Adam Cella will complete his mixed martial arts career in front of a home crowd in Arnold.
Cella, 35, of Imperial is set to take on Jordan Fowler, 29, of Bono, Ark., in the main event of a 15-match card scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at Arnold Eagles Hall, 1725 Jeffco Blvd.
Nemesis Fighting Alliance is promoting the bouts.
Tickets are no longer available, but the “Nemesis 3” matches may be seen on pay per view through the website
“It just seemed more fitting to do it at home,” Cella said of ending his 15-year MMA career. Cella’s professional MMA run started in 2012, and he amassed a 9-10 record.
He has fought in the UFC, Shamrock FC, MMAX, World Series of Fighting (now the Professional Fighters League) and Bellator MMA promotions. He even appeared on the 17th season of the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter TV series, taking part in two bouts televised on FX.
Cella and Fowler are scheduled to compete in the 210-pound light heavyweight class, despite both fighters competing most of their careers in the 185-pound middleweight class.
Brad Cary, who is helping organize the event, along with Nemesis promoter Marlene Kelly, said it is exciting for Cella to close his career with a hometown promotion.
“It is over-the-top great,” said Cary of Realty Executives Premiere and president of the Arnold Chamber of Commerce. “He had many other options, and he reached out to us to be part of this and finish his career at home.”
Cella said his MMA career path started after he graduated from Seckman High School in 2003.
He said he was eating a lot of fast food at the time and didn’t like the way he looked.
“I was like, ‘Oh, man, you need to do something about this,’” Cella said.
That “something” turned into MMA after his father took him to an event at the South Broadway Athletic Club in St. Louis.
“I met Mike Green (a Missouri MMA pioneer who fought out of the South Broadway Athletic Club), and he introduced me to the gym,” Cella said. “I started training. I lost 40 or 50 pounds right away.
“I started sparring a little bit, and the coach of the gym said this kid is not bad, and he asked if I wanted to do kickboxing. That is how it started.”
Cella fought in the World Combat League, a kickboxing league owned and operated by martial-arts legend Chuck Norris, and he moved into MMA by adding boxing, wrestling, jiujitsu, judo and Muay Thai kickboxing to his fighting toolbox.
Along with landing him on TV, Cella’s MMA career has taken him to Stockholm, Sweden, Tel Aviv, Israel, and Kazakhstan.
In Sweden, Cella said he faced that country’s No. 2-ranked fighter and lost. But the 2013 trip also made him feel like he was truly a professional.
“I’m walking out there, and there were like 25,000 or 30,000 people booing me,” Cella said. “I looked back at my corner man and was like, ‘Dude, we made it. This is awesome.’”
Cella said one of his biggest accomplishments in the sport was appearing on the Ultimate Fighter TV show.
He said the timing was great because episodes were airing when his class celebrated its 10-year reunion.
“I showed up to that, and I remember a woman said, ‘Are you like the most successful one of our class?’” Cella said. “I laughed because my friend develops and designs prosthetic limbs. He is a legit, smart doctor making a change in the world, and I’m just an idiot who fights for money. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, no, but thank you.’
“That was cool being the quote, unquote, cool kid at school.”
While competing in the sport, Cella also worked in the heating and cooling profession, joining his family’s business, Degenhardt Heating and Cooling.
“That sets me aside from a lot of people,” Cella said. “I was able to achieve a pretty high level while keeping a career. Most people just do MMA fighting as their career.”
Cella said he has no regrets about not pursuing MMA as a full-time career.
He said he has created a stable life for himself, his wife, Ginnylyn, their 8-year-old son, Nathan, and the daughter the couple is expecting.
“I look at where I am now. I have a house. I have a car. I have a wife and a son, and we have a baby on the way. Everything is going my way, and I have a little money in the bank,” Cella said.
Cella said he’s retiring from MMA because it’s getting harder to keep up with opponents in their 20s, like Evan Elder of Hillsboro and Max Choriev of south St. Louis County, who he trains.
“After 10 rounds, I’m sitting down like I’m tired, and they are ready to go another 10 or 20 rounds,” Cella said. “I’m like, I don’t have that anymore.”
Cella said Elder has moved to Florida to pursue an MMA career.
“He is going to be something special,” Cella said. “The crazy thing is, he has always been compared to me, but I have always said, ‘I was never that good. That kid has more talent now than I have ever had.’ I mean that.”
However, Cella will be out to prove his talent in the MMA cage on Saturday when he squares off against Fowler.
The 6-foot-3 Cella said he does not know much about his opponent, who is 6 feet tall and has a 2-3-1 professional record and holds the record for the quickest knockout by an amateur in Arkansas MMA history, scoring a KO in four seconds.
Fowler said he is the head MMA coach at Warrior Gym in Bono, Ark., and a police officer in Jonesboro, Ark. He said he also works in construction.
He said he is looking forward to competing against Cella, and he knows the crowd will be on his opponent’s side.
“Obviously, if you have 19 pro fights, you have been around the block a time or two,” Fowler said. “I’m looking to give him a banger, and I hope it is not the result he is hoping for.”
Cella said he has an idea of how he wants his career to end.
“I would love to throw one punch, get a KO and not get hurt,” Cella said. “Truthfully, I would like to get a clean knockout with no controversary or questions, just come out and fire on all cylinders. If I am firing on all cylinders, it is like the song, ‘I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.’ I promise I still have enough left in the tank to be the 25-year-old Adam at least one more time.”
No matter how the bout ends, Cella said his fighting career ends after Saturday.
“I feel like I have done what most of the people in this sport will never do, and I am happy with it,” Cella said. “I feel I can ride off into the sunset no matter what.”
While Cella vs. Fowler is the main draw, there will be plenty of other action at Nemesis 3.
The card also calls for amateur light heavyweight champion Tivon Taylor to take on Kendon Smallwood; Ben Bennet vs. Jeremiah Curtright of St. Charles; Michael Manning against Seth Swineheart; Brendan Cadwallader fighting Alex Hanson; Brendon Battles vs. Scott Marler; JJ Meyer vs. Jordan Baxter; Justin Richter competing against Tyler Hatfield; Brendan Wolf fighting Connor Eskridge; Stephanie Hunsche vs. Nicole Mazzuca; Kade Warren against Arek Galang; Austin Stufleben battling Richard Jones; and Dan Boyer facing Patrick Mahon.
Shad Walters also is scheduled to fight in a 125-pound K-1 bout, but his opponent was not announced at Leader press time Monday. Promoters said the card is subject to change.
Cary said tickets for the event were limited to allow for social distancing, and he said attendees will be required to wear a mask during the show.
“We are doing the best we can to keep everyone safe, while still trying to entertain people,” Cary said. “We are bringing in some exciting fighters from out of state to our lovely hometown.”