Donovan Beard looked to be in a decent spot. Training in his hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas with a healthy crop of clients to work with on the side, things were looking good for “The Highlight Reel.” Then, when he captured the vacant CFFC middleweight title with a triangle-choke finish of Miles Lee at CFFC 111, things looked even better.
But, just as it seemed Beard’s momentum appeared unstoppable, a series of setbacks threatened to derail his entire career.
First, he was called up for Dana White’s Contender Series, where he lost to uber-prospect Bo Nickal in just 52 seconds. Then a planned CFFC title defense was scrapped two months later. Then, after that, a clash of heads during training kicked off a chain of events that ended with him punching a hole in the gym’s bathroom wall in frustration and being thrown out of his gym as a result.
“After that, I was just in such an emotional state that I really wasn’t talking to nobody because of how embarrassed I was at myself that I acted that way,” Beard told CFFC.tv.
“I ain’t done nothing like that since I was a teenager playing video games. You would have thought somebody would have grown up by now and not do stuff like that, but dammit, you know, stuff happens.
“I got a call from my head coach who owns the building telling me how disappointed he is, how mad he is, how I shouldn’t have done that, and I apologized profusely and assured him that I wouldn’t do nothing like that. I just acted out of emotion, and it wasn’t nothing out of spite or anything like that, and he basically told me that this is grounds for termination. I was already training my clients there, so I couldn’t do that anymore either.”
Banned from his longtime gym, Beard moved back to Dallas to return to his family and make a fresh start.
“I call my mom one day and was like, ‘Hey, you got any extra room in your place?'” Beard said.
“She does, and she told me to come on up, and I’ve been staying with her for a few months and been training at Genesis Jiu-Jitsu, and everything’s been great ever since.
“We weren’t doing anything in a gi at my old gym ever, and grappling in the gi is a whole new thing to me, and it still is because I’m learning all types of new things on a regular basis from all types of the top-level athletes and black belts.
“I’m just totally grateful for that promotion and the gym and the people in the gym, and everything’s just been going great since I’ve been there, honestly.”
Now settled with his new gym and team, Beard returns to action on Thursday night at CFFC 119, where he’ll put his title on the line against Greg Ellis in the headline bout of the night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Florida.
It’s a chance to build some fresh momentum after a frustrating period in his career that included that quickfire loss to Nickal on the Contender Series.
“He did what he was supposed to do,” Beard said.
“He got the win and got the exposure and everything else, but I’m just like, ‘Man, I’ll fight that dude. Give me another chance right now. I’m not letting that slide.’
“That was the only person that ever beat me, hands down – beat me without a judge – and I didn’t like that too much. Not only because he beat me, because I beat myself.
“Before I walked in there, I had all these doubts from all these people who I thought were my friends and family and teammates and everything else, and I’m trying to overcome their way of thinking and override it with my way of thinking, but it was that one moment where I had let that negative energy into my mind, and that’s what caused me to lose.”
It’s the start of a new chapter for Beard, who hopes to continue his path with his new gym and, eventually, earn a shot at redemption in the Contender Series a little further down the line.
“Well, I definitely plan on staying in Dallas to work on my craft and my martial arts skills at Genesis Jiu-Jitsu as long as they’ll have me,” he said.
“We’re going to get these wins and maybe go back to the Contender Series or maybe we have a short-notice fight in the UFC. Whatever is in the plan, I’m going to make sure I’m going to do everything I can to accomplish those goals.”