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Aug. 5—When he steps into the ring at Bellator 284 on Aug. 12, "Tall" Steven Mowry will do so as the No. 5-ranked Bellator heavyweight contender, facing former interim heavyweight champion Valentin Moldavsky in Sioux Falls, S.D.
That's a long way from the gym at Knoch High School, where the Butler native was a member of the high school wrestling team for two seasons and attended Butler County Community College before focusing full-time on professional mixed martial arts.
"I don't say this lightly: I really feel like the toughest amateurs come from the Ohio Valley and Appalachia region," Mowry said. "The wrestling is so strong there, and the mindset is so tough, season and gritty. ... It kind of outlines everything that you need to be successful in combat sports."
Mowry, who is currently undefeated as a Bellator fighter at 10-0, recently spoke with the Trib about the upcoming fight, which will be televised on Showtime.
This interview has been edited for length.
Q: You have a black belt in Brasilian jiu jitsu. What about that fighting style do you think has helped contribute to your unbeaten record?
A: It's definitely been a solid base. It's something that I feel like I can lean on in every fight. Every time I fight, I'm confident in my ability to take the fight to the ground and secure my victory through that.
Q: What do you feel will be the biggest challenge in facing Moldavsky?
A: Valentin Moldavsky presents a lot of challenges. Obviously, he's very tough. He's gritty. He's durable. He's well-rounded. He has very good top control. But that said, I think that if anyone's going to have to adjust to anybody, he's going to have to adjust to me.
Q: What are some of the most important lessons you learned during your amateur fighting career in Pittsburgh that you've been able to bring along to your professional career?
A: Between Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey, I had a lot of fights under my belt. What I learned there, first and foremost, is that hard work will take you to a lot of places, and anywhere that hard work doesn't take you, toughness will take you. That was the No. 1 thing I learned, not just through experiencing it myself, but from seeing those around me. Seeing their work ethic and what it took to be successful.
I would say that Pittsburgh was, is and always will be the most prolific "little town that could." The best sports city in the world, with the best teams, the best coaches and the best athletes, and I'll put that on everything.
Q: Who from the Pittsburgh area has been the most influential on you as a fighter and why?
A: If I was going to chalk up my development as a fighter to two people, it'd probably have to be my two coaches, Mike Demko and Ryan Covert. As far as fighters, I really liked Thomas Hearns. I really liked (multi-time Brazilian jiu jitsu world champion) Marcus "Bucheca" Almeida. I really liked Quentin Wright — he was a wrestler who wrestled at Penn State. As far as athletes, to keep it close to home, James Harrison definitely further exemplified the toughness and meanness and intensity that's needed to excel in sports, and in general."
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .