Fighter of the Month: Dean Bo Moskowitz

By Joe Wilhelm
Photos by Mitch Viquez, Stephanie Drews, and Laura Baker

Coming to the cage, it’s tough to miss Dean Bo Moskowitz. Loud “Dean Bo” chants from a crowd of supporters accompany his introduction. Those supporters also sport shirts with his name emblazoned across the chest.

Most fighters are introduced with metal, rap, or some variety of bass-heavy, blood-boiling music. But Dean Bo Moskowitz isn’t most fighters.

In past U of MMA shows, the twenty year-old has preferred “The Harlem Shake” or “Havah Nagilah,” appropriate accompaniments for a fighter wearing both the Israeli and American flags on his back.

And it’s in this moment that you realize why the first-generation Israeli-American receives such a rousing ovation from the crowd.

Dean Bo Moskowitz (grey tank top), surrounded by teammates, friends and family. (Photo courtesy of Dean Bo Moskowitz)

Dean Bo Moskowitz (grey tank top), surrounded by teammates, friends and family. (Photo courtesy of Dean Bo Moskowitz)

“Jews like to stay together,” Moskowitz says. “I have a great support system. My family supports me through my training. If you have a tough fight, win or lose, they’ll always be there for you. It’s a great feeling. They can’t help you inside the ring, but I feel like all of the support they give me outside of the ring gives me the strength to go in there and do a good job.”

When the soft-spoken Moskowitz says this, it’s hard not to notice the genuine emotion behind his words. Don’t let the spectacle of his cage entrances fool you. Moskowitz views his fights as far more than an opportunity to advance his brand.

“I love the challenge,” Moskowitz says. “Every time before I get in there, I shed a few tears. I don’t know if it’s happiness, sadness or adrenaline, but I just kind of close my eyes before they call my name in the back room. And then I hear my music, zone out for a second, and think to myself ‘I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now.’”

When the doors close and it’s just Moskowitz with his opponent and the referee, the performance that ensues is even more entertaining than the one preceding it.

Moskowitz’s style is explosive, decisive, and ruthless, the impressive product of a life dedicated to martial arts.

“I’m a different person completely,” Moskowitz said. “When it’s time to fight, it’s do or die for me. It’s kill or be killed. If you don’t have that mindset, you should quit fighting. I’m not there to get touched in the face, even one time. I’m there to hit and not get hit.”

Dean Bo and father, Guy Moskowitz (aka "Dad Bo"), with U of MMA founder Turi Altavilla (center). (Photo by Mitch Viquez)

Dean Bo and father, Guy Moskowitz (aka “Dad Bo”), with U of MMA founder Turi Altavilla (center). (Photo by Mitch Viquez)

Apart from his raw athletic talent, Moskowitz owes his fighting prowess to sixteen years of martial arts experience. At age four, his father, Guy Moskowitz, introduced him to karate and encouraged him to dedicate himself to the martial path.

“He always thought martial arts would be good for building respect and character,” the younger Moskowitz said. “He doesn’t let me back off. If I’m not training properly he’ll get on me about it. There’s a lot of love and a lot of tough love and I’m really thankful for that.”

Nearly two years into his competitive career, the proof is in the pudding: Moskowitz’s (3-2) amateur record isn’t sparkling, but as is often the case, the statistics don’t tell the tale of the tape.

In a sense, Moskowitz’s couldn’t have hoped for a better debut at the U of MMA’s ‘Champions of Tomorrow’ showcase. In the opening seconds of his career, his opponent, Darien Matthews, charged the young fighter with a head of steam.

Five seconds later, Matthews was floored with a devastating left hook. Locked-into this kill-or-be-killed mentality, Moskowitz followed Matthews to the floor, intending to decisively finish his first fight.

But in the aftermath, Moskowitz’s victory was ruled a disqualification, the punishment for continuing to attack after the referee declared a knockout.

“When it happened I almost started to cry because so much time was put into it and it was all over in five seconds,” Moskowitz said. “It was such a roller-coaster. Win, lose, disqualified, or not, I didn’t want to be viewed as a bad guy, a bad competitor, so right away I apologized to the referee and I apologized to my opponent.”

“I viewed that fight more as an experience than as a fight. I couldn’t really learn from the fight because it was over in five seconds. In the future, I’m going to be aware of not only the fight, but of the referee’s commands.”

Dean Bo Moskowitz (red) in his match against Ian 'The Korean' Park (Photo by Laura Baker)

Dean Bo Moskowitz (red) in his match against Ian ‘The Korean’ Park (Photo by Laura Baker)

In the ensuing months, Moskowitz amped the intensity of his training and overcame this early setback to the tune of two more dominant finishes. The first came against Ian ‘The Korean’ Park at the U of MMA’s ‘Second to None’ in October of 2012. In this, his second career fight, Moskowitz showed the ability to dominate on his feet and on the ground, defeating Park with a decisive rear-naked choke in round one.

Moskowitz followed up this performance with yet another victory at the U of MMA’s inaugural ‘Fight Night,’ earning a winning record with another ruthless chokehold. Though this was his first contest to reach the second round, Moskowitz bullied Louie Leyva throughout round one, leaving many to wonder if he could be touched as an amateur.

For Moskowitz, the first bump in the road came in the form of Pimpit Fight Academy’s Jarrett Conner. The 5’8, 170-pound Conner presented a rare challenge for Moskowitz, who had yet to face someone with Conner’s blend of explosive athleticism and wrestling prowess.

The bout was much-anticipated, especially for the 21-year-old Conner, who watched Moskowitz’s victory over Leyva and saw an opportunity to challenge a rising star.

“I was here March 3rd to watch my boy Chris Reyes lay it down, and then I saw this guy Dean Bo,” Conner said. “He came in and he was a beast and in my head I was like, ‘I want to fight this guy.’…I want to fight the best and Dean Bo is the best.”

During the build-up to their fight, there was palpable tension between Moskowitz and Conner. Even though both were competing for the vacant welterweight championship, the atmosphere of Club Nokia placed Conner in a de facto role as challenger. When the relatively unknown Conner took to the cage, it was obvious that Moskowitz had the crowd on his side.

“No words were exchanged between me and Jarrett before the fight,” Moskowitz said. But during the weigh-ins I went to face off with him and he didn’t look me in the eyes. I like to look my opponent in the eyes during weigh-ins and that threw me off a little bit. That definitely sparked something in my mind.”

With the usual chants of “Dean Bo” raining from the crowd, referee Mike Bell had Conner and Moskowitz meet in the middle of the arena. The fighters locked eyes but refused to touch gloves.

And with that, a battle that ranks among the most thrilling in U of MMA history commenced. The two talented young fighters went the distance, exchanging blows and position from start to finish. But in the end, a series of Herculean takedowns earned Conner a unanimous decision and the University of MMA Welterweight Championship.

“I wanted to knock him out really badly, and I think I was a little bit too focused on getting that knockout. I feel like maybe if I were a little bit more relaxed and didn’t bring all of that tension in there that something different would have happened.”

Moskowitz (blue) and University of MMA welterweight champion Jarett Conner, after their battle for the belt. (Photo by Stephanie Drews)

Moskowitz (blue) and University of MMA welterweight champion Jarett Conner, after their battle for the belt. (Photo by Stephanie Drews)

But when Conner’s hand was raised, the pre-fight tension evaporated and the two embraced, basking in the afterglow of their performance.

“There was a little bit of disappointment on my part because I knew I could have done better,” Moskowitz said. “But as soon as it was over, we just looked at each other like we were best friends, like we were friends for years. That’s what’s beautiful about fighting. If you really have a tough fight with somebody, it’s almost like you sit down and have a conversation and tell each other your life story.”

Time will tell if this battle was an early glimpse of two champions of tomorrow. But currently, Moskowitz’s loss to Conner is the only true blemish on either’s amateur record. Though both are expected to fight at ‘Fight Night 5’ on February 9th, the show will not feature a rematch of Moskowitz and Conner.

“I needed that. I loved that fight,” Moskowitz said. “I know what I need to work on now. As much as it sucked to lose, I was really happy. He’s such a humble guy, a great guy. I’d love to do that fight again.”

Given the early success they’ve enjoyed as amateurs, it’s entirely likely that a Conner and Moskowitz rematch will be seen on the professional circuit. According to Sensei Cecil Peoples, who instructs Moskowitz at House of Champions, it’s only a matter of time before makes a major splash.

“I have no doubt that Dean is going to become a UFC fighter,” Peoples said. “I think he has the potential to be another George St-Pierre.”

The UFC is the ultimate goal for Moskowitz, whose Facebook fan page is even entitled “UFC of Dean Bo.” Moskowitz aims to turn professional around his twenty-first birthday in July, taking four more amateur contests his professional debut. And while the temptation exists to throw patience to the wayside, the twenty-year old fighter wants to ensure he’s truly prepared when the time comes.

“I want to know that when I’m there, it’s my time and I’m ready to go,” Moskowitz said. “And I’ll have no excuses as to why I couldn’t do it or why I didn’t make it. I want to be fully prepared so I’ll have a clean conscience knowing that I did my best, that I didn’t jump into anything prematurely.”

Moskowitz’s approach demonstrates a maturity beyond his years, opting to evolve his game naturally and avoid the burnout that plagues many young fighters. Moskowitz’s participation in ‘Fight Night 5’ has yet to be confirmed, but U of MMA fans can hope for another opportunity to witness this evolution, resuming the chants that have become a fixture at Club Nokia.

Connect with Dean Bo Moskowitz on Twitter here and on the UFC of Dean Bo Facebook page here.

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