DON’T QUIT: Resilience in and out of the ring helps KnuckleUp trainer Dave Vitkay reignite his fighting career

In March 2012 Knuckle Up Fitness Trainer Dave Vitkay had a gut check. After ten years fighting in Mixed Martial Arts he suffered his second knockout loss in a row and had to reassess his career. “It devastated me and I was going to quit. I was going to retire from fighting and become a full-time trainer,” he said recently in an interview. In spite of the long odds of coming back from two such crushing losses, Vitkay says there was something inside him that wouldn’t let him give up. “There was this itch that said, ‘let me give it one more shot,’ because I just hate being a quitter at anything.”

So, instead of retiring, Vitkay doubled down on his fighting career. He began training harder and smarter, focusing on nutrition and plugging holes in his fighting style.

“Three years ago, I started switching up and going

Southpaw during training to practice. It worked so well

that now I fight that way. I’ll switch up. I’ll go southpaw

a little bit, I’ll go conventional, and actually I can see the

confusion in my opponent’s eyes because they don’t know

what to expect. It gives me a half second and just creates

a little bit of advantage for me.”

Vitkay’s renewed focus and stylistic refinements worked out. He’s currently on a three-year win streak (5-0 with four submissions). Incredibly this MMA veteran is peaking 13 years into his career.

It hasn’t all be clear sailing though. In his last fight Vitkay had to dig down against a wild brawler named Tommy Jones. Jones had him in trouble at least once in the fight. Vitkay, who is nothing if not resilient, showed his trademark toughness and eventually fought through and submitted his tough opponent. “I was really impressed with him,” Vitkay says of Jones.

“He was strong and athletic and could really scramble

better than I expected so he kept surprising me and catching

me off guard. He had me in some bad positions. The first

round he had me side-mounted, and at one point I think he

got on top of me again in the second round. Then in the

third round, I rushed him and got a hold of his legs and took

him down. From there I worked from guard to half guard and

once I got half guard I got a hold of his arm like a kimura lock

and he wasn’t giving up the kimura, he was straightening his

arm and then I just straightened it into a straight arm lock and

finished him.”

The victory was televised nationally on AXS TV and built on Vitkay’s already impressive momentum. He hopes to ride the wave to an appearance on the UFC’s flagship television show The Ultimate Fighter. “They only want to know your last three fights and the last time I tried out I had a loss on my record,” he notes. “But this time, I’ve got three wins in a row and they’re all in bigger promotions like Bellator and Legacy. Plus I just look different now, I’m a lot more athletic and I’m training like a professional athlete,” he pauses before continuing, “and I know this is my my last chance. I’m 34 and the cutoff is 34, so I really feel like it’s my time right now.” Judging by his success over last three years he could very well be right.


Vitkay at Legacy

Photo Credit: Camille Butler