BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Mingo County native Densel Chapman made his professional Mixed Martial Arts debut on Saturday, May 13 at New Line Cagefighting’s Battle for the Bridge, which was held at The Bridge Sports Complex in Bridgeport, West Virginia.
Chapman, who stands at 5’9” and weighs in at 155 lbs. was competing in the lightweight division against Kyle Echard of Parkersburg, West Virginia. He picked up a first-round win by stoppage to start his professional career off 1-0.
Chapman, who grew up in Delbarton, first started training for combat sports at Turner Karate when he still lived in Mingo County and fought in two Rough N’ Rowdy Brawl’s, the first being in Williamson in 2016, before he moved to Morgantown.
After he moved north Chapman’s training became more vigorous as he trained at various gyms with high class athletes, and he continued to compete as an amateur fighter.
Counting his most recent professional bout he has competed in 15 fights total going 7-0 in boxing, 3-0 in kickboxing, and 3-2 in MMA. At one point he was the top ranked amateur lightweight in the entire state.
“All three of my wins in MMA were by stoppage and my two losses were by decisions,” Chapman said. “I’ve never been stopped in a fight. So that’s kind of cool.”
Prior to relocating north Chapman spent all of his youth growing up here in Ming County, and said he was often in trouble and getting into fights.
“Growing up in Mingo County there are two things to do, either get in trouble or get into drugs,” Chapman said. “When I was younger, I was one of the ones that was fist fighting everybody and acting a fool. I was in a street fight at Chambers Curve, this kid told me he was going to beat me up. So, me being a dumb teenager we ended up fighting, and somebody recorded it and put it on YouTube.
“We didn’t get any criminal charges or anything like that, but it created a big stir. And from that point I was like ‘Man, what am I doing?’ So, I decided to use this talent that I have as an outlet to keep me out of trouble...I stopped hanging with the wrong crowds. Honestly, martial arts probably kept me out of the path that a lot of people back home go down.”
Chapman said his plan is to continue fighting at the professional level. He said he trains with top level guys. He said one his head coach has fought in Bellator many times, two of his coaches are black belts in jujitsu, and his main training partner is a brown belt in Brazilian jujitsu while also being very accomplished pro MMA fighter.
“I want to continue, I want to continue growing and make a name for myself,” Chapman said. “I’m 30 years old. If I make it to any of the big shows, UFC or whatever it is, that would be great. But that’s not really my focus. My focus is just gathering as much knowledge and experience that I can and maybe I can use all that experience and knowledge that I get to give it back to the community.”
Chapman said that he is a strong advocate for martial arts programs for troubled youth He said that MMA is a wonderful outlet for kids who are troubled and who may have a lot of angst due to the drug epidemic, poverty, or just hard times in general to let out their aggression in a safe space while also promoting healthier lifestyles.
Chapman also said he and his fiancé Heidi Gum, who boxed four years at West Virginia University, has dreams to one day open up their own gym to hopefully help out some troubled kids and adults that came up like he did.
“The dream would be to move back to Mingo County and open a gym up down there,” Chapman said. “If the financial situation worked out for me and my fiancé and we both could land day jobs there that would support us financially, we would love to open up a gym there.”
Chapman said that his mother, his brothers, and pretty much all of his family still reside in Mingo County and that it will always hold a very special place in his heart.
“Anytime I fight no matter where I fight, I always tell them I’m from Delbarton,” said Chapman. “When people think of Mingo County people often think of poverty and they think of drug use. One of the big things I want to do with martial arts is change that view. I want to show people that’s not all Mingo County is about. Go down there and meet some of the good folks. There are good things in Mingo County. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful part of the state. Just because we have a few bad apples it doesn’t mean the whole orchard is rotten.”
Chapman had a message for any kids back home in Mingo County and the coalfields in general that are dealing with hard times, whether it be at home, in school, or in any aspect of life.
“I want to really push the point home, especially to a lot of the kids back there that grew up with a troubled childhood like I did, that you can do other things besides get into trouble or get into drugs,” Chapman said. “We’re resilient people in the mountains down there in the coalfields. Be resilient. Whatever you want to do, go get it. That’s what I’ve been doing in the past decade with martial arts and I’m going to continue.”