As the training rounds increased from 60 seconds to five minutes on a recent Monday morning, so did the intensity level as members of a mixed martial arts class at Young’s MMA tested each other’s grappling skills.
A couple of local professional fighters were in the mix, but most were pros in other fields.
Squaring off at one end of the mat were a master’s degree candidate in human resource management and a sterile processing technician at a local hospital. At the other end were two brothers, one a pharmacist and the other on active duty with the U.S. Air Force security forces.
What draws such an eclectic mix to a sport where fists and feet fly, and a bloody nose or black eye is often the only trophy?
“People say it’s an awesome feeling and you won’t understand it until you get in there,” said Glory Watson, a veteran of one amateur bout. “They’re not kidding. It’s phenomenal.”
Watson prioritizes mixed martial arts within her everyday life, which also includes jobs as a nanny and a bartender.
“I work at a bar and there was a fight and I broke it up, but I felt like I really couldn’t do anything, so the next day I messaged [friend and fellow MMA devotee] B.J. Garceau and asked if she was still sparring.
“She said come in on Friday at 9, so I did and I’ve never left.”
More than a few notable MMA veterans — such as former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia of Eastbrook and fellow contender Marcus Davis, a Houlton native who now lives in North Carolina — worked as bartenders or bouncers before finding fame in the cage, but today’s MMA classes often include combatants from virtually all walks of life.
“Everyone has this kind of misguided idea of what an MMA fighter is, but it could be anybody and that’s kind of a cool thing about this sport,” said Young’s MMA founder and head trainer Chris Young. “It isn’t just this big, burly barbarian that everyone pictures. It’s people from every walk of life, every size, different athletic abilities all looking to test themselves.”
Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...
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