In early march, Kalvin Hackney stood ready to make his major promotion debut on Bellator 36 in Shreveport.
That opportunity fell through when his opponent was moved into the feature 155-pound tournament of that show, leaving Hackney temporarily out in the cold.
Good fortune has smiled upon the Pineville native, though, and Hackney will make his national promotion debut Saturday night. He’ll face Renê Nazare of Ithica, N.Y., at Bellator 45 at the L’Auberge Du Lac Casino in Lake Charles.
Nazare, who sports an 8-0 record, is an accomplished fighter and multiple-time world Jiu Jitsu champion.
“I’ve been fighting killers for the last two years,” Hackney said, “but it’s about to go to another level with Renê Nazare. He’s a top-ranked guy with an amazing track record.”
Hackney will enter the fight with a comparable record at 13-1, but expects to be viewed as the underdog.
“The way the Bellator promoters talk, he’s their poster boy,” Hackney said. “He’s the future and, honestly, a lot of people feel that I am already beaten. But, you know, I’ve trained hard and I’m ready. I was blessed in a way that the first Bellator fight fell through because it gave me more time to prepare for this amazing opportunity.”
Hackney, the first local fighter to achieve any level of national notoriety, admits to some nervousness heading into this fight.
“I’ve worked extremely hard to get my record to what it is,” Hackney said, “but I’m not so much concerned about winning and losing right now. I’m nervous. I don’t mind admitting that, but it’s not that I am afraid to lose. I’m afraid of letting the people of Alexandria and Pineville down.”
Much has changed for Hackney since the false start at Bellator 36.
Once a fighter for Bull’s Gym, he now works independent of any team. Hackney’s key trainer holds no gym or team affiliation. She’s not even old enough to drive.
“People will laugh, but the person who helped me the most through this was my 9-year-old daughter, Justice Hackney,” Kalvin said. “She really was my strength and conditioning coach. We’d go out to the park together, I’d put on a weight vest, and we’d go to work.”
In preparation for his big fight, Hackney has paid visits to virtually every gym in Central Louisiana, most recently SIFT MMA in Tioga, a gym he had no previous history with other than professional association.
Kalvin Hackney and SIFT MMA fighter Chance Terrell perform ground drills
“Kalvin approached me a few weeks back about training here part time,” said Dan Gilliland, owner of and head trainer at SIFT MMA in Tioga. “He wasn’t looking for a place to call home, just a place where he could work against some live competition. I’ve always liked Kalvin. He’s always shown a lot of class, and it’s a measure of my respect for him that I opened my gym to him the past two or three weeks.”
Gilliland and Kirk Bullock, Hackney’s former trainer, like his chances in Lake Charles.
“He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in,” Gilliland said. “He gave some of my bigger guys all they could handle. I suspect he’ll do well. If he brings to bear all of his talents, I don’t see anyone getting the better of him. Win or lose he will have a good showing.”
“I wish nothing but the best for Kalvin,” Bullock said. “I’m still a Hackney fan. I want him to win as bad as anybody. His opponent is a tough Jiu Jitsu guy, but if Kalvin fights the way he knows how to fight, nobody’s going to beat him. Kalvin is a dominant fighter. As long as he remembers that, he will be fine.”
ANOTHER LOCAL GETS HIS SHOT
In addition to Hackney’s big moment, longtime Bull’s Gym fighter Ben Parpart (2-2) will also take part on the Bellator undercard with a 140-pound match against Slidell’s Joseph Abercrombie (2-1).
“Ben has been a driving force behind Bull’s Gym for many years,” Bullock said. “He’s a workhorse and the guy who kind of kept everyone together and focused in our gym for years. He definitely deserved a shot on a card like this.”
It’s a fight that Parpart, normally a 125-pound fighter, is taking on with less than five days’ notice.
“It’s a challenge for Ben,” Bullock said.
“He’s giving up a good 15 pounds and has only had about four days to prepare for this. Would we have liked to have more time to train? Absolutely. But life isn’t always ideal and opportunities like this don’t come along every day. Ben’s game. He’s always up for the challenge. That’s what I really respect about him as a fighter. I called him a few days ago and told him we had a Bellator fight in four days if he wanted it. He said yes with no reservations.”