Jon Jones training partner, former D1 football player, Colby Landers has the makings of future top prospect
Football was the sport Colby Landers was supposed to go professional in not MMA. Despite becoming a black belt in Tae Kwon Do at a young age and wrestling in high school, it was not what he was serious about. In fact, his dad got him into Tae Kwon Do to get him more flexible for football. Landers played college football at the University of Mississippi and while he was still there, his strength and conditioning coach told him about a friend competing in MMA and that he might be good at it as well.
The more Landers heard the comparisons to his coach’s friend, UFC and Bellator veteran Mike Wessel, the more he became intrigued. Then after working in the family’s construction business, he like many elite athletes missed competing.
“So when we got done I was just working with the family in the construction business. I just missed competing, I was working and making money, it was a good job but something was missing. It was that fire to compete in something.”
“I’m a competitor, I’ve been that way since I was born.”
That competitiveness only allows Landers to try and be the best. After he graduated college, Landers tried to make it to the NFL but was unsuccessful due to less use of his position of fullback in the NFL and injuries suffered to his shoulder and hip. He had offers to play in the Canadian Football League, but that wasn’t for him.
“It’s always been just me, the best or nothing. I don’t know, it’s always been my mindset, it’s a pro and a con I guess.”
Landers, originally from Little Rock, AR had some friends locally competing and they convinced him to give it a shot and found he was a natural at it. That was about four or five years ago and he soon started doing boxing and jiu jitsu competitions. Then he took a few amateur fights and won them. Now he is a pro and waiting to make his pro debut.
As someone who didn’t train until he was in his mid-twenties and turning pro at 31, Landers has jumped in the deep end because of the need to capitalize on the youth he has left.
“I had to sit down and think what’s the quickest route I could go and that’s UFC and Bellator at the top. I did that and made a plan and it’s worked perfectly so far.”
Part of that plan was to travel to the famed JacksonWink Academy
“I sat down when I was trying to decide what the quickest route to get where I wanted to go is, I was looking at gyms
But as a meaning to get to a major channel, that’s what I needed, I need to train with the best in the world, training partner wise to up my level. I was sitting down and looking, I was like, who is the best fighter in the planet? And it’s pretty widely recognized that Jon (Jones) is. I looked and he is in my weight class and that’s perfect. So I was like, he’s at JacksonWink, JacksonWink was killing it, is killing, stays killing it. So I was like now I gotta figure out how to get a hold of them. So I went on Instagram and took a shot, and I was like man, I ‘ll just try and contact them and I sent them a message and told them everything I’ve done so far. I said, look, I’m kinda green but I’m a good athlete, I’m tough, I’m coachable, so I can pick up, I’m a quick learner, I’m a hard worker and I can pick up the rest. Our general manager Misha he hit me back and was like you can up here and try out.”
“I packed up everything, left my family, left my girlfriend at the time. Put everything in my truck and moved cause I was thinking it into existence that I was going to make it.”
The tryout was rough, especially on his cardio because of the elevation but he was one of two people in his group to make it. There was no amateur program at that time so he was thrown into the deep end immediately, on his first day there he sparred with UFC legend Andrei Arlovski.
“It was surreal to say the least, and terrifying.”
Through the many tough days at the elite training camp, Landers has proven himself and he did like he said and made one of, if not the best light heavyweights to ever step into the octagon his training partner. They’ve become good friends and Landers has been able to gauge himself against Jones, even though sparring him is “miserable.”
And the confidence he is able to get from the former UFC champion means the world to him.
“He’ll tell me, you got top ten potential and you can do this thing. Him telling me really let’s me know that I do have a future. Because he won’t tell me that just to say it.”
Though they are in the same division, Landers said he would never fight his friend, instead he would move to the middleweight division. He imagines Jones passing the torch to him one day, because he believes they will take over the light heavyweight division.
But Landers won’t have to worry about that for a while, especially because it’s taking him a very long time to find fights. He signed a one fight deal with Bellator almost a year ago but fights have continually fallen through. No one wanted to fight a former division one football player, who is undefeated, training out of JacksonWink and is the training partner of Jon Jones.
Landers has a good relationship with Bellator and wants to fight for them but since he has been on the shelf for a significant amount of time, he asked to find a fight with another promotion and Bellator obliged. But even with Bellator giving him the green light, Landers has still had problems, he was offered a contract with a promotion called FFC and initially signed it but there was a problem with the contract.
“This promotion FFC had spoken to my agent, wanted me to fight for them and I was like ok cool. They’re a new organization, they were going to fight in Las Vegas and they’re out of Croatia. So I was like ok cool, I was going to sing a multi-fight deal with them, I signed the contract and like an idiot I didn’t read it but thankfully my agent, Jason House read it. They were trying to lock me into more fights that I wanted to be locked into because there has been some talks of me being a prospect, the UFC maybe wanting me after just a couple of fights, if nothing else, for the contender series. He (House) said we don’t want that many fights, we want less fights on his contract. He told them to write up another contract with less fights on it, send it back and they completely ghosted us. I was left hanging on that, I was supposed to have that fight last month.”
In total, Landers said 5-10 fights have fallen through for him and he says it’s not only a problem for him, it’s a problem for a lot of prospects at JacksonWink.
“I’m not the only one, a lot of younger guys out of our camp, a lot of newer pros out of our camp have a hard time getting fights.”
“Coach Wink was on Ariel Helwani’s show, I believe it was earlier this week (week of 10/18), and he asked him who his good young prospects are and he said he’s not going to say because they already have a hard-enough time getting fights, I’m not saying anything on your show to make it even harder on them, that’s how bad it is.”
But now he can finally take a deep breath as he has a fight lined up. Professional fighter Brian Foster was able to book Landers in a fight in his home state of Arkansas on November 10, for MMA Xtreme Championships. Landers did his camp in Arkansas for his fight (he will go back to JacksonWink after his fight to help Jones train for his fight). His opponent is Mike Cook, a veteran of the sport. Landers is truly appreciative that Cook took the fight.
“I’m just really thankful for him to be honest, to step in there, take the fight with me. For a couple minutes, we have to be adversaries, but he’s got a fan with me for the rest of his life.”
With that said, they will fight, and in terms of the matchup, Landers thinks it’s an ideal fight since they both like to trade on the feet.
“I love the matchup honestly, because from what I can see and what I can tell, he likes to stand up. And I’m not scared to go to the ground by any means, I just like stand up better I just have more fun that way. So I think he’s going to stand up and bang with me. But you know, I feel like I’m going to win the stand up with no matter who ever I fight because I probably hit harder then they do.”
Landers isn’t afraid of ring rust either.
“I spar hard, 2-3 times per week, so I’m in shape, I’m pretty sharp. I don’t think ring rust will be a problem for me.”
Cook is a veteran, but though film study which has become a staple in game planning since he was a football player and has been reinforced since Jones utilizes it as well, Landers has found holes in Cook’s game.
“He’s beatable but he’s not gonna be easy.”
The Arkansas native also doesn’t see the fight lasting long.
“I think I’m gonna beat him in the first by KO or TKO, I don’t want to disrespect him by any means. I haven’t been out of the first round and I don’t intend on starting now.”
The Ole Miss alum has not lost his positivity when many others in his situation might have, mainly because he has faith that he was meant for this.
“I feel like it’s my destiny and everyone is a pawn in it.”
Now, he is just happy to prove he can compete against the best in competition.
“I got into this not for really money or fame or anything but to compete against the best in the world.”