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Pat Healy rising through Strikeforce ranks after tough journey

Healy faces Eric Wisely in one of five main cards at Strikeforce Challengers 18 Friday

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pat Healy throws a punch at Josh Thomson during a Strikeforce event last year. Healy lost the fight via third round submission.

If You Go

  • What: Strikeforce Challengers 18
  • When: Friday, August 12, 6 p.m.
  • Where: The Pearl At The Palms
  • Tickets: $65 to $175, Ticketmaster

Dan Hardy, Paul Daley and Carlos Condit have more in common than the fact they all ascended to nearly the top of the UFC welterweight division within the past two years.

All three respected mixed martial arts veterans hold a loss to current Strikeforce lightweight Pat Healy within the first five years of his career. Healy, who fights Eric Wisely on the Strikeforce Challengers 18 card at 6 p.m. Friday at the Palms, didn’t take a traditional route and ease into MMA.

He fought top competition from the first moment he could at 18 years old.

“I was just in college wrestling and didn’t have anybody really looking out for my career,” Healy said. “I had a guy who would throw me any fight that came up. They offer you a couple thousand dollars and that’s tough to turn down.”

Although the experience helped Healy mature as a fighter and receive early exposure, it affected him negatively in other ways. He didn’t get past every notable name he encountered back then.

Current standouts Chris Leben, Chris Lytle and Jay Hieron are among those who defeated Healy. Although the majority of his losses were respectable, they left him with a marred record.

Healy enters his fight with Wisely sporting 26 wins and 17 losses in his professional career, a respectable mark but not one on par with other fighters at the top level of the sport.

“It hurt as far as when people look at my record and see the number of losses,” Healy said. “They don’t take me as serious. Past promoters would make it a holdback and it definitely hurt me on the money side.”

But Healy is hoping he’s changing that perception. Since summer 2008, he’s gone on a 6-2 run and dropped from the 170-pound division to the 155-pound class.

Healy notched his most notable victory of the past five years his last time out. He won a unanimous decision over Lyle Beerbohm, who had been 16-0 and hailed as one of the brightest prospects in Strikeforce.

“He really had fought a lot of opponents and guys from his local area,” Healy said. “He didn’t get out and fight other guys. Records can be really misleading. I think it’s the same case with mine.”

Based on post-fight comments, Beerbohm may have underestimated Healy because of how he looked on paper.

“I put myself in bad positions because I didn’t respect his grappling,” Beerbohm told MMAjunkie.com after the loss.

While on the subject of misconceptions about him, Healy has another to add. He said too many opponents considered him a one-dimensional wrestler because of his college days at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and association with Team Quest in Portland, Ore.

But Healy has spent the past few years traveling to become a more complete fighter. He’s trained at Xtreme Couture locally with muay thai ace Martin Kampmann and frequently jetted to Hawaii to test his Brazilian jiu-jitsu out with former UFC champion B.J. Penn.

“A lot of guys are too worried that they might have to fight someone they train with in the future or that they’ll know too much about them,” Healy said. “I don’t really worry about that. I think whenever you go somewhere with different guys, you learn a lot. That outweighs the negatives.”

His tendency to travel and work with other fighters is just another area where Healy is unique.

With all the frustration it has caused with his record, Healy could easily look back now and regret the decision to take so many tough bouts as a young fighter. But he chooses to think he wouldn’t have reached the level he’s now approaching without those experiences.

“I think it ultimately helped,” Healy said, “but I’ve paid the price for that for a long time.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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