dillard-joe-pegg.jpgDillard “Joe” Pegg was all ready to take two months off from MMA.

He fought less than two weeks ago, on June 7, and defeated Jeremy Pender in an Absolute Action MMA show in Kentucky. As far as he was concerned, that was the last time he would fight for awhile because he needed the rest and he wanted a break.

But that’s not how it turned out.

“I swore to everyone I was taking time off,” Pegg told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “Then two days later one of my teammates called me, and he knew of an opening. It was for a bigger promotion, and so even though it was on short notice, I took it.”

And so, the taekwondo black belt who has been participating in that sport as well as training in MMA since his age was in single digits is set for a bigger opportunity. Pegg (5-1) is now headlines Friday’s Resurrection Fighting Alliance 8 card in Milwaukee against notable flyweight prospect Sergio Pettis (7-0).

Without much time, Pegg hurried this week to cut weight and prepare for a fight that he considers an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Instead, like many MMA fighters are forced to do, he stayed prepared for a chance that might or might not come, quickly took care of the short-notice fighting responsibilities and got to Wisconsin to get himself ready.

Fights are set up with little notice all the time, but not every spectator understands all the elements that are involved for a fighter. Aside from the weight cuts, there are physicals and blood work and other responsibilities.

Pegg has been involved in martial arts for a long time – he first started in taekwondo at age 9 – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to join a key fight with little time to prepare.

“There would be nothing better than just showing up and fighting, but that’s not what happens,” he said. “You have to jump through a lot of hoops. It keeps everyone safe, but it’s a lot to do.”

Strict martial arts

Pegg’s father is also Dillard Pegg, but everyone always called him Joe. That practice was adopted with the younger Dillard Pegg, who has been called Joe for as long as he can remember.

“I don’t think I knew my real name until I was about 11 or 12 years old,” he said.

He grew up in Ohio with a family that expanded when his parents divorced and then remarried, so he now has seven brothers and sisters. His parents recognized he was better at individual activities, so at 9 years old they got him involved in taekwondo.

The school, about 20 minutes away from his home, ended up being a perfect place for him to develop his skills, he said.

“It was very strict,” he said. “Things were either done perfect, or they were wrong.”

Because the instructor happened to be large and imposing at the same time, everyone listened, and Pegg stayed involved. He trained in taekwondo for about six years, but then he moved away from his training as he got into high school and found some other interests – and “got a little rowdy, kind of a party, crazy kid,” he said.

He stayed away from martial arts for several years, in part because he didn’t find competitions that interested him. Then he, like many others, found the interest in MMA exploding and wanted that kind of competition.

And Pegg would soon learn one of the major lessons of MMA is to always be prepared.

Short notice

Pegg was about 22 years old when he noticed a significant shift to MMA and felt like he wanted to get back involved in combat sports. He just didn’t know how hard it was going to be.

“In my first MMA class, I go in there thinking I’m this taekwondo black belt with a chip on my shoulder and that it’s going to be no problem,” he said. “Then I got my ass kicked. That first day, they took it to me.”

That made for a steep learning curve, but it was one Pegg relished. He was balancing his training with his full-time work in construction, and he knew he wanted to fight.

Pegg compiled about 14 amateur fights by the time he became a professional in 2011, though he likes to say that those don’t count the number of significant matchups he faced in his training. Using a philosophy that would come back full circle this week, he felt it wasn’t more preparation that was needed, but experience.

“If you’re ready to fight, then you’re ready to fight,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been training or what you’ve been doing. You just have to be ready.”

So, he stayed ready, compiling an impressive early record. It had been tough training for his most recent fight on June 7, so he was ready to take a break. Then he got the call from a teammate who said a slot had opened up on the RFA 8 card, and he wanted Pegg to take it.

His first reaction, admittedly, was “Aw, [expletive].” But it didn’t take long, he said, for him to realize an opportunity like this was worth the second weight cut in a short time and the quick turnaround.

That’s life in MMA. Because lineups can change quickly, it’s even more important for fighters to stay sharp and be ready for a short-notice phone call. That’s how Pegg is approaching his latest opportunity.

“You don’t want to be sitting on a couch and eating potato chips when your big chance comes,” he said. “You need to be ready.”

Catching up

• A member of a longtime wrestling family, Carson Beebe talked to us this past week about the family’s movement toward MMA and its opening of a training gym in the Chicago area. Beebe himself was preparing for his own wedding and hoping to rebound from a loss in the fight.

He did. This past Friday, he topped previously undefeated Joe Murphy by unanimous decision at World Series of Fighting 3 to improve to 14-2.

• On June 6, welterweight Dave Courchaine discussed his hard-working upbringing offering teenage service for his family’s construction company. His sister’s untimely death also motivated him toward his live-in-the-now philosophy.

This past weekend, Courchaine had his eight-fight winning streak broken with a first-round loss, 10 seconds into the fight, by head kick and punches to Luis Santos at XFC 24 in Florida.

Award-winning newspaper reporter Kyle Nagel pens “Fight Path” each week. The column focuses on the circumstances that led fighters to a profession in MMA. Know a fighter with an interesting story? Email us at news [at] mmajunkie.com.

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