Josh Samman saw something in Brok Weaver way before anyone else did. Even Weaver, a fighter trying to make it on the regional pro MMA circuit after a rollercoaster amateur career, wasn’t sure if everything was going to pan out.
“Am I doing this all in vain?” thought Alabama’s Weaver. But he kept pushing, kept fighting, and when approached with a fight against highly-touted Florida prospect Socrates Pierre, he had no qualms about taking it.
“I was undefeated at the time,” recalled Weaver, who was 3-0 as a pro. “Socrates had big hype coming in, he was Josh’s protégé on the local shows and nobody wanted me to take the fight. Everybody’s like, ‘Nah, man, you’re not ready for him yet.’ I’m like, ‘I’m gonna smoke this dude. Get me in there with him.’”
With seconds remaining in the second round, Weaver’s confidence was rewarded with a submission victory that took place right in front of Samman, by then a UFC fighter with one Octagon win under his belt.
“I had done it right in the corner and Josh was like, ‘Do not tap, Soc, there’s three seconds,’” said Weaver. “After the fight, Josh found me at the after party and he said, ‘If you ever want to come to Miami and train, hit me up. There’s great fighters out there, people who can fight and people who’ve got a good story, but you’ve got that ‘it’ factor. You could be the next big thing.’
Weaver appreciated the kind words but brushed off the invitation. That big win over Pierre turned into a 1-3 stretch over the next year, and he needed a change and some direction.
“Partying and stuff got me,” he admits. “I had a couple losses, just wasn’t focused anymore and was kind of burned out on it. Dean Toole, one of the fight promoters and my best friend in the game, like a big bro to me, he said hit Josh up. See if he’s still got that opening.”
About three months away from getting evicted, Weaver got Samman’s number and gave him a call.
“I’ve got an extra room in my house right now that’s come available,” Samman said. “Move down here, I’ll find you a job and you can train with me every day.”
The Jackson native packed his bags and left for what he expected to be a two-month trip. He ended up staying a lot longer than that, gaining not just a training partner, but a friend, one who wasn’t just trying to make his own way in the UFC, but also trying to cope with the death of his girlfriend in a car accident in 2013.
One of the ways he did was through writing, with his memoir, The Housekeeper: Love, Death, and Prizefighting, gaining critical acclaim upon its release in 2016. But he was also chronicling the story of Weaver and his tribe, the MOWA Choctaw Indians, a process that was cathartic for the budding prizefighter.
“He had so much belief in me,” said Weaver. “It encouraged me and he had pages and pages and pages in his computer. There were nights of us sitting up until 3, 4 O’clock in the morning, just telling my story. He loved it.”
Samman had one condition on finishing the book, though.
“He told me, ‘The only way I’m putting you this much in the book is if you make it to the UFC,’” said Weaver, who was hit as hard as everyone in the MMA community on October 5, 2016, when what the Broward County chief medical examiner ruled as a “probable drug overdose” killed Samman at the age of 28.
“It crushed me,” said Weaver. “I lived a year with him and never did he do that. I never saw any signs. I saw a healthy eating person, he’d train as hard as he could two to three times a day. I think he just got around the wrong crowd, it brought up some memories and he just messed up.”
A month earlier, Weaver lost a Titan FC bout to Martin Brown, putting his record at 7-4. Not UFC caliber to say the least, but “Chata Tuska” was determined to get to the Octagon, to show those who believed in him that they right.
“No one is out there battling for a tribe,” he said. “My tribe is going down, I’m trying to bring them up. There’s stories out there that every hundred years a Choctaw warrior comes in and saves his people. Maybe that’s me.”
“Chata Tuska” means Choctaw warrior, and since the loss to Brown, Weaver has gone 7-0. In the seventh bout of that stretch last August, he decisioned Devin Smyth on season three of Dana White’s Contender Series and was awarded a UFC contract.
On Saturday, he breaks that contract in with a bout against Kazula Vargas in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
“It’s still really humbling and crazy,” said Weaver. “Every day I wake up and accept that I made it. I always knew I was gonna make it, but it never really hits you until you do.”
It wasn’t expected for him to make it here. But he’s here now. Just try to get rid of him.
“I was not athletic, not like my friends,” Weaver said. “All my boys are tremendous athletes – all of them could have been something at basketball, football or even fighting. All the MOWAs are just natural fighters. But they just let the world get to them after high school. I didn’t have none of that; I lost all the fights and lost all the games. My amateur career was up and down and everybody was telling me to quit, that I wasn’t gonna make it. But once I found that rhythm and that hype and I got on the next level, I hit on a win streak, people started really believing in me, and 13 years later, I’m here. It took me a very long time to get here; I took no shortcuts at all. I fought all the hardest fights, I took every fight I could, I was always put to the test, I’ve had plenty of wars.”
The 28-year-old is ready for more, because the story he began jotting down with Samman needs extra chapters. And he’s ready to write them with his fists.
“I want all the pressure because I shine the best under pressure,” he said. “When the lights hit me, that’s when I shine, that’s when I go into another mode, and that’s when it becomes my movie.”
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