Khama Worthy, AKA “The DeathStar” What kid, whether young or old, isn’t familiar with the Star Wars franchise? Who hasn’t heard tales of The Force, and the delicate dance of life and death that it takes to maintain it? We all grew up fearing the dark Sith Lord, Darth Vader. We all cringed at our first sight of his almighty death star, a moon-sized Imperial battlestation that was the galaxy’s ultimate weapon. So destructive in nature, it completely destroyed Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan with just one blast of its superlaser. In his very first amateur fight, Khama Worthy similarly devastated his opponent. His skills in the octagon immediately garnered comparisons to the death star, and by the end of his second fight, the nickname stuck for good. But the parallels between the death star in our galaxy and the one far, far away must end there. Unlike Darth Vader’s weapon, no young Jedi is going to put a stop to this “DeathStar” anytime soon.
As Jaime and I made the drive to Greentree to meet “The DeathStar”, the skies tore open. A torrential downpour pelted the car and engulfed the city in a way that only early summer rains can. What an ominous and perhaps fitting scene to meet a man named after the darkside of The Force, I thought to myself. Parking in the lot of the most famous coffee shop in the world (who I do not feel like promoting), we made a quick dash inside. We had the place almost all to ourselves and snagged the only large table in the joint. As we waited for our caffeine fixes to arrive, a beautiful black BMW entered the lot. “The DeathStar” had arrived, and very punctually. Our drinks weren’t even ready yet.
Exiting his beamer, he walked effortlessly through the raindrops. He was dressed sharply, wearing a colorful MMA fight company t-shirt. Quick handshakes were exchanged, and he shot us what I like to call his “million-dollar smile.” I have no shame in admitting that I’m a total Star Wars geek. I had a quick question that I wanted answered since I saw him TKO Anthony Morgan at Pinnacle 7 a few weeks ago. “The way your t-shirt that you wear it into the ring is cut, is it supposed to look like a robe?” “It is,” he assured me. I wanted to know if he had ever thought about wearing a Darth Vader mask into the cage? “A few people have suggested it,” he informed me. “But I think it might be a little but too much.”
Over the next hour, “The DeathStar” persona demystified into Khama, as he answered questions about life, the fight game, and the future. I quickly realized that the young man was an extremely blessed individual. He was not just a superbly talented, ferocious fighter on a five fight winning streak. He was intelligent, articulate, striking. He was even an underwear model in his youth, living in New York City in his late teens and early twenties. Khama had us genuinely laughing out loud many times in our interview. But he also showed a deeply spiritual side that most who know him might not get to see. We heard some of Khama’s very unique philosophy on life. For instance, in Khama’s world view, 30 year-old claymation is better than any cutting-edge technology in the new Godzilla. Wrecking your car is nothing to be concerned about at all. Don’t look to far into the future, because…
In Ya Face MMA : Were your parents athletes?
Khama Worthy : My father was a martial artist, he did Taekwondo. My mother played tennis and ran track. So we have those fast twitch muscles genetically.
IYF : What was it like growing up in Moon Township?
KW : It was fun. Where I grew up in Moon Township, right now it’s pretty run down. But when I grew up there it was fun, it was a way out suburban area. If I had to catch the bus, it would take 45 minutes just to get into the city (of Pittsburgh.) It was a different way of seeing things and gave me a different perspective on things growing up there.
IYF : What sports did you play as a kid?
KW : I wanted to be an NBA player until I stopped growing and then realized I couldn’t. I used to play basketball religiously every day. Me and my brother played, do you remember Clyde Drexler?
IYF (John) : Believe it or not I actually met Clyde Drexler in an elevator at a Times Square hotel in New York City. He was a really friendly guy!
KW : Dude I love Clyde Drexler! He was my favorite player. I remember when I was a kid I used to watch Clyde Drexler, and Space Jam almost every day. I played basketball every day and really wanted to play in the NBA, and then I just stopped growing. And then I kinda started growing again, but stopped, and then finally realized that I wouldn’t play in the NBA.
IYF : So you remember when the Houston Rockets won their back-to-back Championships?
KW : Yes, they beat the Knicks. John Starks and Patrick Ewing never had a chance. And then they beat Shaquille O’Neal and the Magic. They stomped them! They swept them.
IYF : When you were young did you get in fights with other kids?
KW : No fights. I’ve only been in two streets fights in my entire life. I don’t fight in the street, I’ll let you hit me! My younger brother Shaka, who’s named after Shaka Zulu the war lord, he was the exact opposite. He would fight you just because you looked at him the wrong way. I’d literally be in the park screaming at him like, “What are you doing now? Oh my God!” I hated it. I hated that feeling of conflict. I don’t know why, it freaked me out and I just didn’t like it at all.
IYF : How did “The DeathStar” nickname come about?
KW : I went over multiple different nicknames. They called me, “Jungle Demon” because I would just go absolutely crazy on my way out (to the cage) in amateur fights. Like, I’d smack anything and everything that got in my way. I’d just go nuts. In the backroom, people wouldn’t hold pads for me. I remember this like yesterday – my old coach, Eric Hibler was holding pads for me, and I just drilled him right in the chest! He walked away and threw the pads down. You can ask Mark Cherico, he and Mike Wilkins – I’m in the back (before a fight) and I’m just drilling these pads, destroying these pads. Just throwing my coach around, and Wilkins looks at Cherico and says, “I’ll Greco-Roman the shit out of him (Khama).” And Cherico was like, “Yeah you would!” We still laugh about that until this day.
So in my first amateur fight, I knocked my opponent clean unconscious, like a shotgun knockout. It looked like I pulled a gun out and shot him. He just falls straight back, and they have to fix his leg and everything. And someone said, “That looked like The Deathstar!” You know, when The Deathstar would hit planets and they would just boom and it would be completely over? I got the name there and it just kind of caught on.
IYF : So after your very first amateur fight you got your nickname?
KW : It kind of stuck. Like that first week someone in class at the gym (Fight Club Pittsburgh) said it. And then my second fight too, I threw some big punches. Me and the other guy were just punching each other for a long time. Dave Klick (of Pinnacle Fighting Championships) said, “I’m going to put your fight first, because you get people all riled up!” And it was only my second amateur fight. Ahh I hated it! I used to hate to fight that early! So by the end of my second fight is when the name really stuck, and then it just kept going and going and going.
IYF : And more than just having that nickname, you are a Star Wars fan, right?
KW : I really like the philosophy of Star Wars. Like Darth Vader, and the way he had to do certain things to bring the balance to The Force. He had to have the twins. So you never know what you might have to do in your life today that will bring balance in the future.
IYF : Do you collect Star Wars figures or comic books?
KW : I don’t. I’m not much of a collector. I usually end up losing stuff. I’m not a super materialistic person. I’m the kind of person, if I break stuff…a lot of people might get freaked out when they do, but. Like when I wrecked my car, my BMW, I was like, “oh well, I wrecked my car. I can’t unwreck it now, it’s already wrecked.” It happens, there’s no way around it.
I wrecked my Audi, the car I had before this one. I thought that I had it in reverse, but it was in drive. I ran it right into a sign that said “Jesus Saves.” This happened at a wedding, and everyone was like, “oh my God!!” And I just said, “Well, I guess it’s time to get a new bumper.”
IYF : So as fierce as you are, you weren’t able to knock down Jesus?
KW : No, not even his sign! My Audi was messed up and there was Jesus, still saving people.
IYF : Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts now. What is your approach going into a fight? You’ve had some awesome finishes. Are you always looking for a knockout?
KW : Nope. I just want to go in and fight. I never try to knock someone out anymore.
Every fight where I have tried to knock someone out, it hasn’t happened. I’ve actually ended up losing. (Khama laughs.) I tried to knock out Jason Willett and it just wouldn’t work. And then I’ve gone in NOT trying to knock people out, and I’ve knocked them unconscious. So…A lot of people don’t understand that, but…it comes with the maturity of fighting. Sometimes you just have to wait and wait, and then it happens. My second fight against Victor Crenshaw, I hit him in his eye socket with a flying knee. I busted his eye all up. He was all bloody and had a broken orbital bone. He was really messed up. And he kept on wanting to fight! Thank God the doctor said no. I wasn’t going to fight him anymore. I was going to run out of the cage. My knee was hurting from kneeing his face so hard, and he’s sitting there with half a face. He looked like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky. And he was like screaming, “I wanna fight!” And I was like, “dude, you’re fucking crazy!” So when the ref said the fight was over I was glad.
IYF : That was your second pro fight?
KW : Yes, he was a big dude and that should have been my last fight at 155 (lbs.) He was like a human bear, he had these big black eyes. Big beard, his hair was everywhere. It was kind of horrifying fighting him, it was the worst.
IYF : Were you always a fan of MMA, or did something specific make you want to get involved with it as you transitioned from playing basketball?
KW : I’ve always liked a challenge, I get bored easily. A lot of people don’t know this but I’m really, really smart and sometimes it’s too easy for me to do things. Call it a form of ADD! (We all laugh.) I can multi-task really fast. I have a lot of energy and if I put all of my energy into something I can do it. When I was younger, I said I was going to move to New York and become a model. So six months later, I moved to New York City to be a model. I went to this gym on 38th Street and Broadway near Times Square when I was getting ready for a photo shoot. There was this guy in the gym, a bigger guy. I don’t know if he actually fought, but I would always talk with him and mess around with him. That guy Stitch (Jacob Duran, considered one of the best cut men in the world) from the UFC would bring his boxers into that gym. I didn’t even know who the hell he was at that time. But he would always have his boxers in there, and I would see them and talk with a couple of them. So the big guy came up to me one day and asked if I had ever thought about getting into MMA. And I was like, “What the hell are you talking about?” But before I left New York, a friend of mine I worked with told me that he had ordered the UFC that night and asked if I wanted to come over and watch it. I thought it was like WWE. I remember telling him, “Dude, I am not coming over to watch that stuff.” But my friend kept telling me that I needed to check out the UFC. So finally I went down to a movie store and asked them, and this is exactly what I said (laughs), “Do you have a section on UFC fighting?” And they did! The first one I picked up was a King of the Cage with Uriah Faber on the cover. I remember watching and thinking to myself, “What the hell?!” The next day I told my boss in New York that I was moving back to Pittsburgh in a month to be an MMA fighter. I remembered that I always used to drive past signs for Fight Club Pittsburgh. And I decided that when I moved home I was going to start training there. I thought I was going to be the second-coming. I thought I was going to be the next BJ Penn! I told my older brother that. He’s more realistic. He laughed at me and said, “You have no idea about what you’re getting into!” I went to the gym, and the first day I got showed the hard way that I wasn’t going to be BJ Penn.
IYF : Not that day, at least.
KW : No, no that day. That was not my day to be BJ Penn.
IYF : What goes through your mind as you walk out to the cage for a fight? You have talked about how frenetic you were as an amateur. What about as a pro?
KW : (Laughing) Now, I start thinking about my next fight.
IYF : Do you really?! Your NEXT fight?
KW : (Continues laughing heartily) I know, I know! Kinda creepy right? So as I walk out, I’m trying to not think about the fight at all. One of my old coaches said that he would like to talk to his opponents (before fights.) To make them seem human, so that they don’t seem like this huge monster that you’re about to fight. But as I’m on my way out, I try to not even acknowledge that I’m about to fight. I’ll think about food, I’ll think about my last three fights.
IYF : I’ve never heard a fighter say that before.
KW : Weird, right? But it’s working, so I’m going to keep on doing it.
IYF : So you don’t think about the fight until the second it starts?
KW : I’m never thinking about the fight. I think you could tell in my last fight (a second round TKO win over Anthony Morgan) I was thinking a little bit too much. But normally I try to do everything on reaction. That’s why I train, so when I’m in there my body is on auto-pilot. If you walk up to a door to open it, you don’t think, “Now I better turn the door handle. You just do it. Your body naturally knows to turn the door knob. And that’s how it has to be with fighting. That’s why you train all those long hours, to put your body in the position to do things naturally. If you think about something instead of reacting, then it’s too slow.”
IYF : Can you please tell us what I’m sure everyone wants to know more about? How did you get connected with the legendary Bas Rutten?
KW: It’s weird man, it’s crazy cool because when I used to train with Donny Kaecher we used to listen to Bas Rutten and watch his instructional videos. So I get a tweet one day that said Khama Worthy “The DeathStar” is going to be on Inside MMA. And I was like, “No, I’m not. No one’s told me anything about this.” But then I looked it up and was like, “Oh shit I really AM going to be on it tonight!” Bas said I have awesome footwork (amongst other compliments.) Now he is following me on Twitter, and we’ve tweeted some things back and forth. And it’s really awesome and I love to brag to my friends about it, because he has more than 100,000 followers but only follows about 200 people himself.
IYF : So that makes you one of the chosen few!
KW : Yeah, it’s really cool. And it’s cool to see that all your hard work is paying off, and that somebody great has recognized you trying to be great. That’s the really big part. I also have been in touch with Duke Roufus and am hoping to go out and be in their camp in early August. Just very awesome, they’re two of the grandfathers of MMA. They’d probably kick my ass for calling them grandfathers, though. (Laughs)
IYF : Let’s talk your latest fight, the TKO over Anthony Morgan in May at Pinnacle 7. Not a flash knockout this time, and the action didn’t get real heavy until the end of round one. Take us through the first four minutes of round one.
KW : Going into the fight, I didn’t want to over pace myself. He’s the kinda guy, (Morgan) he’s content with not winning. And I knew that. So I wanted to see what kind of effort he would give trying to win. In the first round, he gave me none. He wanted to go to the ground. We went to the ground, I got right back up. I was never in any kind of danger that fight. And in the first round I could hear my coaches Mark (Cherico) and Master Whitefang saying, “Get on him! Get on him more!” They wanted me to be more aggressive. But for me, fighting is all about timing. Clockwork timing. Too many times you see guys blitz and not get there in the proper time. It’s like in The Fast and Furious, when he pressed the nitrous and said, “Too soon, junior!” I pride myself on knowing when to press and be aggressive, and a lot of fighters don’t know how to do that. They just go and they go and they go. I know when to slow it, and when to put the lights out, and when to step off.
IYF : There seems like there can be a spiritual element in that.
KW : Yeah, definitely. To me, it’s all about reading your opponent’s energy. You have to know when someone is getting to that point.
IYF : With about a minute left in the first, you must have read something in his energy. You lit him up to the point where you were on top of him hammering away when he appeared to be saved by the bell.
KW : I hit him with a bunch of knees, I hit him with a left hook that put him down. I could tell he was just content to stay in the fight with me, but not push me. I listened to his interview before the fight with Kyle Rozewski (host of the Kyote Ugly Show with David McKinney) and he said he was coming in to get a three round victory. Kyle told him that, “Khama is going in there to kill you.” And I thought to myself, “Man you’re in a lot of fucking trouble, then.” I come out to hurt people. That’s what I get paid to do now. As the round ended I was thinking I should have gotten a takedown. Mark and my corner told me that if the round was tight to make sure I got a takedown.
IYF : The second round would prove to be a different story. Morgan looked to become desperate and missed badly with some wild combos he threw at you. Unable to take the fight to the ground, he looked exhausted. You looked like you were just starting to hit your stride.
KW : I’m that kind of fighter. I’ve always been that kind of fighter. People say to me, “Get another 20 second knockout!” But I’m not looking for that. I like to get into a good sweat and sometimes stay back. I’m a rhythmic kind of fighter. To me, it’s all about rhythm and timing and energy. Even when I’m getting my ass kicked?
IYF : You’ve gotten your ass kicked before?
IYF : So did you sense Morgan’s desperation and exhaustion?
KW : I could sense his fear. You can’t turn it off. He had a good poker face but I could feel his fear. You ever hear when people talk about a weird sense or feeling when something’s about to happen? Like, I just knew I was going to get into an accident that day? Or I just knew I was going to wreck my car? Well, I pay attention to that feeling. You can feel when the momentum is about to change. You ever watch a basketball game when a team is down by 20 points, and then the momentum switches to the other team? And you just know they are going to come back and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it? That happens all the time, and especially in fighting. And once you get that momentum, you have to know how to use it and what to do to keep it going. So, yes. He was getting more and more desperate. But I still wasn’t trying for a knockout in the second. I just completely found my rhythm. And not to be cocky, but once I find my rhythm, there’s almost no way you can take me out of it. Once I get there, you better hope the power goes out in the arena or something, and the referee has to get between us.
IYF : Like opening a door handle?
KW : Exactly. That natural. Once it’s there you just go with it and stay with it.
IYF : It didn’t take too long to finish him in the second, and you won by TKO. He looked extremely disappointed to come all the way from Tennessee and lose. Did he express any bitterness post-fight?
KW : No, he didn’t say anything disrespectful or anything. And it’s extremely disappointing anytime you lose. That was actually the first time he was ever finished in his amateur or pro career, so that probably added to it.
IYF : In my article on Pinnacle 7, I wrote that you possess a “Million-dollar smile.” Today we have got to know a little of your gargantuan personality. Have you always been so outgoing?
KW : I’ve always been this way. Actually when I started in MMA, a lot of people thought I might be a horrible fighter because I don’t go around beating people and smashing stuff. I just don’t see it like that. You can be smiling while you’re fighting. And you can get angry while you’re fighting too. But you don’t have to stay that way when you’re not. You are who you are when you fight, and you are who you are outside of the cage.
IYF : Amongst family and friends are you the life of the party?
KW : I have a big family, there’s eight of us. I have two brothers and five sisters. My sisters are the ones at my fights screaming, “He’s gonna kick your ass!” There’s a bunch of us, like a gang! (Laughing)
IYF : Have you acted in the past or have any aspirations of doing so?
KW : No, I can’t do it.
IYF : Oh come on, you’ve got to be kidding! All we would have to do is put a camera on you and have you just be yourself!
KW : Well I could do that but I can’t act. If you handed me a script, I’d be like, “I can’t do this!”
IYF : What about trying some acting in the future?
KW : Yeah, if they paid me! I’d be like that really cheesy fighter that became an actor. People would be like, “his action scenes are great, but his acting is horrible!” But I’d do that for sure.
IYF : When and where can we see your next fight?
KW : I don’t have a fight planned right now, but I definitely want to fight by early September and then November. I like to get at least four fights in a year.
IYF : Where do you see yourself in one year from now?
KW : I’m not too sure, but I like to see myself as always improving. I’m not really saying, “Well, I have to be here by this point.” I’ll visualize my future a little bit and the journey. But I don’t like to do that too much, because then you’re just looking to the point where you are going to die. (We all laugh heavily.) I always try to understand the journey I’m on and enjoy it.
*Khama’s MMA journey continues with a 6-2 record, and he is currently flourishing on a 5 fight winning streak. The sun is still rising on his career. If he can stay healthy, “The DeathStar” has a serious chance at being one of the brightest stars in the MMA galaxy. And it won’t matter if that galaxy happens to be near, or far, far away.
Favorite Food – Spinach Pizza
Alcoholic Drink – Mojito
Athletes – Michael Jordan, Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali
Sports Team – Pittsburgh Steelers
Actors – Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt
Movies – Shaka Zulu, All Godzilla movies
Band – Bob Marley
Dream Date – Zoey Saldana
A place to travel for the first time – Great Pyramids of Egypt, Easter Island
MMA Fighter – Anderson “The Spider” Silva
Superheroes – Wolverine, Superman
Leia or Padome? Padome
Luke or Anakin? Luke
What environment would you live in? Deep space
Sith or Jedi? Jedi
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