Six weeks ago, Eddie Gordon had a job. A good job. A full-time job. In one office, complete with suits, ties, desks and numbers.
Now he goes from one place to another in a T-shirt and shorts. But here's the difference: Now he's a full-time fighter. No more business first, fighting second. Gordon's job is mixed martial arts, his office a cage.
Gordon, who starred on the football field first for Freeport High School, then for Fordham, left his job to focus on his next athletic endeavor. No more spreadsheets and calculators for the reigning Ring of Combat light heavyweight champion.
"You can't compete with numbers," said Gordon, 29. "They are what they are."
Gordon makes his first title defense Friday against Anton Talamantes in Atlantic City. Ring of Combat, run by Lou Neglia of Bellmore, is a highly respected regional MMA promotion that has sent more than 50 fighters to the UFC over the years.
"I've seen him weather storms, I've seen him look like he was almost going to get a kimura, and hang in there and not tap out," Neglia said. "And that's very special in a fighter."
On those tough, grind-it-out training days when giving up a steady paycheck in uneasy economic times seems like the not-so-smart decision, Gordon need only look around his gym for inspiration. There, he'll see UFC top middleweight contender Chris Weidman, rising middleweight Costa Philippou, "Ultimate Fighter Live" finalist Al Iaquinta, and of course, former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra.
"It makes that dream tangible," Gordon said. "You see what they're doing. You're doing the same workouts, you're working hard, you're sparring them, so you get to gauge where you're at. It is absolutely phenomenal. You try to take little bits and pieces from these guys."
It was that first time he saw Weidman in a gym that helped set him down this path. It was August 2009, the day after Gordon and a friend returned from Philadelphia. They knew each other from high school wrestling days, Gordon a 2001 Nassau County champion for Freeport, Weidman a 2002 New York State champion at Baldwin. A conversation or two later, and Gordon was down at Ray Longo MMA in Garden City.
Less than 48 hours before that random run-in with Weidman, Gordon had been at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia watching UFC 101 and doing what many people do: saying to himself, "I can do that."
Of course, Gordon is unlike many people. In fourth grade, he weighed 135 pounds and earned the nickname "Truck" because he used to run over his older brother's friends playing football in the park.
But MMA -- particularly Brazilian jiujitsu -- has a way of humbling even the most accomplished athletes from other sports.
"My first day, I took a jiujitsu class and I fell in love with it," Gordon said, laughing as he recalled the many defeats from that day three years ago. "I was using all strength, no technique. How is this 150-pound guy grabbing my leg and doing this? From then on, I had to figure this out."
Gordon will say it before anyone else does: He needs more work on his ground game. But he's 5-0 as a pro, 8-0 overall, so he's doing something right.
"Eddie didn't have any combative experience," trainer Ray Longo said. "He came off the football fields at Fordham. He's another blue-collar guy, he never complains about anything, but he always rises to the occasion when he fights."