Yates inks pro deal

Central grad signs on with World Series of Fighting

As his father, Steve, watches, mixed martial arts fighter Andrew Yates, whose nickname is “The Golden Boy,” signs a professional contract with the World Series of Fighting on Monday at Buffalo Wild Wings. Yates graduated from Central High School and began his career in a cage built in the garage of his family’s Fruita home. He now lives in Las Vegas, where, according to his website, he has been fighting with the Wand Fight Team while working as a personal trainer and coach at Wand Fight Gym.

It wasn’t that long ago that professional mixed martial arts fighter Andrew Yates was thinking about quitting a sport he had been dominant in since he was at Central High School.

“It just got to a point where I was fighting in small shows for $500 here, $500 there,” Yates said. “I needed to pay bills, and I wanted to stop living off my mom and dad. I was ready to call it good, go back to school, live in a dorm room and get a degree.”

But after the high of being featured as one of the top three unsigned fighters on Spike TV, and the low of nearly quitting the sport, Andrew Yates signed a four-fight contract with the World Series of Fighting on Monday.

While the 24-year-old was featured on MMA Uncensored late in 2012, Andrew’s father, Steve Yates, was his manager. The national TV coverage led to Steve receiving multiple high-profile offers from different agents and fight management companies, all vying to sign Andrew.

After signing with Empire Fight Management, Andrew attended an Ultimate Fighting Championship tryout in Las Vegas, as well as a tryout for the UFC-owned reality show, The Ultimate Fighter.

When he narrowly missed a 16-fighter cut, Andrew signed with World Series of Fighting, which has its events broadcast nationally.

“My feelings haven’t really kicked in,” Andrew said. “I knew when I made it to the top 18 (at the UFC tryouts) that I’d get some kind of offer. Next thing I know the World Series of Fighting and all these other places started throwing out contracts for me to sign. The World Series of Fighting just seemed like a perfect fit, and they have the best competition. I feel like they’re going to be something as big, if not bigger, than the UFC eventually. It’s a good setup, and they’re really family-oriented.”

Family recently became an important part of Andrew’s fighting career. In the months leading up to his signing, Andrew relied on his family to keep pushing him toward his dream. Even with all of the buzz surrounding his MMA career, he wasn’t sure he’d realize his dream of becoming a professional fighter.

“I stopped training for a month,” Andrew said. “I was really at the point where I wanted to go back to school. Dad, my mom, my girlfriend, Paige, all my friends, they got me back and pushed me. My best friend, Paul, who fights, too, got me back training and never let me sit on the couch. He even slapped me around a little bit. All of those people kept me on my toes and kept something coming, and now I get to make a living doing what I like to do.”

Steve, when he saw his son’s career was outgrowing his management, set him up with Empire Fight Management to keep promoting his son. Since then, he’s racked up mileage traveling between Las Vegas and Grand Junction to stay close to his son’s career.

“I have a lot of emotion today,” Steve said. “I’m pretty proud of him. It’s been a long time coming, and to finally see his dream come true is amazing. When he finally steps into the cage at an event like that, it’s going to be huge. Even if I’m there, I’m going to record it on TV so I can go home and watch it.

“You know, it’s like all things in life where sometimes you just don’t know what’s going to happen, wondering if you’re ever going to make it over that hump. I told him, when he wasn’t sure if he was going to make it, that he needed to wait and see. We waited for his shot, and now it’s finally happened.”

The fight card hasn’t been announced officially, but Andrew’s first fight likely will be on the Ontario, Calif., card at WSOF 4, which will air Aug. 10 on the NBC Sports Network.


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