Posted by Amy Kaplan @amykaplan33
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Amy Kaplan

In a small town on the edge of Los Angeles is the Fight Academy, an MMA gym in Pasadena, CA. Inside you will find a fighter on the cusp of exploding into a household name, shadowboxing under the natural light that floods in from the skylights on the roof.

It's here that I met Heinrich Wassmer, a top contender in the Combate Americas organization, and someone who I feel is on the verge of exploding overnight.

Wassmer had just finished teaching a class and was prepping to spar with his brother before heading home for the night. He was kind enough to take some time out of his routine to allow a special look at his training camp and his life.

The undefeated flyweight made his Combate Americas debut in April when he finished his opponent via first round submission. On Thursday, he steps inside the cage again, but is looking for a different kind of fight this time around.

"My game plan is to work my stand up," he said. "[My opponent Benji Gomez] is a southpaw so that obviously makes it a little trickier as far as angles and footwork and all that kind of stuff. I have to change up my defense because attacks come from total different angles."

Of Wassmer's four professional wins, three came by way of submission, so his ground game isn't in question. His remaining win was by TKO. None of his professional fights have come by way of decision.

"I’m going into this fight like I won’t be able to take him down," he said. "Which is fine because I feel completely comfortable on the ground. When I am on the ground I can close my eyes and just let it go, but if that can’t happen then I need to be able to take it on the feet. Whatever opens up opens up."

But like most fighters, he wasn't always on the right path. He says that he got into trouble a lot, was arrested and even shot, but a friend convinced him to come to the gym and train and the rest is history.

"It was almost six years ago," he said. "I used to wrestle with my friend in the living room after every fight, we’d armbar and guillotine the shit out of each other because that’s all we knew. He ended up convincing me to come in and train and I got hooked. I knew I was in love with it."

He says he took his first amateur fight only six months after he began training.

"That was a mistake because I lost," he laughed. "But that loss was probably the best thing for me because it taught me what I needed to change."

From there he made the adjustments he needed and went on a win streak. He ended up at the state tournament and was even ranked number one in Southern California and number two in the state.

At this point in his career, Wassmer is just happy to be fighting consistently.

"Honestly my goal is to just stay active. Where ever I can fight, I will," he said. "I had a few other places offer me fights before Combate Americas, and my instinct told me to go with Combate. Everything played out perfectly really because those other shows got cancelled. I’d love to fight once more before the end of the year as well."

Wassmer has also fought for World Series of Fighting and Gladiator Challenge.

"I know I made the right choice," he added.

Wassmer enters the cage Thursday night to face Benji Gomez at Combate Americas Ocho, looking to extended his undefeated record. You can watch him and all of the other fighters live on UFC Fight Pass.

Champions Watch is a monthly feature where we introduce the MMA community to fighters on the local circuit who we see with exceptional talent and strengths. We feature fighters who we can see bursting into the big show and making a splash someday in the UFC.