Waterloo native Mehmen to fight in primetime on NBC Sports

Waterloo native Derrick Mehmen is stepping up in both class and prominence in mixed martial arts.

Mehmen, 28, will make his heavyweight debut in tonight’s “World Series of Fighting 5” at Atlantic City, N.J. against fellow MMA veteran Rolles Gracie. The 10-fight card will be televised live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 8.

Mehmen, who trains at Hard Drive Mixed Martial Arts in Cedar Rapids, has fought professionally for seven years, primarily as a light heavyweight.  He has posted a 15-5 record with 10 knockouts. Mehmen bulked up his 6-foot-4 frame and weighed in at 250 pounds for tonight’s bout.

“It was fun, usually I cut down to 205,” Mehmen said Thursday in a phone interview from his Atlantic City hotel. “It was easy to put on the weight. It’s natural.”

After two years of training with Florida’s renowned American Top Team, Mehmen returned to Iowa last year and posted three consecutive wins, leading to his June signing of a four-fight deal with Las Vegas promotion World Series of Fighting.

“They gave me a great opportunity right out of the gate for my first fight with Rolles Gracie; a wonderful fight for me,” Mehmen said.

Gracie, 35, enters with an 8-1 record and a reputation as a skilled jiu-jitsu specialist, a strength Mehmen seeks to counter.

“We’re just going to turn this into a fistfight and punch him in the face as much as possible and turn it into a fight instead of a jiu-jitsu match,” Mehmen said.

Mehmen has proved that his vast wrestling background, honed at both Denver (Iowa) High School and Ellsworth Community College, provides the perfect complement to his kickboxing training.“It’s served me really well throughout my career,” said Mehmen, who currently trains at Hard Drive Mixed Martial Arts on Oakland Road in Cedar Rapids. “I’m more of a freestyle fighter now. Combining wrestling’s hard-nosed, fast-paced, grind-it-out pace with all my new skills, I think the future’s bright.”