How Michael Stack’s father and a ‘punchable face’ began dream to becoming UFC champion

Michael Stack may not be a name you recognize at this very moment outside of the Colorado area, but the 24-year-old prospect is hoping to change that narrative sooner rather than later. 

Stack recently moved to 3-0 as a professional last month for the Sparta Combat League with a first round finish of James Martinez at SCL 75. After spending his entire career to that point in the lightweight division, Stack made the move to the featherweight division for the first time and picked up the victory. 

Coming from a family lineage of fighters, Stack’s father was a boxer and instilled a fighting spirit in him at a very young age, which came in handy since the former Colorado State University student had a certain look, and personality about him that other kids didn’t always gravitate towards. 

“My dad boxed when he was younger, kind of raised me on fighting,” Stack told The Scrap. “He actually found the UFC before I ever saw it and told me, ‘You should check this out. I think you’d be really good at it’, just because, when I was growing up, I would get in a lot of fights — mainly because… when I was growing up, people didn’t really like me. Maybe it was my personality, I was kind of hyper, I was the kid that was always running around, trying to be the class clown and stuff. A lot of people didn’t seem to like that. I’ve been told I have a punchable face, multiple times by multiple different people.”

“My dad taught me how to fight and I grew up learning that you have to fight, or kind of be a pushover. I also found out that I kind of liked it — the competition of it. I started preparing myself for it, I got into wrestling as a sophomore, doing sports with going towards my goals, and right after high school, I got into training right off the bat. I went to college and didn’t have a whole lot of money, and I didn’t have time to train full-time since I didn’t have my car with me. I think it was around junior year of college where I was able to train and compete full-time, in 2016.”

As most kids, especially boys, experience at some point in their adolescence, there comes a time in the schoolyard, the football field, or on the playground when a decision has to be made: get in a fight with the kid that is pushing you in that direction, or walk away and, more than likely get ridiculed. The first time that Stack had to make that decision, he chose the latter. It was something that weighed on his mind, but it also was the beginning of a crazy story of how Stack found the fight game.

“I was probably in fifth or sixth grade and we used to play football during recess every day,” Stack explained. “I always wanted to be the quarterback, and so did this other kid. We used to actually be really good friends but we ended up having a problem with each other, more of a competitive thing. We would talk smack to each other every day at recess. One of the days, we were playing football — and I had just gotten braces — I tackled him and he puched me right in the mouth and my braces went right through my lip. I didn’t want to hit him back because we were friends at the time, but it really bothered me. And when I didn’t hit him back, he started telling people I was a coward, I was wimp and it came to a point where I had no choice. I had to fight him the next time something like this happened.”

After that moment, as many of young sons have done over the years, Stack went to his father for advice. Maybe his father could provide some wisdom, some advice on how to approach the situation with his elementary school friend and competitive rival. What happened next was something Stack didn’t expect, but was something he learned from in a big way. 

“I went and told my dad about it and he asked me, ‘Do you even know how to fight?’,” Stack said. “I told him I was just going to fight him, pumping my chest out. He said, “All right… punch me! Hit me!’ I was thinking that this was crazy because why would my dad tell me to punch him in the face? So I halfheartedly threw a punch and he smacks it out of the air and he just starts barrading me, telling me, ‘If you throw a punch like that, you’re going to get your ass kicked.’ He was telling me I was kind of a p***y and s**t like that. I knew this was serious, I better start throwing. I start throwing them a little bit faster and he keeps smacking them away, I’m thinking that I really don’t want to fully hit him. He’s my dad! But now he’s really starting to barrade me, trying to provoke it out of me. I’m starting to get mad at him and I’m throwing as fast as I can and I finally connected with him. When I connected, I started crying because I just punched my dad in the face. He hugs me and tells me, ‘Good job, son!’. And then he tells me, “all you have to do is do that to the face as many times as you can’.”

“We ended up getting in a fight a week later,” Stack said. “He ended up throwing a football at me and I knew it was time to go. We got in a fight and I ended up getting tunnel vision and everything. I woke up and he was on the ground and I was punching him in the face. We actually fought one more time after that but we became really good friends.”

That was the beginning of Stack’s fighting career. Every step along the way lead to his goal of learning the martial arts, making the most out of his opportunities and making sacrifices a lot of people his age wouldn’t make. The Colorado native made his amateur debut at SCL 48 in February 2016, picking up a first-round TKO win over David Jackson. After running off three additional wins, Stack made the move to the professional ranks, winning all three of his fights, while finishing two of them before the third round. 

While Stack has spent his entire fighting career competing for Sparta Combat League, word has started to get out in regards to his talent and high ceiling as a young prospect. With that, more opportunities are coming his way, including for his next appearance in the Fall.

“I’m actually not fighting for Sparta this next fight,” Stack said. “My next fight I’ll be fighting for LFA. They said for sure I’ll be on the card in October. We just don’t have an opponent yet.”

Thinking back to how it all started, and how his father worked with him to get to his point, Stack looks at it with complete fondness and appreciation. The chance to follow in his father’s combat sports footsteps is here and different opportunities to compete on bigger stages are vast approaching. In hindsight, it is exactly what Stack and his father have been waiting for and it has lead to the visualization, and the realization, that the plans are falling into place as the days and weeks go by.

“I think it’s similar to the way I feel,” Stack said about his father. “We had this idea, we started making goals towards what we wanted and started making moves towards it — starting in wresling, getting into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and making each step count. I think we knew that if I chose to go this path, that I could do it — both of us. Now I consider myself a high level guy, I think I can compete with these guys in the UFC, and I remember watching the UFC one night at Buffalo Wild Wings. When I would watch, I would get an adreanline rush because I would put myself in the fighters’ shoes. I would imagine myself in the cage. One of those days, it was almost like a vision — I saw myself in the UFC cage with the lights, and all of the people in the crowd. I had never experienced something like that up to that point. I could feel what it was like to be in that cage and be a UFC fighter.”

Making it to the UFC would be a great moment in the young career of Michael Stack. It’s the dream for many fighters to be on the roster of the biggest fighting organization on the planet. That is not the dream for Stack, the dream is not even to be competing against the likes of Max Holloway, Khabib Nurmagomedov and other world champions. It is to defeat those fighters of that caliber and hoist the gold belt himself for all to see. 

“I know I’ll be in the UFC, what I want is to be a UFC champ,” Stack said. “That’s going to be the hard part. That’s going to be the part I’ve been training for the whole time, sacrificing for. Getting to the UFC is not the goal, it’s the first step to my actual goal of being a UFC champion.”

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The Scrap’s Mike Heck is an interviewer and features writer for FloCombat, The Body Lock, MyMMANews and Happily married and a proud father, Mike also hosts a weekly podcast called Between the Links on the Loudmouth MMA Podcast Network and YouTube page. Follow all of Mike’s exclusive video interviews at Mike Heck MMA on YouTube and follow him on Twitter (@MikeHeck_JR).

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