The 31-year-old former Warrensburg High School wrestling standout and Division III collegiate national champion competed in his first amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) bout after training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to prepare. The training paid off during the event in late January, as he defeated his opponent by knockout in under a minute into the first round. That result, mixed with his freestyle wrestling background, was enough for Baker to sign a multi-fight contract with the New Jersey-based Caged Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC) in April.
Just two months later, Baker is set to make his professional debut during the CFFC XV pay-per-view event, taking place at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey beginning at 7:30 p.m. June 30. Despite the quick turnaround, Baker exudes confidence heading into his professional debut.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt,” said Baker. “I haven’t felt this good since I was wrestling in college. I had a nutritionist put a diet plan together. I made weight on time. I feel strong, I feel fast. It’s phenomenal; everything is coming together perfectly.”
The CFFC promotion realizes that Baker may not have the most MMA bouts under his belt, but his impressive debut and amateur wrestling background carries significant weight.
“First of all, it’s pretty rare that a guy can get licensed after just one amateur fight, but it’s no surprise to us that Lenny was able to get it because of his wrestling credentials,” said CFFC President Rob Haydak.
Haydak says his familiarity with one of Baker’s trainers, as well as that trainer’s enthusiastic support, helped in making the decision to sign the 155-pound fighter.
“One of the things that prompted us, really more than anything, was that he’s with a great training camp, Spa City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. We know one of the trainers there, Ed Fyvie, very well. He’s fought for us a number of times. Just through his excitement telling us that [Baker] is someone we should take a look at and thinking he was going to be someone special sort of piqued our interest.”
Haydak saw firsthand what Fyvie was talking about, and pursued Baker to sign with CFFC.
“We waited for that first amateur bout, and when it was pretty obvious he was going to turn professional, we made every effort on our part to sign him to a multi-fight contract.”
Baker’s background in wrestling started while at Warrensburg High School, before moving on to compete for SUNY Brockport. It was there he wrestled his way to the 2001 Division III 141-pound national championship. Baker says he started training in jiu-jitsu in hopes of becoming better-rounded as a fighter.
To prepare for this fight specifically, Baker says he’s sharpened up his takedowns and worked with his boxing coach Darin Rafferty to improve his striking power.
Baker’s opponent for the CFFC event is Judah Ciervo, who after beginning his professional career with a win, has lost his last two fights by TKO.
“He’s a taller guy with a muay thai background, so he’s going to be using a lot of kicks and knees,” said Baker. “Obviously the kryptonite to anyone throwing kicks would be a wrestler, so when he throws a kick I’m going to stand him on his head.”
Even if Ciervo’s done his homework on Baker, his debut fight back in January doesn’t give Ciervo much to prepare with. The fight, which is currently available in its entirety on YouTube, lasted less than a minute. Baker hit his opponent, Chris Lynde, with a double leg takedown before hitting him with several punishing right hands to score the knockout victory.
According to Baker, that’s exactly how he drew it up.
“I knew that guy wasn’t going to stop my takedowns, and I knew I was too fast for him. I just had to wait my turn, and once he stepped forward, I went for that takedown. You never know how it’s going to go, but fortunately it went the way I thought it would.”
As he transitions to his professional fighting career, Baker strives to remain grateful toward his family and trainers for the support they’ve provided him throughout his career. He has dedicated this fight to his aunt Rebecca Hitchcock, who passed away unexpectedly in late May.
“I’d also want to dedicate this fight to my caring mother and my hero, my dad,” said Baker.