IT'S NOT PERSONAL ... IT'S JUST BUSINESS

Cover Story
2016
July/August

If you know Jason Preston, you probably either love him or hate him. He’s a big dude with an even bigger personality. He sports a Mohawk. He physically takes up space. He also drives a jacked up Ford Excursion that floats above an extreme lift kit, which is perched on top of four gigantic tires. Among the other “in-your-face” graphics, that appear on the bright red and black vehicle wrap, are several different photos of Preston himself, larger than life and mean mugging whatever tiny passenger car that dares approach.

Known as “The Predator,” Preston has years under his belt as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter. Largely made a household name by The Ultimate Fighting Championship, the combat sport in recent years has adopted rules and regulations that perhaps made these otherwise less predictable fighting events more palatable for mainstream audiences, some of whom might have dismissed the often violent and sometimes bloody fights that both attracted and revolted audiences in the sport’s earlier days. 

By this point, Preston has had a lengthy career in MMA. His amateur career lasted 16 years, and during that time he went 15 and 6. He is now at the professional career level, and currently sits at 2 and 0. Looking at him today, he seems like a perfect fit in the MMA world, a no-brainer, and meant to be destined fighter; but it wasn’t always that way for him.

Born in Tyler, Texas, Preston was raised in Whitehouse, Texas and went to school there. “Pre K through 12th grade in Whitehouse ISD,” he says. “I’m one of the survivors.” With a slight smirk, Preston describes a roster of his classmates who found themselves in trouble’s path during their school years together and beyond. 

Early on in his life, Preston says he began to assume a role he describes as “protector.” He had no father around, and three sisters to take care of, but his height and bulk made him an intimidating presence. Even still, Preston was shy. He wasn’t involved in a lot of school activities other than football. He developed friendships with other kids who seemed to need a leader, a direction. 

One night, while Preston sat at home, he noticed smoke coming out of his neighbor’s house. He ran outside only to discover flames. Without thinking, he grabbed a water hose and ran towards the fire. 

“Here I was, 16 years old, and I run outside,” Preston recalls. “The flames were 20 feet tall, and I’m trying to spray it off with a water hose.” Preston knew that his next-door neighbor was still inside. “His room was completely engulfed. At the time, my adrenaline was going and I just wasn’t really thinking too clearly.” But he jumped in and did the only thing he knew to do. The fire trucks eventually arrived, and the fire was put out, but sadly his neighbor did not survive. 

Morning came, and it was a school day. “I didn’t go to school that day until about 1 p.m.; why I even went in, I don’t really know,” Preston shares. After the fire, he was physically exhausted and emotionally raw. He tried to focus on school work just to make it through the afternoon.

“I was in the library finishing my report on Ponce de Leon, when this senior walks by and smashed me in the back of the head. I turned around, mad already from the the night before, and I just said, ‘Don’t touch me.’ He kept on walking,” Preston recalls. 

But the senior came back to attack, popping Preston on the back of the head again. This time, Preston offered no verbal warning.  

“Back then, I was a big kid. I stood up so fast, that my chair flew out from under me,” Preston says. The two boys began to argue, and the senior quickly warned Preston that their teacher was coming. “I turn around to look, and her back was turned to me. As I was turning back to face him, he punched me twice in the face. [He] broke my nose and blood was going everywhere. And I snapped. I went straight to a football tackle. I picked him up, dropped him and the fight was on. He never got back up ‘til they pulled me off of him.”

 

In some ways, although violent, this experience seemed to position Preston for other things. “Once I realized fighting didn’t hurt, well ... to me, fighting wasn’t this big thing. I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. I was a protector. I had three sisters growing up, I had a lot of friends who weren’t my size, and a lot of friends who were girls. [The] people who couldn’t always keep themselves out of trouble,” Preston recalls. He says that whatever they got into, he was there to do the clean up. But playing the role of amateur protector comes with its own set of consequences.  

“During that time, I got into my fair share of trouble,” Preston admits. His troubled days culminated in one altercation that forever changed Preston’s life. “I knocked a guy out in the parking lot of a gas station, and left him unconscious. His girlfriend called the cops, and I ended up going to jail for assault.”

Preston says he earned some time in county, time that allowed him space to think. He knew he needed change in his life. He needed direction. 

Soon after he finished serving his time, Preston went to watch a fight at the Oil Palace. “I stood up the whole time. I couldn’t sit down. It was an experience,” Preston recalls. He realized at that moment what he wanted to do. “All the years I was growing up, people would ask me, ‘what are you going to do when you grow up?’ There were three things I wanted to be: a wrestler, a race-car driver or a monster truck driver.”

Preston says his mother still keeps the certificate he filled out as a student nearing his high school graduation, where he described his dreams of big fights and extreme sports. “I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I had the utmost confidence it was going to happen. I watched a lot of wrestling growing up, and I wanted to have it. I wanted that lifestyle to happen,” he says. 

Preston threw himself into pursuing his MMA career, and he began to rise rapidly within the combat world. Regional fights led to opportunities in Las Vegas, and Preston found himself staring down the barrel of a professional fighting career. 

The dream was right there, but so was something else: a baby girl. “I was in Vegas. I had the whole thing going for me and I was self-promoting. I had my Excursion, [and] I had my Mohawk. I was ‘country.’ People ate it up. [Promoters] told me I’d be in the WWE in two years,” Preston recalls. The opportunity was there, but the sacrifice was too great. “I turned their offer down. I just couldn’t be on the road that much. You’re on the road 300 days a year,. You live in hotels.” 

After growing up with very little direction and with no father around, Preston knew that being a father to his baby girl was more important than anything else. The Predator needed to become her protector, so he left Vegas and headed back home. 

Home isn’t so bad for Preston. “Everyone around here, people treat me like family,” Preston shares.  “I’m in touch with my sponsors just about everyday. I get taken care of here, at home, better than I ever did in Vegas.” In fact, promoters like Legacy have taken notice of The Predator’s work, and his professional fighting career is back on track. 

Informed by years and experience, Preston is forging his career path with a renewed focus and strong standards. For one, he refuses to fight unless the event is televised. Although promoters are trying to sign him, he hesitates to saddle himself to one company.

After having a major shoulder surgery, Preston is also poised to fight with far more comfort and stability. And although his physical ability is key, a completely different strength is pushing his professional career along. Obsessed with his own promotion, Preston handles a rigorous self-marketing campaign that often attracts compliments from industry professionals. 

In a field that is driven by private promotional outfits like Legacy, Preston is carving out his own path as a guy who is not afraid to demand attention. The posts he makes on his Facebook page frequently attract thousands of impressions, and his larger than life persona draws in fans and followers. Not everyone is a fan though. In fact, Preston recently stood next to a woman who was disparaging his aggressive vehicle. But that doesn’t deter him from being true to himself, and focused on promoting his image. 

“The way I see it, it's not personal … it’s just business,” Preston says, reciting a slogan he frequently uses to describe his unique approach to his own career. “This is what you have to do: start now! I’ve had my first two pro fights. The first was in Dallas and I knocked him out in 45 seconds with a right hook. The second fight was in Fort Worth, and I knocked him out in 54 seconds, in the first round.” 

On July 23rd, Jason “The Predator” Preston will return to the facility that launched his commitment to the fighting world. The Oil Palace will host the Rose City Showdown, and Preston will face Juan Torres in the octagon. “He’s a southpaw, a brawler; he likes to exchange,” Preston says. “Anyone who is confident enough to get in front of me and exchange, it’s not going to end well for them. I’ve got good hand movement, and a strong right hook. I’ve ended both my last two fights with a right hook.”

It’s that brash confidence (cockiness?) that either draws people in or pushes them away, but Preston’s unwavering belief in his own ability has surely helped him succeed in a business as challenging as professional fighting. “It’s slow and steady that wins the race,” he claims. 

Time will tell the rest of the Predator’s story, but this father is sure to fight for every inch of success he can dream up. “As long as you have the grind and the work ethic, you can be anything you want to be,” Preston says. 

 

 

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