- Kaley Green
SHREVEPORT, La. — Persistence. Determination. Heart…all words that can be used when talking about Shreveport native Matt “Danger” Schnell, who is set to fight in “The Ultimate Fighter” Tournament of Champions Finale in Las Vegas this Saturday night.
Schnell’s UFC debut comes after years of intense training and plenty of prior experience in “never being the best at anything.” He started training in mixed martial arts in 2008 shortly after graduating high school. It was something fun to do, but he never thought anything would come of it, he said.
“How many people do you know that have been on two reality shows?” Schnell asked. “I’ve been on an MTV show, “Caged” and “The Ultimate Fighter.” These kinds of opportunities and exposure you can’t really buy. It’s been a blessing, and it still surprises me.”
The people Schnell has met along the way have helped him get here. He said he is thankful for Coach Bilbo of Captain Shreve High School, whose words still influence him today.
As an amateur, Schnell fought on the local level with RING RULERS, a fight promotion company formerly owned by Real Shreveport’s very own Will Broyles. The company was also featured on “Caged” during its one-season run in 2012.
Another defining trait of Matt Schnell—loyalty. He is proud of keeping his promise to Shreveport police sergeant Brent Mason, he said. He credits Mason for keeping him in the gym when he could not afford it early on, saying they struck a deal for Schnell to pay him by doing physical labor around the gym while continuing to train. Mason’s gym is in Shreveport and is called Brent Mason Elite Combat Academy.
“Brent told me, ‘Danger, I think you can fight in the UFC someday,’ so I said, ‘Well, I tell you what, you’ll be in my corner if I make it.’ And Saturday night, he will be in my corner,” Schnell said. “He kept me in it, and who knows where I’d be or what I’d be doing if he hadn’t…I’m thankful I was able to keep my word to him.”
Schnell has come a long way in the past eight years. He says his goal is to remain in the UFC and eventually become the champion of the world—a lofty goal, but possible for someone with his work ethic and drive.
But a world champion title is not all he hopes to accomplish. Schnell said while fighting is something he loves, it does not define him.
“When all is said and done, my eulogy isn’t going to be all about fighting,” Schnell said. “I have plenty of other things I can offer to the world. It is a part of my lifestyle, and it will continue to be…but people who know me best know better than to think it’s all I want to do.”
And just like anything worth doing in life, MMA success has not come easy for Schnell.
He recounted a loss as a young amateur in New Iberia, Louisiana in which the fight came down to a decision. Schnell had beaten his opponent in all three rounds, only to lose the decision at the end. It was a crushing blow, and he said at the time he was not sure if he would fight again.
“Everybody has those moments you remember what you love it for,” Schnell said. “Fighting is the only thing I’ve ever been good at…I can’t exactly say what kept me going. I had this dream to make myself into somebody. Nobody has ever done this where we’re from. Nobody thought this was possible.”
Schnell wants to make the most of this wild ride on which he has worked so hard to be. He said he has the desire to give back to Shreveport, hoping to eventually open his own gym for local fighters.
He offered some advice to those with big dreams.
“You have to always push the limits, because life comes at you quick,” Schnell said. “You’ve got to be able to adjust. If you’re always comfortable, it’s going be hard to be successful. So, take chances and be selfish. If you really want to accomplish something, you’ve got to talk less and do more.”
Matt “Danger” Schnell came into “The Ultimate Fighter” season 24 as the sixth seed and was eliminated in the quarterfinal round, but was offered a spot in the finale when another fighter went down with an injury.
He usually fights in the flyweight division, but because he was given such short notice, he will face Rob Font in the bantamweight 135-pound division. Schnell currently trains with some of the world’s best fighters at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida.
Rob Font vs. Matt “Danger” Schnell will air in the preliminaries on Saturday, Dec. 3 on FS1 starting at 9 p.m. PST (7 p.m. CDT).