NATE RUSSELL – Top Amateur Massachusetts Flyweight

Amateur MMA Fighter Focus

By: Thomas Vickers (Combat Sports Journalist)

NATE RUSSELL fights out of Massachusetts and trains under Fighting Arts Academy.  After nine plus years as an amateur MMA combatant Nate Russell has produced an outstanding (8-3) record and has claimed four promotional title belts.  His accomplishments in the cage make him a real standout among the amateur MMA flyweights throughout the northeast region.

(Photo Credit – Cage Wars)

Russell made his amateur debut in August of 2013 with a KO/TKO first round win over Matt Bergen (0-1) at Premier FC 14.  He went on to produce a four fight winning streak with a first round rear naked choke finish of Kenny Morell at Reality Fighting in November of 2013, followed by a second round finish over Jesse Gutierrez (0-3) in February of 2014 at Warrior Nation XFA 8.  Russell capped his four fight winning streak by capturing his first amateur MMA title belt with a second round rear naked choke submission victory against Jovany Alverez (6-4-1) for the vacant Premier FC amateur flyweight championship in February of 2016.  At an undefeated (4-0) Russell was off to a strong start as an amateur however in April of 2016 he came up short in a challenge for the Cage Titans amateur flyweight championship title.  Russell lost via first round rear naked choke to Richie Santiago (4-4) the defending Cage Titan champion.  It was his first loss inside the cage.  After a three year layoff Russell returned to the amateur MMA cage in July of 2019 to face an undefeated Jake Bagley (2-0) at AMMO Fight League 7 for the vacant AFL flyweight title.  A fight Russell won via a second round stoppage.  The Massachusetts flyweight marched on to gain a unanimous decision win over Josh Smith (6-2) in May of 2021 at Ultimate Battle Grounds 7.  Russell was developing and evolving into one of the best amateur flyweights in New England.  His performances began to gain the attention of fight fans throughout the northeast. In August of 2021 Russell gained his third amateur title strap winning the Cage Titan vacant amateur flyweight title by way of a second round rear naked choke over Joe Poirier (2-0).  With an impressive amateur record of (7-1) few in New England could doubt Russell’s skill set and ability.  With three title belts to his credit he had clearly forged out a name for himself among the northeast amateur flyweights.  In November of 2021 Russell stepped up to challenge Alex De La Cruz the Cage Wars flyweight champion. Cruz was undefeated with a strong amateur record of (4-0) and considered to be a rising prospect with a possible bright future as a pro on the horizon.  This would be Russell’s biggest test as an amateur.  Despite a hard fought effort Russell took the ‘L’ by way of unanimous decision.  The set back would be a short one as Russell made a dynamic rebound in March of 2022 to win the Cage Wars vacant amateur flyweight title.  Russell laid claim to the vacant Cage Wars flyweight title with an explosive first round knockout victory over a highly talented Xi Lau (8-3).  The win over Lau seemed to cement Russell as the top amateur flyweight in New England and place him among the best amateur flyweights in the northeast. 

(Photo Credit – Cage Wars)
(Photo Credit – Cage Wars)

in January of 2023 Russell made a run at the Cage Titans amateur flyweight title against Tyler Smythe but fell via unanimous decision.

I didn’t do anything we worked on in camp and I reverted back to bad habits.  I was too comfortable doing what has always worked for me and failed to make the necessary adjustments,” Russell commented on his loss to Smythe.  Russell felt Smythe was able to follow through with his game plan.  “I can only blame myself for not doing what I was supposed to do and thank him (Smythe) for showing me that my mistakes need to be fixed in order for me to get better and stay competitive.” 

With a near ten year amateur career behind him I asked Nate Russell who has been his most challenging opponent to date.  Russell explained to me Alex De La Cruz was without a doubt his biggest test inside the cage.  He added former opponent Richie Santiago turned out to be a great fighter but believes his loss to Santiago wasn’t as competitive due to Russell not delivering his best. 

When asked if he has considered turning professional Russell replied, “Yes but not just to say that I’m a pro fighter.  I have two goals.  One is to fight as long as possible and two is to fight the best guy available every fight I get.  No easy fights.”

Russell has attempted to balance his time between fighting and family, which is one of the biggest challenges a fighter can face.  Considering Russell’s age and that he is not getting any younger he feels it may be best to hold with three minute rounds versus move to five minute rounds, an effort to increase his longevity in the sport of MMA.  Russell believes the more experience he gains the more the solid competition pool begins to shrink at the amateur level.  As the pool of worthy regional amateurs dwindle, Russell may need to search for more options, a very common hurdle for most amateur fighters with notable talent and promise.  “Going pro will affect two of my priorities which are fighting as long as possible and spending time with my family.  If I can continue to fight high quality guys at the amateur level I will in order to keep my goals in line but that amateur window is closing fast and I don’t know how much time I have left,” stated Russell. 

If you are a fight fan from New England you are already well aware of the fact Nate Russell always takes the tough fights.  He is the definition of a real competitor, the type of fighter that is always looking for a bigger test.  Nate Russell is a true flyweight.  He has speed, movement, and grit.  He is dangerous in both standup and on the ground.  Nate Russell is an intelligent fighter with a vast level of experience.  He is extraordinarily well rounded and has an impressive wrestling background.  His experience and fight IQ make him a major threat and a formidable opponent for most any flyweight in the amateur game.  The Massachusetts flyweight explained he currently has some fight news lined up that should be coming out soon.  He believes there are still a couple good fights for him at the amateur level. “We gotta get through this one before we think about those.  We’ll see where it goes from there,” closed Russell.  It will be interesting to see what direction Russell’s MMA career goes.  Regardless the path Russell’s career takes moving forward, fight fans can be assured the Massachusetts flyweight will continue to wow the crowd with his high level skills and his extremely competitive spirit.

By: Thomas Vickers (Combat Sports Journalist)
Title Cover Photo Credit – AMMO FL

One comment

  • I’ve known this kid 15 years, he is the bravest , toughest guy I have ever known. If he says he is going to do something , he does it with no expectation of praise. I know his story, his hardships, I stood next to a stage at Springfield college as he accepted his masters degree. I just cried.


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