Owasso native Jared McLoughlin will fight Kelvin Rayford Saturday as the main event of Kingdom Combat Sports at the Biltmore Hotel in Oklahoma City. COURTESY PHOTO/Chavo Photography

Jared McLoughlin has long been fascinated by the world of mixed martial arts.

As a second grader, McLoughlin sported a Chuck Liddell-inspired Mohawk haircut. By his freshman year at Owasso, he began training at Clinch Martial Arts Academy. A three-year wrestler and captain for OHS, McLoughlin also began to sharpen his skills in the art of jiu-jitsu and competed in several tournaments locally.

The 2017 graduate is in the midst of chasing his dream as a professional fighter. The 20-year-old welterweight has won two of his first three fights.

“The violence of the octagon,” McLoughlin listed when describing what appealed to him about the MMA world. “I just think it’s a cool sport.”

McLoughlin’s biggest fight yet takes place Saturday when he takes on Kelvin Rayford as the main event of Kingdom Combat Sports at the Biltmore Hotel in Oklahoma City, Rayford’s hometown.

McLoughin has made significant strides in a short time, considering his pro debut took place under less than ideal circumstances and, predictably, had a less than ideal outcome.

After rolling through two amateur opponents with first-round victories in the fall of 2017, a knockout of Kane Moten and a triangle choke of Cale Bryant, McLoughlin decided to move try his hand at the professional ranks.

“It was obviously a gamble, but I went ahead and took the step up,” McLoughlin said.

Itching to get a pro fight under his belt, McLoughlin responded to a promoter who had messaged him on Facebook in early December 2017. The fight against fellow welterweight Matt Dixon took place at the River Spirit Casino in Tulsa just four days later after the terms were finalized.

“I wanted to get back in there and I jumped at the opportunity,” McLoughlin said.

Dixon won the fight in a first-round TKO, not the outcome McLoughlin had hoped.

“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “I took it on four days notice. Having my friends and family put a lot of pressure on me.”

Still licking his wounds, McLoughlin was at a crossroads in his life. Was the MMA world for him? Or should he pursue a different career path?

McLoughlin enrolled at Tulsa Community College in January 2018 but withdrew a few weeks later. Instead, he chose to devote himself to fighting.

“I didn’t want to end up in a job I didn’t really care about,” McLoughlin said.

McLoughlin packed up and headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in February. He moved there to train at Jackson Wink MMA Academy, a professional MMA training facility. The gym has reputation for grooming fighters, such as Jon Jones and Holly Holm, into household names.

“The success the gym has, gives it a level of respect that a lot of people want to come out here,” McLoughlin said. “People from all over the world come to train.”

Two months after his 19th birthday, McLoughlin notched his first pro win in June 2018 with a second round submission of Brandon Wright at Fists of Fury in Chickasha. On July 27, McLoughlin collected his second win with a rear naked choke against Zach Long in the first round of the KC Fighting Alliance 34 in Independence, Missouri.

Wright and Long, like Rayford, entered those bouts with more fighting experience than McLoughlin. But Owasso native looks to continue the momentum accumulated over the last two fights.

“I think it’s going to be a good fight,” McLoughlin said of his upcoming match with Rayford. “I think I’m going to come out victorious and I think it’ll be another early finish.”

Tickets for the fight are available by searching ‘Kingdom Combat Sports’ on Stubwire.com.