Alton Cunningham gets his second shot on season three of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
“The Bo-Man” makes his return to Las Vegas, this time at light heavyweight, to take on Tony Johnson. For Alton, the second opportunity was always a matter of when, not if, and he’s confident that he will be in the UFC eventually.
Cunningham feels he has the ability to not only compete amongst the best in the 205-pound division, but also become a world champion. With consistency and execution, Alton has learned from his loss to Bevon Lewis, and is ready to show the world what he’s known all along: he’s one of the best prospects on the rise.
It’s a hard-knock life.
It hasn’t always been easy for the light heavyweight. Growing up as an only child in the hood, Cunningham always dreamed big. Alton will be the first to tell you that people in the hood are often unable to train their mind to go down a path toward success. With a deep-rooted feeling that he would be destined for something bigger, after graduating high school, Alton began training to make it out of the hood and onto the big stage.
“Growing up, I never had an easy life, I felt I always got picked on… So everything I did was kind of individualized,” said Cunningham. After watching Brock Lesnar transition into the sport, he became a fan of mixed martial arts and knew he’d aim to do it professionally.
Fatherhood and following his dreams.
Having the story he does, Alton’s life experiences help him be a present and active parent in his son’s life. Chasing a dream, while being a father is challenge, and if you ask him he’ll genuinely say, “I’m still figuring it out.”
“I just want to leave a legacy for him, to give him everything I didn’t have, but also give him the good things that I have had in my life.”
Surrounding his son with love is Alton’s main goal. He hopes that through MMA, he can pave a path for his son to be able to do what he wants to do in life. It’s evident, he no longer fights for himself now.
On another level, mentally.
Cunningham has been focusing more on mental preparation going into his fights after his first loss. Not only does he work with a Sports Psychologist, he mediates daily to get his mind ready before bed.
“We’re so zoned in to whatever we [MMA fighters] are doing… You have to know when to hit that off-switch as well.”
The 205-pound prospect believes that any high-level athlete should have a therapist for an outlet outside of training and competing. “I’m more in tune with myself than I have ever been,” said Cunningham. Visualizing his success, the mental preparation aids not only in fighting, but in every day life.
A man with the self-belief and mindset of Cunningham, is a dangerous man. And he’s not shy to admit that if no one is going to believe in him, he will believe in himself- that’s all he needs.
Cunningham fights on episode two of the third season, which airs on ESPN+, June 25. When asked about his opponent, Alton confidently spoke, “I believe his weapons are limited and once he realizes we are prepared for that –not only that I may have more weapons than him– things are going to go downhill for him.”
Whether it ends quickly or in the second round, Cunningham believes that he will end the fight. If he doesn’t, then Johnson should be prepared for a three-round war.
Alton says the real question is, “Can he [Johnson] withstand what I’m going to bring to the table that night?”
In it for the long haul and legacy.
There are tons of prospects coming up in the 205 division. Although there are young killers on the rise and plenty of veterans in the top of the rankings, Alton feels he’s coming up during a time where he has yet to hit his prime. At 25 years old, the light heavyweight feels, “Tides are starting to change.”
In even just two years, the division is going to be one of, if not the most, exciting in the UFC. And Alton is blessed to have made the move up in weight when he did. He gets to train without cutting weight now, and eats whatever he pleases.
“It’s an exciting time to be a light heavyweight.”
“The Bo-Man” has hype behind him and has been noted as one to watch. But when it’s all said and done, he wants to make an impact in the sport, anyway he can. “I really believe I’m going to go down as a dominant force,” said Cunningham. “I believe I will have a legacy that I’m a world champion.”
Driving an hour to and from the gym for practice every day will be worth it for the up-and-coming prospect when the fans look back on his career and say: “That mother f*cker came to fight, and that mother f*cker brought hammers every time he fights.”
For Alton, once he gets the contract, “then the work begins.” Regardless of the outcome on fight night, Cunningham is ready for his second opportunity and feels good mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Listen to our full interview with Alton Cunningham, on The Scrap’s official SoundCloud:
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Joel Torres is a co-owner of The Scrap and its current CEO. Torres is obsessed with MMA and holds a Masters of Science in Integrated Design, Business and Technology from University of Southern California. Make sure to follow Joel on Twitter (@joelisacoolkid).