio kickboxing. It’s rewarding being able to show the kids techniques and watch them retain it and beat other kids in class that were beating them.
You are set to turn pro on a big show this weekend. What can you tell us about your opponent, and what do you expect?
My opponent just backed out so I’ll be moving up to 150 pounds to fight against Matt Gomez. I don’t know anything about him and I don’t care. I’ve never trained for any certain opponent anyways. I truly believe that your biggest opponent is yourself and to overcome that is to overcome every battle we face in life. I expect a first round finish either by KO or TKO. I’ll find my range and land some heavy shots. He’ll try to shoot i, get stuffed and get clipped.
Will we be able to watch your fight back here in Minnesota? Will your fight be one of the televised bouts?
It’s televised on MavTV six weeks afterwards and on UFC Fight Pass a month later. I’m planning to have it live on my phone on Facebook or Instagram.
What would you like to say in closing?
In a year, everything will be different. I have a vision so clear and precise that it’s like it’s already happened. I’ve held the same vision my whole career and in a year you will see what I’m talking about. I’m blessed to have so much support from everybody back home and I’m grateful for every day I have on this Earth. I hope my story and journey can help impact as many people as possible. After all, we are called to serve and I’m willing to sacrifice myself for the greater good of humanity. May all glory be to God!