It seems relatively few mixed martial arts fighters from Maryland have made their way to the bigger stages of the UFC, Bellator or World Series of Fighting. The only ones that come to mind recently are Jacob Kirwan, who fought in Bellator, and Jimmy Hettes, who fought in the UFC. You can also add Robert Sullivan to that list.
Sullivan, who was victorious at Shogun Fights last month, can also boast experience on the bigger stages. Sullivan competed on the Bellator 108 card on Nov. 15, 2013, scoring a unanimous decision victory over Sergio Da Silva. How would Sullivan describe his experience? I'll let him tell you.
"My manager had some former ties with Bellator," Sullivan told me during a recent Facebook chat. "The opportunity came for a fight on the card and he asked me if I wanted it. Obviously I said yes."
Although Bellator offered Sullivan an opportunity to compete on a bigger stage, he was still partly responsible for helping to bring a crowd to the event at the now-defunct Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
"I still had to sell tickets, so I organized a bus to get everyone up there," Sullivan said. "I think I sold 75 tickets total."
And although it seemed to be a step up for Sullivan from his previous fight experiences, "honestly, it was just another fight," he said. "I didn't change any in my camp. All I focused on were the things I needed to focus on regarding my opponent."
In addition to helping sell tickets to the event, he also had to take part in what all fighters on the big stage are required to do: Promotion.
"The week of was a little stressful," Sullivan said. "You have to go to more fighter meetings and do lots of paper work and promotional shit. It wasn't that big of a deal though."
As is the case with any televised athletic event, the pace is dictated by commercial breaks and promotional ads. Which affected Sullivan as he got ready to walk to the cage.
"I'll say it was the most annoying warm-up I've ever had for a fight," he said. "We were the first fight, so I was fighting in front of only our fans. But we couldn't come out with our shirts on."
Sullivan also wasn't allowed to put his shirt back after his face was treated with petroleum jelly right before the fight. "Then because of commercials starting the card for the online stream, we were in the cage for another five minutes waiting. I think both my opponent and I had to warm back up," he said.
Sullivan also fought on a CES MMA card in Rhode Island, which was broadcast on cable network AXS TV. Despite some of the headaches he faced in Bellator, Sullivan would be more than willing to do it again.
"I'd love to fight for Bellator again, but I just want to fight period," he said. "I don't care where, but I do enjoy to travel."