Once he steps into the ring, mixed martial artist Lance Gibson Jr. becomes fearless.
At 24 years old, the Federal Way native recently signed with Bellator MMA and will debut in his first televised fight Saturday, Oct. 26, hosted at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
“If you want an opportunity like this to come to fruition, you’ve got to stay dedicated,” Gibson said. For this fight, he amped up the intensity to focus on cardio and explosiveness, training twice a day, six days a week, for three months.
The 5-foot-10, 155-pound fighter holds a professional MMA record of 2-0-0. Gibson signed to Bellator MMA in the spring of 2019 after his amateur career took off with a crowd-wowing fight.
On March 8, Gibson, who held a record of 1-0-0 at the time, took on Myles Merola, a veteran lightweight fighter with a record of 11-7-0 before facing Gibson. Just after three minutes in the first round, Gibson won with a Technical Knockout (TKO).
“It was a big step up, on paper,” Gibson said. “But I had always been ready for it.”
Preparation for a fight is equal parts mental and physical, Gibson said.
This win skyrocketed Gibson’s career and caught the attention of Bellator, one of the largest American mixed martial arts companies in the world featuring upper echelon athletes in combat sports.
So far, Gibson holds two professional wins and five amateur fights under his belt — a record free from losses.
“I can’t even explain the feeling, it’s a rush,” he said of competing. “I take it as an art more so versus fighting … it’s something that’s very technical and beautiful to me.”
The combat sport, though, is in his bloodline.
His coach, and father, is Lance “Fearless” Gibson Sr., a Canadian former mixed martial artist in the Middleweight division.
Since he was a baby, Gibson has been around the sport. At just a few months old, Gibson was sitting in a car-seat ring-side, watching his father train twice a day, every day.
“Especially as a child when you’re developing, your brain is processing all of that,” Gibson said. “That’s why I say it’s in my genetics … just being around it my entire life.”
After his parents caught him climbing and jumping the baby gate at home at 12 months old, Gibson soon began his training at the age of 2 and competing at age 4.
His fun energy release as a kid quickly took hold as a lifelong passion.
“Other kids would be at a playground, and I’d be doing cartwheels and round-offs and kicking and punching … climbing whatever I could in the gym,” Gibson said. “The gym was my playground as a kid, then it just became my life.”
He attended Illahee Middle School in Federal Way, where he competed in any and every sport he could. As a pre-teen, word of his name and talents spread quickly, said Teshia Flowers, Gibson’s mother.
He then went on to discover the world of wrestling and become an All-American wrestler, competing with the Federal Way Spartans club team. Coach Carpio from the Spartans built Gibson’s foundational understanding of the sport, Gibson said.
Gibson briefly attended Decatur High School, notably starting as a freshman on the varsity football team, then transferred to Todd Beamer and wrestled for the Titans before opting in to Running Start.
At age 17, Gibson moved to Canada to live with dad and grandparents, and ultimately decided to begin his MMA career.
His first fight he won in the first round by TKO, despite not knowing or training for his opponent, Gibson said.
Gibson’s motherbwas in the crowd of his first fight and couldn’t believe the audience members’ cheers and excitement were all for her son, she said.
“He’s so kind and he’s so sweet, so it’s hard to picture him doing those things,” his mother said about his personality contrasting his passion. “I couldn’t picture him fighting … but the first fight, he made me a believer.”
One of the most pivotal fights of his budding career was a hometown rivalry against MMA fighter Dylan Aparis to defend Gibson’s 155-pound Pacific Northwest Championship title in August 2016.
Aparis, a senior when Gibson was a freshman at Decatur, was a training partner in wrestling and longtime friend of Gibson’s. The challenge came as a surprise, Gibson said, but Aparis had asked specifically for him, not just the person with the belt.
“I trained as hard as I possibly could because that’s all that matters at the end of the day, not just talk or gossip,” Gibson said.
Hearing the roaring audience at Tulalip Resort and Casino, Gibson said it felt like the whole city of Federal Way was there to witness the showdown.
“My heart was pounding out of my chest,” Gibson said. But with one look at the cage, he calmed himself. “I thought ‘it is what it is.’ I’ve done all my training … I know what I’m capable of. [The crowd] is there to see me do my best — not to see me get stage fright.”
Gibson dominated in the first round, winning by submission in a guillotine choke in the second round and thus, held on to his champion title.
Fear nor fury faze Gibson, who emphasizes his connection to mind, body and soul.
“You don’t have to be angry,” he said of his competition mindset. “Actually, anger blinds you … I’m not here to hurt anybody, that’s the last thing I want to do.”
Continuing his education at Arizona State University and Highline College to study human nutrition, Gibson also spent weekends as a cornerman for stepmom Julia Budd, the first and current Bellator Women’s Featherweight world champion.
Gibson goes between Washington and Port Moody, British Columbia, where he is also an MMA trainer and enjoys fishing as his mental release.
And as for the nickname “Fearless,” Gibson said it follows in the footsteps of his dad. Gibson senior is known for his unwavering courage in the MMA cage, a trait seemingly passed down from one generation to the next.
Lance “Fearless” Gibson Jr. (2-0-0, ranked No. 11 in the Pacific Northwest) will face Dominic “Domination” Jones (2-2-0, ranked No. 145 in the US Northeast) at Bellator 232 at 7 p.m. ET in Uncasville, Connecticut Saturday, Oct. 26.
The fight can be viewed on the Paramount Network and DAZN.