Before Blair Phillips started his career as a mixed martial artist, he had to overcome many obstacles when he was younger.

It all started when he was born. Phillips was born in Starbrick to two parents who struggled with substance abuse. As a result, Phillips was raised by his grandmother in a trailer home in Warren. However, things weren’t much better there for him.

“It was just a really rough man,” Phillips said. “It was sad. It was depressing. All of my brothers were addicted to drugs. Everybody in my family was addicted to drugs. I didn’t have any hope. There was nobody in my community doing nothing. I never went to school. “

Phillips started getting into trouble with the law when he was 13 years old. Phillips started using drugs and first went to a juvenile detention center when was 15. Phillips was then sent to juvenile detention again at 17 before going to jail for robbery at 18. Phillips spent six years in jail and prison before getting out at 24. Phillips is currently 28 and has been out of prison for almost five years.

To get his life back on track, Phillips decided to try his hand at MMA. Even though he started his MMA career in October 2019, his passion for the sport started when he was a kid. As a kid, Phillips remembers watching martial arts movies, particularly ones with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and playing with action figures and martial arts video games that furthered his love for the sport. When he was 12 years old, Phillips got a punching bag. A few years later when he was 15, Phillips would carry boxing gloves in his backpack and bring them to school and try to find someone to fight him after school ended. Phillips’ fights were recorded and later uploaded to YouTube.

“I was always pretty good at it, so I always felt like I wanted to do it,” Phillips said. “I felt like I was naturally good at it. Years later, the stars aligned and I had the opportunity and now I’m doing it. “

Since he’s been out of prison, Phillips hasn’t touched a single drug and uses his platform as an athlete to help others who are struggling with substance abuse. Phillips volunteers his time at a twelve-step program.

“I’ll drive miles to people’s houses, sit down on their couch,” Phillips said. “I try to influence them to do better, to work on their diets and get into the gym, get into some type of physical activity, influence them to get into a hobby. I have different clients start on journaling. I don’t get paid for none of it, I just do it out of the goodness of my heart.

“Right now, I’m training seven different kids in the gym, just helping them stop with their alcoholism, giving them better habits because a lot of these people don’t know any different. That’s what their moms did, that’s what their parents did, that’s all they’ve ever known. That’s what their friends do. There’s a lot of hopeless people in this world that don’t know that there is a better way to live, so I just try to lead by example through the way that I live to show them that there is a better way of life that they Don’t have to do what they’ve always known. “

Phillips was inspired to help others after going to prison and meeting with fellow prisoners who were there for life.

“I would talk to different lifers in prison and I’m like ‘wow, I’m taking my life for granted. Here I am, I’m 24 years old. I’m getting out of prison and I have the opportunity to actually do something with my life and these guys never have the chance of getting out, ‘”Phillips said. “So it was a big reality check, getting in prison and getting around different lifers to realize that we only live once.”

Substance abuse isn’t the only issue Phillips uses his platform to spread awareness about. Phillips and another fighter, Dave Beaver, fought each other in Cincinnati in March and raised $ 10,000 to help fight human trafficking.

“He did two tours in Iraq,” Phillips said. “He’s a war veteran and while he was over there, he witnessed a lot of things and he realized how big this human trafficking is not only overseas, but also right here in America. He does a lot of different events. He raises a lot of money towards human trafficking. He’s seen how I have a big social media following and I’m establishing my brand, he know’s how I’m trying to spread hope throughout the community, so he thought that it would be good for us to kind of work together and go ahead and compete and raise a bunch of money for a good cause. “

Phillips also establishes his brand throughout the local community. At Julian’s Bar & Grill, Phillips had his own burger called the Mr.NoGimmicK burger, which is named after his fight name. Phillips also has a pizza named after him at Carini’s Restaurant in Waterford called the Blair Nightmare. The pizza is so spicy that you have to sign a waiver in order to eat it and contains hot Italian sausage, banana peppers and a ghost pepper sauce. Phillips also has four sponsors: Gunn Power, Solid State Construction, Mad Tree Service and Lester Miller Masonry.

“It means a lot for my sponsors,” Phillips said. “It means a lot for me. It gives the people to know that I’m the real deal. I’m not somebody just saying I’m doing this. It gives tangible evidence to show that people believe in me and that I’m really doing something. It’s really cool to be able to have that because (Julian’s) also shows all my paper-per-views to my fights in the restaurant, so it gives better advertisement for the sponsors and it gives a sense of community. People can be like ‘oh yeah, we’re gonna go down to Julian’s and watch Blair Phillips fight on the TV down there, eat some burgers’. It’s just all a part of the prophecy. We only live once, so when I pass on, it’s like what are they gonna put in the obituary? It just makes the soup more hearty being able to have that. “

Phillips was also in a music video for his former cellmate Cabes the Realist titled NO LOSSES. The video features signature places in Meadville like Julian’s, French Creek Coffee and Tea, and Southwick Kickboxing and Grappling, where Phillips trains. The video was released on February 5 and has amassed more than 13,000 views on YouTube.

“When we were in prison, he’d be sitting there writing lyrics and I’d be on the floor doing pushups and he’d be like ‘man, when I get out, I’m gonna make it’ and I said ‘ nah, when I get out, I’m gonna make it ‘and sure as (expletive) five years later, he hits me up and he’s like’ hey man, I just made a song and I want to record it at your dojo ‘ and I said ‘hey man, come on down’ “, Phillips said. “This is a story for the people because the whole song is an inspirational story talking about life and you can’t beat me because I’ve already been beaten. You can’t beat me because no matter what, I win because I’m thinking it’s a learning lesson, it’s not a loss. “

Phillips trains daily at two different locations. In the afternoon, Phillips trains at Studio 531 for two hours and at night at Southwick for three hours.

Phillips is still an amateur fight, but he is trying to become a professional. Phillips admitted that it takes a lot of work to go into the professional ranks.

“It is brutal and intensive and it’s very expensive, especially because when we workout, we are destroying the body so that we need to take time to heal the body and there’s ways to speed up the recovery and healing process through massage therapy, cryotherapy, nutrition, massages, ”Phillips said. “That’s where it gets really expensive. It’s not just the working out, but its the healing of the body as well. “

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