By Shaun Bennett
While Chris Lozano has 11 siblings, it was two in particular – older brothers Luis Lozano and Cody Roberts – that prepared him for the world of mixed martial arts.
“Other kids play video games growing up, but all we did was fight,” Lozano said. “It was the typical wrestling and rough-housing that you have between brothers. I think they had fun kicking my ass.”
Those days are long behind him, and it’s Lozano who hands out the beatings these days.
The fighter, who was born, raised and still resides in Cleveland, has climbed the MMA ladder to success. After a brief amateur stint, Lozano blew threw five professional fights with the North American Allied Fight Series – one of the top regional promotions in the Midwest – before splitting his last two fights with Bellator Fighting Championships – a national promotion.
His venture into cage fighting began early in life.
Beside the playful fights at home and the more serious fights in the streets of his ever-changing neighborhoods – “We moved a lot,” Lozano said – he began competing in tae kwon do tournaments at 8 years old.
“It was awesome,” Lozano said. “I enjoyed contact and I did well. Once I got into middle school I began wrestling, and when I got to (Berea and Midpark) high school I already knew I wanted to pursue a career in MMA.”
Lozano began to look for gyms to train in the sport, but MMA hadn’t gained a high level of popularity and he settled on training in boxing at the Old School Boxing Club on Cleveland’s East Side. The venue was recommended to him by family friend Ray Mills.
“Ray took me there and then the coaches took over,” Lozano said. “They thought I had some talent, so every time I walked into the gym, I had someone ready to work with me. I had four or five coaches at one time. I was very lucky.”
Lozano fell in love with boxing and somehow found himself on the path to becoming a professional boxer.
“I knew I was going to fight for a living, one way or another,” he said. “The reason I went there was to get good at boxing for MMA. Somewhere along the way I forgot that.”
Before Lozano became fully committed to a boxing lifestyle, he stumbled upon the StrongStyle gym in Independence and once again became hooked by MMA. He continued to develop his tae kwon do, wrestling and boxing skills, and added Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – which he holds a blue belt in – to his training regiment.
“I wanted to be well-versed,” Lozano said. “I tried a lot of different styles and I try to train in everything. It’s really the same things that most (MMA) fighters are doing now.”
It was six months from the moment he walked into StrongStyle before he stepped into the cage for the first time. It was a year and six fights later – after accumulating a 5-1 amateur record – that Lozano decided to turn pro.
Lozano knocked out Marcus Kuck in the first round of his professional debut – it lasted all of 37 seconds. Then came a 47-second knockout of John Fields, followed by a first-round knockout of Allan Weickert, followed by a first-round knockout of Brandon Gaines – all between June 2009 and March 2010.
“I was training like crazy,” Lozano said. “My trainers were big on mental toughness. I wasn’t worried about going deep into fights … I knew I’d be OK.”
Lozano’s first professional fight that lasted longer than five minutes came against Jason Dent, who had become the area’s top MMA name after a run on the UFC’s reality television show “The Ultimate Fighter” and a handful of fights for the sport’s top promotion.
Dent was also the top name in the NAAFS, and Lozano not only gained recognition and high praise by earning a fight with Dent, but for handing the seasoned veteran a technical knockout defeat in the fourth round.
“That was a huge fight for me,” Lozano said. “That was kind of the turning point in my career. I was being tested by a guy who had been at a higher level, who had fought against guys at a much higher level.”
Shortly after his fight with Dent, Lozano was contacted by Bellator agent Sam Caplan, who had gotten hold of some of Lozano’s fight footage.
“He thought I was a promising prospect,” Lozano said. “He said I just needed to win a qualifying fight.”
That fight was against Japan’s Yoshiyuki Yoshida in Lake Charles, La., last September. Lozano stopped Yoshida with a second-round TKO.
“I was so ready for that fight,” Lozano said. “It was the hardest I’ve ever trained for a fight in my life. My trainers helped take me to another level. I was focused … I had a totally different mindset.”
The victory landed Lozano in the Bellator Welterweight Tournament on March 5, where he faced Lyman Good in a quarterfinal matchup in Lemoore, Calif. The fight went the distance and Lozano suffered his first professional loss when Good was awarded a unanimous decision.
An accidental headbutt damaged Lozano’s eye during the fight, but he said that wasn’t the greatest factor in the loss.
“I had a six-month layoff between fights and I really didn’t fight the way I usually do,” Lozano said. “There were such high expectations. It was my first live fight on MTV, in the main event. I wish I had another fight between the two (Bellator) fights so I could have gotten rid of some of the ring rust.”
Lozano said Good wasn’t as tough an opponent as others he’s fought in his career, and if the two meet again Lozano guarantees he’ll be victorious.
But for now it’s back to the cage. Lozano is slated to fight on the NAAFS card on April 16 in Canton, before returning to fight for Bellator in June. Anything beyond that isn’t a concern at this point.
“The only thing I’m focused on is being the best fighter at 170 pounds in Bellator,” Lozano said. “Do I want to win a title? Hell, yeah. That’s all I think about. It’s all that’s on my mind.”