Name: Norman Parke
Club: Institute of Mixed Martial Arts (IMMA), Ballymena, Co. Antrim
Fighting Weight: Lightweight
There's a fine line between overconfidence and genuine confidence in your abilities. The former can get you in trouble while the latter can get you out of it.
Anyone who has seen Norman Parke (pictured above right) fight knows he is a supremely confident young fighter with an impressive record of 14 wins and 2 losses. However, Parke’s MMA career could have been over before it started after a loss in his first fight.
A native of Bushmills in Antrim, Parke began his combat sports career at 16, touring the country competing in judo competitions. With numerous trophies and a black belt in his locker, he began mixing his judo training with boxing and amateur wrestling until the opportunity of an MMA fight came his way in 2006 just shy of his 19th birthday.
With no formal MMA training behind him Parke stepped into the ring with Greg Loughran at Ultimate Fighting Revolution 5 in December 2006. Fighting Greg Loughran in your debut is like Blackpool playing Manchester United in their opening Premiership match. No disrespect to Blackpool (or Parke), but the odds would have been stacked massively against.
A seasoned vet even back then, having beaten Parke, Loughran would go on to defeat MMA stars like TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins, Andre Winner before taking on Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez.
Despite the loss, Parke remembers doing well in his debut. “Aye, it was a baptism of fire but the fight was pretty even coming to the end of the first round,” he recalls. “I took him down but showed just a bit of inexperience getting caught in a choke.”
Without his self-confidence Parke might have packed it in. But he wasn’t the only person who thought he could make the grade. David Patterson, the head coach at Elite Fighting Revolution, home of Loughran, asked Parke to join his gym to train in MMA proper. Parke showed incredible determination and patience as he took an 18 month layoff from fighting to work on his MMA game.
Norman Parke in action:
Parke 2.0 re-emerged in May 2008 to go on a tear, stopping all his opponents in 10 consecutive victories. Two wins in 2008 was followed with another six in 2009. 2010 opened with another two victories by February.
Scalps during this period included recently crowned Cage Wars Lightweight Champion Ali Maclean (twice) and Cage Contender Lightweight Champion and JOE.ie featured fighter Myles Price. On a week’s notice, Parke was asked to take a fight against TUF trialist and Sherdog tipped prospect Joe Duffy – the week before his scheduled fight with Ian Jones in March 2010.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have taken it but I’m glad I did,” Park admits. “I couldn’t resist the challenge and I always want to fight the best fighters out there.” The loss to Duffy was chalked down and Parke went on to win four more fights in 2010 taking his record to 14-2.
Parke is not deterred by his lack of silverware as his focus has moved to MMA beyond these shores: “My plan now is to gather up some money and I’ve told my manager ‘Get me all the fights you can’. Once I’ve enough cash I’ll be off to North America as my management has a few things in the works for me over there. A title shot would be great but I’ve plans for 2011 regardless” says Parke.
His management, KO Dynasty, look after the likes Jonathan Brookins, Josh Neer and Spencer Fisher. Once stateside, Canadian promotion Maximum Fighting Championships have been touted as a potential proving ground for Parke.
He also has the chance to join Greg Jacksons MMA and potentially train with lightweights of the calibre of TUF finalist Michael Johnson, human lightning ball Clay Guida, perennial UFC title contenders Kenny Florian and Joe Stevenson, WEC standout Donald Cerrone and Bellator title challenger Roger Huerta.
Next up is a tough challenge against top ranked Finnish fighter Anton Kuivanen at Fight Festival 29 on 31 January 2011 in Finland. Parke was sought out by the Finnish promotion as a stern test for one of their premier fighters.
“I’m taking my career one fight at a time but I want to push on this year. I’d like to try and repay everybody who’s helped me by going as far as I can,” says Parke. “Davie Patterson at EFR, Rod Moore my head coach at I.M.M.A., ‘the Big C’ Colin Robinson who’s also been an inspiration at I.M.M.A. and especially my fiancé Amanda for having to listen to me and put up with me down through the years.”
Whether it’s Ireland, Finland or Canada, Norman Parke will be confident he’ll make a positive impression. If he achieves even some of what he’s planned for his career he’ll have repaid those who’ve supported him in spades.