DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - If you're going to go by the nickname "Mo Muscle," you better back it up.
- De'Reese is 7-1 as a pro fighter
- Played football for UCF
- Will fight next Aug. 8
“It’s 'Mo Muscle,' holdin’ it down, pound for pound, any town, you know who wear the crown, that’s how it goes down," 31-year-old fighter Muhammed De'Reese said after a recent training session.
His promo style is intense, but that pales in comparison to his workout.
“When he first came, I was putting it on him," head coach at Fight Sports Daytona, Todd Cutler, said. "Now there’s no training session that’s fun.”
At six-foot, 245 pounds, De'Reese's size is impressive. He's 7-1 as a professional fighter, currently signed to the Professional Fighters League. And his legend just adds to his aura.
“They had Tough Man competitions, like 'who in the bar can knock this person out? Who can fight?' And I was like, 'I'll do it,' De'Reese said. "Then I ended up going 9-0 doing that. And that’s nothing serious, but that’s when people saw me and was like, 'man, you’ve got some good hands.”
De'Reese learned the importance of fighting growing up. He was one of 16 children, with seven brothers and eight sisters. He was constantly moving around, and some nights, the lights would go out. And then he'd get picked on.
“[They] used to put me with them and beat me up, and say hey, 'we gotta be warriors. Be tough.' And I used to go crying to my mom. So I’ve been physical my whole life,” he said.
Physicality became his outlet. He went undefeated as a wrestler at Titusville, and would go on to play football at UCF for a couple of years. But a groin injury turned him towards MMA, where his background became useful.
“Even when I played football coming up, they nicknamed me ['Mo Muscle'] because I was always in the gym. I was always lifting. I was always punishing people. Once I got the name, 'Mo Muscle,' I was like, 'I like that, I’m gonna run with that,'” he said.
“He has everything that you can’t coach," Cutler said. :You can’t coach somebody to be an athlete. To have the heart. To have the will to win.”
But that wasn't enough in his last fight. In a bout broadcast on ESPN+, De'Reese suffered his first professional loss to Kevin Tiller via tapout in front of friends and family.
“I kind of felt like I let everybody down," he said. "So all that does is light a fire under me and keep pushing and take it out on this next opponent.“
He'll fight next in New Jersey Aug. 8, and his coaches feel he's turned a corner. And if he picks the winning back up, he'll fulfill a promise he made to himself.
“The end goal originally is to be able to help people struggling, coming up, like how I came up," he said. "A lot of family, and the neighborhoods I grew up in, to be able to give them something, to help push them towards their dreams, and show them that you can start off here, but that don’t mean you have to stay here.”