Roberts wins MMA featherweight title
Professional MMA fighter Joel Roberts of Lehighton poses with the PA Cage Fighting Professional Featherweight Title he won recently at the Ice Box Arena in Scranton.
Win an amateur title.
Nab a professional title.
Compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
On the to-do list, and appears to be only a matter of time.
Thanks to his most recent outing, Joel Roberts has completed two-thirds of his bucket list in the rough-and-tumble world of Mixed Martial Arts.
A professional MMA fighter, Roberts delivered on the second leg in his journey after he recently captured the PA Cage Fighting Professional MMA Featherweight title at the Ice Box Arena in Scranton.
Down but not out, Roberts came from behind to defeat Scott Heckman a four-year Division I wrestler and an All-American at East Stroudsburg University to win the title via submission when he applied a rear naked choke after he knocked Heckman down with a left hook in the second round.
"My game plan was to be patient through the first and second rounds," Roberts said. "If he goes to the ground, get him to submit, or, if he stays standing, knock him down."
Roberts said he followed that blueprint to near perfection.
"I caught him with a left, and choked him out with a rear-naked choke," he said. "Ironically, it was the same hold I used to win my amateur title."
There were 2,700 people in attendance at the fight, which represented the biggest gate to date for a local MMA show in the state, according to Nick Masington, co-owner of Rat Pack Fighting Systems in Palmerton, who added the match was televised live on Channel 16.
"It was the first televised MMA fight in PA, it was the biggest crowd for an MMA fight in PA, and it was probably the biggest grudge match," Masington said. "There was a lot of bad blood, a lot of history."
Masington said that while the end result may have been viewed as an upset to many, it wasn't to those familiar with Roberts.
"This fight was seen by many, other than us, as a steppingstone for Heckman to make it to the bigger promotions such as the UFC, and we are hoping that it will catapult Joel into that position," he said. "We knew he'd win this fight, which is why we agreed to give up part of Joel's payment just to get in the cage."
Roberts trained part time with the Palmerton Area High School wrestling team to prepare for the fight.
"It was a great accomplishment for the gym, it was really exciting, and we had a really good turnout," he said. "It was like I didn't win, we won as a team."
With the win, Roberts the head MMA instructor at Rat Pack Fighting Systems now sports a pro record of five wins and three losses, and an overall record of 9-3.
From the time he debuted in the sport, Roberts said he had three goals he wanted to accomplish.
"Since I started fighting MMA, one of my goals was to win an amateur title, win a pro title, and to fight in the UFC," he said. "So far, it's two down, one to go."