It’s the usual response once people hear about the Pierce County city’s place within mixed martial arts — thought by many to be the fastest growing sport in the world.
When listing the top regions worldwide for MMA fighters you would expect to have several obvious locations appear on the roll call.
Rio de Janeiro? Absolutely, it’s among the field. How can it not be? It’s the birthplace of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Southern California? Of course. San Diego and Los Angeles have been MMA hotspots since the sport first debuted. Then again, when you’re talking about an area that caters to nearly 23 million people, you’re bound to find a gifted fighter or two.
Then there’s the head-scratcher on the list: Parkland.
The city occupies a little more than seven square miles and features a population around 40,000.
As it turns out, however, the community is small in stature, but big in the fight game.
Current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) world flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, a graduate of Washington High School, calls Parkland home. As does former UFC world bantamweight female champion Miesha Tate.
“I really can’t explain it,” said Drew Brokenshire, who along with Tate graduated from Franklin Pierce High School, about the abundance of success Parkland has enjoyed recently in MMA. “I guess we just have a lot of tough kids around here.”
They certainly do, and Brokenshire’s name can be found on that list as well.
A 10-year veteran of the sport, Brokenshire is on the cusp of joining his fellow Parkland natives in the big leagues as he looks to take the next step toward the UFC.
The featherweight has been fighting professionally since 2007 and sports a 15-7 record with victories over some of the Pacific Northwest’s premier fighters, including Julian Erosa and Justin Harrington, who Brokenshire defeated in 2014 to claim the CageSport lightweight championship.
The road to MMA for Brokenshire began as a freshman at Franklin Pierce when he decided to follow in his older brothers’ footsteps and turn out for the wrestling team.
“I immediately fell in love with it,” Brokenshire said. “I played football briefly, but wrestling was really my main focus. After high school, I went and wrestled at Highline Community College. MMA wasn’t really something I was thinking about doing back then.”
That is until his older brother, Bobby, got involved in the sport and needed someone to train with.
“It just felt like the right fit for me,” Brokenshire said. “I always had great coaches, which definitely helped increase my interest [in MMA]. I was constantly wanting to learn everything I could about the sport. There are so many different aspects that go into MMA that it really fueled my desire to learn.”
After dropping his pro debut in 2007, Brokenshire went 13-2 over the next six years and developed a huge local following. He saw his career-high six-bout winning streak come to an end two years ago in Russia, losing to former Bellator fighter Alexander Sarnavskiy.
“It really is an adrenaline rush when you step into that cage,” Brokenshire said. “The people are cheering for you. It gets your heart rate going. It’s the best feeling in the world. I just feel at home being in the cage.”
While his professional trade is MMA fighter, the 30-year-old Brokenshire will dip into the world of boxing on September 10 when he faces Gabriel Solario in a bout at the Emerald Queen Casino.
“Boxing is just something to keep me busy between MMA fighters,” said Brokenshire, who holds a record of 1-0 as a boxer and works as an instructor at Leading Edge Kickboxing in Renton and West Coast Fight Team in Auburn.
But the long-term goal remains the UFC.
“I’m just going to keep working toward it,” Brokenshire said. “Two out of the last three opponents I lost to are now fighting in the UFC so I feel like I’m right there.”
Brokenshire’s last MMA bout came on May 7 when he dropped a three-round decision to undefeated Jeremy Kennedy, who followed up that fight with a victory on the UFC on Fox 21 card on August 27.
His other loss came against Erosa in their rematch in early 2015. Erosa would go on to fight in UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter finale and later appear on the undercard of UFC 196, which featured the first meeting between Connor McGregor and Nate Diaz in Las Vegas.
“It’s motivating, seeing guys you’ve fought move on to the UFC,” Brokenshire said. “I want to pile up some wins over the next couple months, sharpen up by skills, and see where that leads me.”