Q&A with HFC 34 Bantamweight Fighter Brandon Shelhart
Get to know fighter Brandon Shelhart who will match up with Darby “Demolition” Halferty in a bantamweight bout during HFC 34 on Saturday at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.
How did you become involved in MMA?
“Actually, I started out green. I started out brand new by just jumping into an MMA gym. I started training just to lose weight; then later, to get other fighters ready for fights. My old coach Travis Smith saw me jogging one day in town and he asked me if I wanted to come train. And I’m like train what? And he said train to fight, you’ll lose weight that way. And I was like as long as it keeps me healthy and I’ll lose weight, then I’m down for it and before you know it I was helping nine or 10 fighters get ready for fights constantly. I was getting my ass whooped the entire time and then I started keeping up with them and holding my own. Then, even subbing some of them and that’s when my coach asked me to actually take a fight. I was like well heck I mean I do it every single day helping these guys get ready so I might as well. Never looked back since then.”
Were you involved in any combat sports in your youth? If not, what other sports did you partake in?
“I played baseball for about seven or eight years. I played football for three years. I played club basketball all the way up until fifth grade. I played damn near every single sport. I joined wrestling my senior year but I had I already had about two [MMA] fights before I joined wrestling. The only reason I joined wrestling was because my MMA coach [at the time] pretty much made me. He wouldn’t let me come back to practice until I went and wrestled.
Describe your experience when you began training with your former coach Travis Smith.
“I grew up in Knox, Indiana and he had a little gym in his basement. This was back when nothing was sanctioned. People would show up at a fight and back out and they would get someone out of the crowd. People would fight two or three times in one night. He had a few people around town that were doing it with him and in South Bend. And that’s when he saw me jogging one day just to lose weight. I was going to the gym to lose weight and just be healthier because I used to weigh like 185 pounds at the same height I’m at right now. I was like a bowling ball and I was diagnosed a borderline type-2 diabetic and that really freaked me out and that’s what got me to start working out. He saw me jogging and he invited me to his gym.”
Tell us about your former affiliation with Bulldog Fight Team and Midwest Martial Arts.
“[Travis Smith owned a gym] called South of 30 because we were located just south of U.S. Route 30. Eventually, we linked up with Todd “Bulldog” Brown and Midwest Martial Arts. We fought a few people from their gym and the majority of our guys won. Todd ended up inviting all of us up there and we kind of just made the move and migrated up there and formed a huge team known as Bulldog Fight Team.”
You are now with Team Colon. Tell us about your relationship with your teammates Alan Baum and Payton Brezinski who are also on the HFC 34 card.
“I’ve been training with these two. This is actually the first fight camp where we’ve all been on the same card. But I’ve been training with Alan and Payton for roughly two years; like a year and eight months now. There’s a lot of camaraderie with us. We’re all pretty close. Alan is actually my roommate.”
Your opponent, Darby “Demolition” Halferty, is listed at 5’7” while you stand at 5’1”. At 67”, Halferty only has a one inch reach advantage on you. What role does height play?
“Just about everybody that I’ve fought is taller than me. I don’t think I’ve ever fought anyone who was the same height as me or shorter. The take down is easier. As long as your hips are underneath someone, odds are you’re going to get the takedown or you’re going to beat them in that battle. I’m an inside fighter, that’s how I train. I try to get inside on people and then I stay way out until I’m ready to engage.”
You had a long break between fights from February 2015 until your appearance at Bellator 175 in March 2017. What caused that?
It was the day before weigh-ins for HFC 24 in June 2015. and my oh my. It was like two years before the Bellator fight. I had weigh-ins on that Friday and I had a really good practice on Sunday. It was last hard sparring that I did. Then, I was just maintaining weight all week and literally I was getting up off my couch on Thursday morning getting ready to go to work and I about fell on my face. It was my labrum in my [left] hip. I was born with a hip impingement and over time all the running and all the exercise that I had done tore a hole in my labrum which is the cushion that separates bone on bone activity. And they had to go in and shave it and then repair the tear. It was going to happen regardless. It just happened early. The doctors said it should have happened at 45-50 years old but it happened when I was 21-22 years old.
Describe what it is like to get injured in such an unusual way just days before fight night.
“It was horrible. I mean the thing that I felt most horrible about was all the tickets that I sold and everyone that was there ready to watch me fight. And then I had to call everyone and explain to them that I couldn’t [fight] because I had hurt my hip and I mean who else has ever heard of hurting a hip like that. You know what I mean, especially getting off your couch. It almost sounds like a scam or an unbelievable story but that’s exactly what happened. I couldn’t walk for like three days.”
What was the reaction from your family, friends, and fans who had bought tickets and were excited to see you fight?
“They completely understood. They were there for me. None of them asked for their [money] back. They also still came and I went to the fights as well. I had to stay seated pretty much the whole time but I tried my best to get around and thank everyone for coming. My fans are awesome man, they’re really great people. They’ve been with me since pretty much fight one.”
With that experience, what was it like to make your return at such a big event like Bellator 175?
“It felt great! The coolest thing about the Bellator fight was my coach Steve Colon had three people on that card – it was myself, Lloyd Carter, and Tom Shoaff and Tom and Lloyd both fought before me. They both had lost unfortunately – and I gave [Colon] his 300th win as an MMA coach. So that was pretty cool. And he didn’t tell me until after he came in the cage and gave me a hug after I won.”
What do you do for work outside the cage and what would you like to do in the future?
I work three different jobs and train damn near full time. I’m a machinist. I work at a machine shop. I do a lot of programming on CNC machines. And then I work at the UFC Gym. All I do there now is private sessions. And then I’m actually in the process of, hopefully in about a year, buying into this gym with a guy from Knox who has actually already bought it. But he wants me to buy into part of it with him. I’m running MMA classes and jui jitsu classes out of there right now. He wants me to buy into it and buy the room so I can have my own curriculum and by the time I get my black belt I would be able to start teaching jiu jitsu. I’d love to get the call to the big show and everything but I’m more focused on actually owning my own business one day and being able to retire early and having my own gym and producing my own fighters.”