Bellefonte native Mike Putnam sat on the mat for a few moments, exhaling deeply, while his dream night turned upside-down.
He had just lost his fight — the final preliminary bout of Friday’s Bellator 186 — and he remained stunned for a few moments. This is the night he waited for, at the Bryce Jordan Center, one he said days ago he couldn’t have planned any perfectly. But it wasn’t the ending he envisioned.
Putnam (1-2) suffered a technical knockout against Scott Clymer (1-0) at the 3:07 mark in the first round.
“You almost want to stop, rewind and start over,” Putnam said, minutes after he was cleared by doctors. “You want to start the video over. You know everything you should’ve done — but you can’t go back. You can just go forward.”
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Clymer pinned Putnam against the cage early on, and Putnam couldn’t escape. Clymer pinned one of the hometown favorite’s arms, and he had just one arm to defend himself. Clymer took the opportunity to relentlessly pummel him with head- and body-shots.
With Clymer’s arm in a guillotine, Putnam waffled on going for a submission attempt on the mat — but thought better of it due to Clymer’s wrestling ability. He thought he could escape. He figured he could get away from the cage.
“I’ve never trained so hard, I’ve never felt better (going into a fight), and the guys I train with are top-level guys,” he said. “I go out there more with guns blazing against those guys than tonight. I felt like I just hesitated.”
One of his trainers at ringside rubbed an ice pack on his shoulders while Putnam stayed sitting on the mat afterward, replaying what just happened in his head. A doctor in purple gloves checked out his eyes and one of his ears, which had swollen up during the match.
The crowd gave a short burst at the start of the match when the announcer bellowed, “Hailing from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania ...” but cheers of “Scotty-Scotty-Scotty” filled the air in the aftermath of Putnam’s loss.
The local MMA fighter will hang around his hometown and heal up before venturing back to Long Island to continue his training. He’ll trade the ring in for a few weeks for a spot as a bartender at Local Whiskey. “If you’re a fighter and you’re not fighting,” Putnam said with a laugh, “you’re working.”
He can fix up any cocktail. But if it’s football weekend? “I’ll point to the beer tabs and tell you to pick one,” he said with a smile.
Putnam remained in good spirits after the fight, as more than 100 friends and family members watched from the stands. He hoped for congratulations and pats on the back — but he said it was still a dream to compete here, in Happy Valley.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted,” he said. “It’s not the decision I wanted. ... I wish there was a better outcome. But in retrospect, it teaches you a lesson.
“And if you don’t learn from a loss, you’ll never win.”