Students demonstrate skills in mixed martial arts

Jordan Williams, Staff Reporter

Exhausted grunts and desperate heaves; fixed stares and disregarded tears; fresh blood and even fresher bruises – these are the sights and sounds of the booming culture of mixed martial arts.

These are the specifics that make the sport more than just a hobby for IU Southeast students Coby McKinley and Ricky Weisbach. It makes it a way of life.

For McKinley, the wonder of MMA hinges on one word: dominance.

“Fighting, ultimately, is the root of all sports,” McKinley said. “When a football team dominates another team, what does that really mean? One team ran a ball across a field more than another team. When one fighter ‘dominates’ another fighter, somebody got beat up. Like, actually dominated. Pretty much any other sport is an allegory for a fight.”

McKinley, who is double majoring in English and journalism, was first introduced to the sport by his father.

“I watched the UFC with him, and that got me interested in training. I then started training under a family friend. He was a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Kempo karate,” McKinley said.

Weisbach, a recent IUS student who majored in geoscience and hydrology, has shared McKinley’s passion for the sport since being introduced to it a few years ago.

“My friends and I were passing by the gym one day and saw that an MMA program was being offered, so we decided to go check it out,” Weisbach said. “[My friends] eventually quit, but I didn’t.”

For Weisbach, the initial interest in training for mixed martial arts came about from a desire to prove to himself that he could not only compete as a fighter but succeed as a fighter.

“I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” Weisbach said. “I won my first fight, so I decided to fight again and again after that fight.”

Weisbach said he is aware of the sudden popularity MMA has cultivated. He said it hasn’t impacted the integrity of the sport, even though some fighters are joining for fame and glory rather than passion.

“You can just tell when someone is competing as a cage fighter just so they can get the name and title that goes with it,” Weisbach said.

“But you can also tell when someone is fighting because they enjoy it and care about the sport. These are the fighters that warm up like they are supposed to, train like they are supposed to, and compete like they are supposed to. They present themselves in positive ways before and after the fight.”

The skills of MMA are similar to the expertise involved in other sports such as dedication, finesse and execution, but there are also some distinct differences that cause MMA to stand out from team-centric pastimes of the sports circuit.

“Being a fighter is very hard, but it is very personally rewarding,” McKinley said. “The training involves becoming proficient in the skills of four Olympic sports.”

Excelling in the complicated nature of MMA strategies and techniques is by no means an easy thing to accomplish.

This is especially true when the necessary dedication to the sport is absent in aspiring fighters. However, McKinley spoke to how much you can do when that dedication is present.

“I was never athletic as a kid, and my frame is not one of a typical athlete,” McKinley said. “This is why working hard, staying consistent, and a slight obsession with the sport are so important.”

MMA is like human chess, and it takes a smart, dedicated athlete to be

— Coby McKinley, student MMA fighter

“”Before entering the cage, competitors are given the task of familiarizing themselves with the variety of fighting methods and styles involved in the sport.

For fighters looking to excel in the intricacies of MMA, they need to understand the means of offense and defense for styles like judo, wrestling, boxing, and taekwondo.

“It is a major time commitment with very little monetary game for most of the time that you put into becoming a solid fighter,” McKinley said.

“People just looking to get famous or make money do not stay long. MMA is a sport based in a passion for the art of fighting.”

Some describe MMA as simply violence for the sake of entertainment, but McKinley refutes with this characterization.

“It is not a bunch of juiced up meatheads who just show up to an arena to beat each other up,” McKinley said. “MMA is like human chess, and it takes a smart, dedicated athlete to be successful.”

Weisbach agrees with McKinley and is equally unequivocal in his disagreement with this view of the sport.

“A lot of people see fighting as people just doing it so they can hurt one another, but that isn’t usually true,” Weisbach said.

“Obviously there are athletes like that in any sport, but in MMA nearly everybody is professional about fighting and act like athletes should.”

Jason Dempster, who currently instructs classes at Workout Industries on Charlestown Rd., began his training with Brazilian jiu-jitsu in mind.”I first got into it to help be able to defend myself if some situation were ever to arise,” Dempster said.

After some success in his pursuit of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Dempster refocused his passion on the sport and found a way to use what he had learned over the past decade to help instruct others in the fighting style.

Dempster has made an effort to ensure his classes cater to the basics and essentials of jiu-jitsu.”It’s hard being on the inside and trying to figure out what outsiders might see when looking in,” Dempster said.

“I think that some people might be intimidated to start would be very surprised in realizing how friendly of an atmosphere it actually is and how much the fighters are interested in helping new people out.”

While the world of MMA has the outward appearance of being almost exclusively a sport of the individual, Dempster believes progressing with others is a key aspect in flourishing into a proficient MMA fighter.

“There actually is a large team component in training for mixed martial arts,” Dempster said.

“You are working and training with other people and are ultimately helping make them better while bettering yourself. When everything is going well, your opponent is trying to make you become a better fighter, and you are trying to make them become a better fighter.”

In recent months, McKinley was forced to take some time away from competing and training due to an injury in 2014.

“I suffered an injury that put me out of training for a whole year,” McKinley said.

“In a sport as fast developing and new as mixed martial arts, it is very hard to come back from that long off. My main aspiration right now is to get my body and movements back to what they were pre-injury before I start thinking about competition again.”

Weisbach’s ambitions to become a fighter may have begun from a willingness to prove something to himself, but they have blossomed into a keen interest in the sport.

“If I could keep doing it I would like to compete professionally because it is a good way to make a living, and I believe that I’m good enough to do it,” Weisbach said.

For Dempster, teaching Brazilian jiu-jitsu has proved to be as satisfying as the sport his interest spawned from over twelve years ago.

Dempster said he is aware of how some people might be timid about taking classes in the sport due to a sensationalized idea that MMA is only about the violence.

He said the best way to get involved in something as technique driven as mixed martial arts and to understand what actually goes into it is to simply start doing it.

“When people think of mixed martial arts they think of really tough guys,” said Dempster.

“It’s actually about being super disciplined. Good fighters are willing to put in a lot of work and a lot of thought.”