Tobias Baker had another impressive first-round victory at CageSport 58 against Cameron Sevilla-Rivera.
“The Heathen” now looks to make a quick turnaround and fight another two times this year, if possible. The recent 23-year-old didn’t take any damage in his second pro fight. So after celebrating his birthday, he jumped right back into training.
Being a top prospect in this fast-paced sport never comes easy though.
Let’s rewind a bit.
Baker started training MMA in North Dakota, where he was on scholarship to wrestle. Eventually college became, “a little too much fun,” and that led to a life full of early lessons for the Oregon prospect.
“I let my head get a little too big when I got to college,” Baker told The Scrap. “I was a pretty big recruit coming in, I let that get to my head. I slacked on my training, slacked on my diet.”
Although Tobias is one to enjoy himself and live life to the fullest, his lifestyle ended up leading to a year of ineligibility. And just like that, his wrestling dreams halted and his hopes of one day becoming a NCAA champion slowly started to fade.
“They always say in wrestling, once you wrestle in life everything else is easy.”
For a 23 year old, Baker has much wisdom and often comes off as much older. It’s the mistakes forced him to grow up at an early age. But through soul searching, he began to understand what his true passion was and learning from his experiences, Tobias found mixed martial arts.
Wrestling may have taught Baker everything he knows, but there was always something missing. An everlasting feeling of never being satisfied with where he got to wrestling eventually led to an undisciplined attitude and little motivation.
So while many people like to enjoy the fruits of their labor in the present, Baker no longer finds comfort in his recent success. He’s the type of fighter who strives for more, yet remains strategic and realistic with decisions regarding his career.
“I’ve been thinking a lot more about the long run instead of the short run,” said Baker. “I like to get caught up in the good. But there is a reason after all my fights I don’t go a little crazy.” Tobias is one who holds himself to a higher standard and is often his own worst critic.
“I’m always trying to find a way to get better because of the mistakes I made.”
MMA isn’t for the weak. That we know. But on top of life struggles, training to become a professional MMA fighter while trying to pay the bills never comes easy.
The Local Scene Struggle
It’s not new to hear that regional fighters struggle to make enough money. You also hear about most not being able to train without the stress of having to juggle a full-time job. Although the story of hardships fighters face on the come-up is a broken record, Baker’s is quite different.
Moving away from home at a young age, failing at your first dream, and then moving further away from home to chase another is all but normal. He may have been blessed with a flexible schedule during his first year in Eugene, but it’s extremely hard to find a job that will cater to the needs of a fighter.
At one point, Tobias was working 3 jobs while training. The grind was taking a toll on his body and even then, the Florida boy will tell you, “If you’re not doing it [training] 365, then you’re not really that serious about it [MMA].”
During his amateur career, Baker battled injuries after getting hurt at work. Because “in today’s MMA world that we live in, the more that you’re active, the more opportunities come your way,” Tobias tries to finish his fights in the fastest way possible.
“Not saying that I’m going to knock everyone out or submit them, this is my full-time job,” said Baker. “I want to be able to get 4 or 5 fights a year until I start fighting those high level guys.” The quicker the night ends, the more fights he can take, and the more hype he can build. Tobias knows one day he might get into fights where he’ll walk out of the cage looking like Mike Perry did at UFC Uruguay.
While not interested in rushing his career, those are the types of fights he’s looking forward to.
Living the “Chill” Life in Oregon
MMA became serious when Tobias made the move to Eugene, Oregon in February 2017. Although he lacked a boxing foundation, he’s always been scrappy, so transitioning from wrestling to MMA was natural.
“Some guys have a good mind and head on their shoulders to pick up the Jiu Jitsu transitions, the fence wrestling, the striking—being able to combine all of those things is better than just having wrestling.”
Transitioning to MMA is not always the easiest, however, wrestling helped Baker understand the footwork for boxing and made Jiu Jitsu, “a little easier.”
He has gone through some trials in his years and because of those, it has been easier for Tobias to have his head on his shoulders. Maybe being an advocate for medical marijuana and CBD leads to his chill mentality, but at 23 years old, not many can speak with such understanding of life’s hurdles and their impact on a person.
“Having that outlook on life where you really appreciate the life around you and being able to appreciate what you do everyday, definitely can give you a sense of happiness that can carry a certain amount of energy with you that you can disperse to other people throughout your day.”
It’s this mentality that allows Baker to live his life outside of the cage, the same way he wants to perform: with excellence and discipline.
“It’s all about who you are when you’re not in the cage, because whoever you are on the outside of the cage, is who you are in the cage. That character carries over, that attitude carries over.”
A Disciplined Mentality leads to a Brighter Future
With such an impressive record at 23, there’s definitely big things coming for the Oregon fighter. But, Tobias doesn’t want to bite off more than he can chew.
“Everyone in the UFC is there for a reason, but from a managerial and coaches standpoint, everyone wants to see me in there a little longer before opportunities start coming,” said Baker. Knowing he needs more fight experience, no matter the opportunities that come, he will turn to those he trusts most to guide him in the right direction.
Most fighters take the quickest path into the UFC. Tobias is not one of those fighters. He wants to take the slow road, collect belts, and work up the ladder. After seeing many fighters take short notice bouts and then lose in the UFC, Baker knows that facing tough competition and not rushing his career is the way to go.
Truth be told, this is his second chance at competing and changing his life around, so he won’t be making the same mistakes twice.
“I want to take some belts, I want to collect heads along the way. I want to leave a trail of bodies so we can get there [to the UFC].”
Whether it’s King of the Cage or even LFA next, Baker knows where things are headed in the sport of MMA and wants to hop on the hype train before it leaves. UFC is the goal and he’s confident that his teammates will make it before him.
Art of War MMA
Art of War started as a small gym, and it’s just starting to grow. On the brink of their own Fortis MMA story, Art of War MMA is producing killers who are making noise on the regional scene.
It’s only a matter of time before they breakthrough.
Jason Georgianna is the brains behind the operations. An expert in strength & conditioning and a Jiu Jitsu blackbelt from 10th Planet, Georgianna develops plans and gives structure to his fighters. He instills in them that everything they do in the gym has a purpose. He’s also one of the key drivers for the family culture that lives inside the gym doors and blossoms outside of it.
With fighters like Adam Fugitt and Chris San Jose capturing regional belts, Baker feels lucky to have randomly moved to Eugene and found Art of War MMA. Not only do they ride the team aspect hard, they hold each other accountable while making each other better.
After recently signing to Dodge Sports Agency, Tobias Baker is a name you’ll continue hearing about on the regional scene. It’s only a matter of time before the hustle pays off.
Until then, Baker is enjoying each step of the journey.
Listen to our full interview with Tobias Baker 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).