What is your dedication, determination and commitment to your lifestyle?
You might have already seen him on X3 TV, taken his Kickboxing class at West Midtown or seen him in the Octagon on Fight Night; his name is Nathan “Nasty Nate” Williams. He is currently ranked #14 on the Georgia Pro Lightweights and determined to reach his dream of becoming the best pound for pound fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). Last November, we interviewed Nate when he turned pro. Since then he’s had two fights, with a record of 1-1-0, and his upcoming July 22nd fight at NFC 85 will mark his three year anniversary on the X3 Sports Fight Team.
Follow along with this month’s Success Story as we catch up with Nate on the MMA lifestyle, his injuries, his most recent loss in April, and the goals he’s achieved since being part of TeamX3!
SINCE WE LAST CAUGHT UP WITH YOU, YOU’VE TAKEN A NEW JOB. WHAT IS IT THAT YOU DO NOW?
“I am a professional MMA fighter, and full-time trainer here at X3 Sports. Greatest gym in America! I teach Kickboxing, Fast Track and do Personal Training. I fill in for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu sometimes, kids and adults.”
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AS AN X3 INSTRUCTOR VS. BEING A X3 MEMBER AND FIGHTER?
“I’ve learned more of the ins-and-outs of the gym. I actually love the gym more, it was like my home before, but now it’s really my home as I’m here most of the day, 6-8 hours a day. So just learning to love the gym life more, learning to be more part of X3.
“People get excited when they see on X3TV that we have fights coming up. The members see the fighters walking around, so they aren’t like these mythical people who they never see. I still get that now. Sometimes I’m teaching class, and an member will point and say to me, “Is that you?” and I just respond, “Yes, that’s me.” They will freak out and say “Oh my God, now I’m really going to jab cross hard!”
YOU HAVE A BACKGROUND IN WRESTLING, FOOTBALL AND TRACK. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST INTRODUCTION TO MIXED MARTIAL ARTS AND HOW DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BECOME AN MMA FIGHTER?
“I wrestled all my life, so I have that competitive aspect going for me. After college, I lost touch with my competitive edge side. I looked up gyms close to my house, and found X3 Sports. I called and said, “Hey man, I want to be a fighter”, and the guy laughed a little since he probably gets 100 calls like that a day. He told me what to do and what being an MMA fighter entails. I came in and took Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he told me about BJJ and Muay Thai. He described what Mixed Martial Arts means, that it’s a compilation of different martial arts tied into one. So he told me I first had to start off doing Jiu-Jitsu. After my first class, I loved it and signed up that day. I committed to two years because I knew if I was going to be serious about, I needed to at least put two years in before I made a decision. And three years later, I’m a professional fighter! I told you so!”
DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A MIXED MARTIAL ARTIST?
“No! Ironically, in college, we watched UFC and we would always play the video game. I told myself up and down, I swear on my life, I would never do that. That was one of my nevers. Some other things I said I would never do, I’m doing now. MMA was one of those things. I said ‘Those guys are crazy, I will never do that’. And now, three years, two cauliflower ears later, I’m full fledged in the sport! Everywhere I go now, my beautiful ears scream mixed martial artist. I never had plans on doing this, but being a competitive guy and finding out that I can really use my wrestling to my advantage, that steered me towards MMA.”
SO PEOPLE ASSOCIATE CAULIFLOWER EAR WITH BOTH WRESTLING AND MMA, CAN YOU TELL US HOW IT HAPPENS?
“The fight world knows what it is, and in wrestling and boxing, it’s common as well. Outside of that, people think it’s a deformity or that I have a birth defect. I sometimes play a game with people who ask about my ears, saying, “Yeah, I got attacked by dogs,” and their face turns to shock (imitating a wide open eyes & mouth expression). Then I laugh and tell them I’m just playing and that it’s really from wrestling.
So the cauliflower ear is a process. They hurt at first and then when the swelling comes, it’s a snowball effect. You can continue to drain your ears, but it doesn’t help until they harden up. What you see is what you get. There’s no going down. I can get plastic surgery, but you’re not tough in MMA if you don’t have cauliflower ears. If you don’t have cauliflower ears and you fight in MMA, you might need to get you one or two!”
MMA IS A VERY PHYSICALLY DEMANDING SPORT. BESIDE YOUR CAULIFLOWER EARS, HAVE YOU HAD ANY OTHER INJURIES?
“That’s kind of why my Mom doesn’t watch me fight anymore. There was a live streaming of us for my third amateur fight in Mississippi so she wasn’t actually there but she saw everything. I dropped my shooting for a takedown, wrestler move, and I broke my nose. I had fractured cheekbones and now have a titanium plate (pointing at face along bridge of nose and across both cheeks). That was a serious injury, the most I’ve ever been hurt. That was a deciding point in my career. A lot of people outside the sport were telling me, ‘You need to quit, you’re getting hurt, this is not for you…’ but the fight world, they were all supportive and telling me, ‘This is an injury, it happens, it’ll make you stronger, you’ll learn a lot of lessons from this…Heal up and come back.’
“And the biggest lesson I learned is: Keep my hands up.
“Number one rule: Protect yourself at all times. Now I keep my hands up. And it was a freak accident anyways, because I’ve seen people get kicked in the face millions of times, and their face doesn’t explode. Mine did, so it happens. That was the biggest injury, damaging my face a little bit, but as you can see, I’m still good looking!”
WHAT DOES MMA MEAN TO YOU?
“The sport of MMA means: Never stop grinding. There are days in the gym, where you are on top of the world, you’re beating everybody and moves are coming effortlessly, and then there are days where you cannot catch a break. Those are the days that really count the most. It’s not the days where you win in the gym, it’s the days where you really take the beating, but you learn from it. If I was at a gym where I was winning it everyday, then I probably need to go to another gym.
“MMA has really taught me to keep my head down, keep my chin down and keep my hands up, literally and metaphorically. And to just keep pushing forward, keep the course, keep grinding…’The journey of the worm is not given to the swift, it’s given to the one that endures to the end.’ That’s what MMA has really taught me.”
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO BECOME AN MMA FIGHTER?
“Train. Even now with my three years of MMA, I’ve seen people come in saying, ‘Oh I want to be the next welterweight champion of the world’, then you tell them they have to learn Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, and train 6-8 months before even thinking about a fight and that deters them away. Be ready to train, be ready to get better before you even get tested. Anybody can walk out there and throw hands or feet, but to be really skilled at your craft as a mixed martial artist, it takes time. Just come in and work hard. It’s rewarding and fun! I’ve made great friends, lifelong friends. They aren’t even my friends; they are my brothers. I consider the guys on the X3 Sports Fight Team, my brothers. We hang out outside the gym and do a lot of things together.
“My life encompasses MMA, if I’m not training, I’m watching it. If I’m not watching it, I’m reading news and talking about it. MMA is my life. I love it. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
YOU MENTIONED YOU ARE LIVING THE MMA LIFESTYLE. TELL US WHAT THAT MEANS.
“Of course, the usual full-time training in the gym, but also outside the gym is what matters most: your diet. I stay away from carbs. I don’t do bread or pasta, but if I do, I consider it a cheat. It can’t be a cheat day or a cheat weekend. It can only be a cheat meal, then I go right back into leafy green vegetables, good lean meat and lots of fruit. I stay away from junk food as much as possible. What you put into your body is your fuel, so what you put in, you get back out. If you’re eating fast food, you’re going to have a fast food type of workout. That’s not what we want, so put the good stuff in and get good results.”
WHAT WEIGHT CLASS ARE YOU FIGHTING AT JULY 22ND IN NFC 85?
“I’m fighting at 155 lbs, not suggested by my coaches. We’ve already talked about it, but I’ll be going back down to 145 after this fight. I’m undefeated as a pro at 145. Right now I’m walking around 165, and I’ve got my diet together and living like I’m suppose to.
Nasty Nate's NFC 85 Fight Poster
DO YOU HAVE ANY PRE-FIGHT RITUALS?
“We do, but we don’t. We usually go to Applebee’s. Tony (Tucci, X3 Fight Team Coach), don’t be mad! We usually go to Applebee’s, before a fight after weigh-ins. Conor McGregor, one of my favorite fighters, soon-to-be-opponent, said rituals are just a fear manifested in something else. So I don’t tend to get into rituals. Like if you don’t have your lucky socks or didn’t do your lucky jumping jacks, and you feel like you’re going to lose, that shouldn’t determine your wins and losses. It shouldn’t come down to superstition. So we go to Applebee’s, but that’s just because we’re fat kids at heart and we love Applebee’s! Even if we don’t go to Applebee’s, that doesn’t determine if we win or lose. We go out to eat after weigh-ins, regardless anywhere we go. We go to congratulate each other for making weight because that’s really tough.”
IN YOUR MOST RECENT FIGHT AGAINST JOHN COBB AT LEGACY 53 IN APRIL, YOU LOST BY GUILLOTINE (SUBMISSION, ROUND 2). TELL US WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT AND HOW YOU DEAL WITH LOSSES?
“I was dominating the entire fight. John Cobb was not winning any points. I just got caught. I just had a quick temporary mental breakdown for a few seconds when I was in the submission. It was tight, but it wasn’t as tight as I thought it was in my head. I actually didn’t even fight out of it. I’m a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu, and I’ve gotten out of 50 million guillotines, but I just broke down. I just had a moment where I couldn’t breathe for a second. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you gasp for air and there’s no air, that’s a real moment where time slows down. I may have only been in the submission for 2-3 seconds, but it felt like a minute and I panicked.
“I still watch that fight almost every other day, just as a reminder to ‘never again.’ I panicked and tapped. One thing I’ve learned from this is to never panic. Panic only causes failure or losses. Since then, I’ve been training even more by putting myself in terrible positions and not panicking, just relying on my training listening to what my X3 Fight Team coaches say and show me technique-wise, and being able to work out of bad positions.
“Don’t worry, come July 22nd, I promise you will see a better performance than before. Promise.”
FOR MANY FIGHTERS, THEY WANT A REMATCH AFTER THEIR LOSS. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY?
“No. John Cobb was a worthy opponent. I don’t feel the need to fight him anymore. We’ve chatted on Facebook about it and we’re cool. Anyways, he’s at 155, and I don’t plan on continuing to fight at 155. When I make a run at the big leagues (UFC), It’ll be at the 145 lbs division because I’m a large 145 with a height and reach advantage over 99.9% of the fighters there. 145 and 155 are considered the toughest two divisions, especially in the UFC. There are a hundred million guys out there to fight, and I don’t have to repeat fights.
“Next, I’m fighting Tony Davis, out of Riverdale. Funny, his coach is whom I fought in my MMA debut. One thing I don’t do though is take anyone lightly or for granted. I think I took John Cobb a little lightly. During a pre-fight interview at Legacy 53, I had said I would take his back and finish him. It’s always good to anticipate the finish, but you never want to go in looking for the finish. I looked for the finish, and when it didn’t come as early as I thought it should’ve, that started to wear on me mentally. So always go into a fight prepared for a war, three rounds of war. I’m not underestimating my opponent, but it’s going to be a fight.”
WE SEE YOU CORNERING YOUR TEAMMATES AT THE FIGHTS A LOT. DESCRIBE HOW THAT FEELS.
“I think I may get more nervous for them, than they get for themselves or their girlfriends or my fiancé. I don’t let it show, but inside my chest my heart is thumping like crazy. And it’s not because I don’t have faith in them, it’s because I want them to win so badly. I want them to do so well, I’m not even worried about them getting hurt because we train our butts off. At the end of the day, it is MMA, so we already expect and accept that something can happen. I just want us to perform so well, that makes me nervous.
“A really great coaching tool Coach Tony does with me is to break the ice and be goofy and make me laugh right before a fight. You can be focused, but also too focused. My last few fights, I’ve been really calm and playful in the locker room, which translates to my fights. Just making sure we’re not all stiff, but loose, nice and flowy and playful.
“Gabriel, another one of our Fight Team coaches, has really been honing in on our mental side. Last night, we trained, then we did meditation where we visualized our fight with the lights off and classical music was playing. We sat still and relaxed. We haven’t done that in awhile, but the last time we did that, there was an X3 takeover.”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BIGGEST STRENGTH (IMPROVEMENT), AND WHAT SKILL DO YOU NEED TO WORK ON?
“My strength is obviously wrestling. In my first three amateur fights, I probably didn’t throw one punch; I just took them down. My biggest improvement is striking and standup. I’ve been working tirelessly and with team we have at X3 I can stand and trade with the best of them now. If I can stand with those guys, I can stand with anybody. That will be on display in July.
“I actually wrestled at 145 in high school, so I’ve always been this weight. I played football since I was 5 and ran track in high school. My dad was a high school wrestling coach, and he wrestled in college, then the Air Force and was also the Illinois State champion. Wrestling has always been in my blood. I was always around wrestling so I never got the opportunity to be fat. I do eat a lot, but I burn it up and I can eat with the best of them but I don’t look like I do. Thank you X3!”
WHAT GOALS HAVE You ACHIEVED AT X3?
“X3 has made me become a professional fighter. It’s not the pinnacle, but it’s the start of a dream. Just being a full-time fighter is a dream of mine. I used to watch videos of friends of mine and of guys training during the day, and said ‘I wish that could be me.’ And then, X3 Sports gave me the opportunity to do that. And now as an instructor, I also have the opportunity to change other people’s lives. I enjoy helping members attain their goals of fitness.
“To be a fitness trainer, you need to look like a fitness trainer, so people come into X3 and say, ‘He’s a fighter, he’s in shape, he must know what he’s talking about and what he’s doing. Let me pick his brain and get some knowledge.’ When members ask me about my diet, or how do I lose weight or maintain my weight, just sharing that knowledge is helpful. People generally just don’t know and think it’s rocket science. It’s not rocket science to feel healthy and have a lifestyle change. It takes dedication, determination and commitment. It’s not going to be easy, but when you switch up just one or two things in your life, you’ll see how big of a difference that makes. I like that the members tell me they took my advice and share the positive results. It brings me joy to know that I’m helping people.
"I like helping people. I like punching people in the face too, but I like helping people too!”
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE GOALS?
“I would say, UFC but that’s cliché. When it’s all said and done, I just want to be known as one of the best fighters, pound for pound. If that’s not your goal as a mixed martial artist, then I don’t know what you’re doing it for. I want to be the best. I want to go down in history as the best fighter ever. Of course, along the way, I want to be in the UFC, make a bunch of money and open up my own X3 in Stone Mountain!”
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO STAY IN SHAPE/KEEP FIGHTING?
“I like the way my fiancé looks at me. I like the way she clutches me tighter when other females come around. I like the way I look at myself. I work hard, why not show it off. I like to be able to take my clothes off at random places. With a healthy lifestyle, you look better, you feel better. I also like being identified as a fighter. Besides the ears, people will come up to me asking if I’m a fighter, saying because of my swagger or fighter aura about me. I enjoy that.
“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go out looking for fights, but I like knowing that if anything were to happen when I’m out with my fiancé, I like to know that I can defend myself, and defend and protect her.
“For example, crazy instance at a Hawks game…My fiancé and I were walking around and some dude ran through and pushed her! I turned around and told him to chill, and then he walked up to me asking what I was going to do about it. I laughed saying, ‘I promise you.’ Then he asked if I was a fighter, and apologized for being stupid. Just that respect is really cool.”
LAST QUESTION, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU SQUEAMISH?
“No, especially not in MMA…I am scared of wasps and bees. If you want to see the little girl come out in me, if a bee was to fly right here, I’d be like 'Oh my gosh' and jump out of this shirt and shorts before I even hit the ground and hightail it that way! Long time ago, before I was a fighter, I almost wrecked at the McDonald one day in the drive through. I pulled up and a bee flew in the window, I flipped, I opened the door and hopped out of the car. The car wasn’t in park and started rolling, so I had to jump back into the car. If you want to see me freak out, it’s not by getting in the cage or any blood, limbs or bones. I can watch a surgery and be eating spaghetti, that’s nothing. But put some bees around me, and the little girl is going to come out of me really quick.
“If I had to fight a bee, I’d probably lose.”
SO YOUR OPPONENT COMES OUT AND THROWS A BEE AT YOU…
"Then he wins! I’m going to tap the floor and walk out (laughing), ‘You got this, it’s over with. You found my kryptonite.’"
It’s an amazing feeling when you speak with someone who is in the midst of living their dream. Nasty Nate is not so nasty at all. In fact, he is lively and charming, but don’t let the other fighters know that. His passion and drive are evident when you take his kickboxing class! He’s right when he says no one trains as hard as he does. Anyone in his way, better watch out!
Selfie of Nate with #TeamX3 marketing Tammi & Nancy
UPCOMING FIGHT: Watch Nate fight Friday, July 22nd at Electric Cowboy in Kennesaw 8pm/EST. Tickets available online.