Blood, Sweat & New Rules

IMG_9965Sure, Corvallis loves to root on their Beavers, through rain, shine, and lately, disappointment. But there is another sport re-emerging on the local scene which equals the excitement of any OSU team. Three words sum up the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA): action, emotion, and athleticism. Once prevalent in the local scene, MMA had begun to fade; however, like anything with promising potential, its resurgence is shaping up to be one worth noticing.

MMA is a combination of several combat sports including Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, Muy Thai, boxing, and kickboxing. Gyms have opened across communities offering a variety of classes geared towards self-defense for women and children, folks who are just looking to get in shape or learn techniques, and competitive fighters.

The Pacific Northwest has seen many local fighters rise to the big time, including Evan Dunham, Chael Sonnen, Brent Primus, Pat Healy, and many others. The pool of local talent continues to grow amidst several new and challenging regulations handed down from the Oregon State Athletic Commission (OSAC); promulgated with fighter safety in mind, they have initially proved difficult for fighters, promoters and coaches. For promoters, OSAC-appointed referees and doctors have added costs to an already expensive undertaking, these new personnel are paid for by a 6% tax on ticket sales. Fighters are now required to have blood tests for the detection of Hepatitis A, B, and C within 30 days of their fight date. The cost of tests can add up, especially when fighters are never guaranteed to face an opponent. Perhaps the hardest hitting regulation was the six-month rule in which fighters that had fought out of state were banned from fighting in Oregon for six months. Many fighters were frustrated with the extended layoff, and continued to fight out of state as a result.

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Although MMA is thriving in other communities, Corvallis may have forgotten the excitement the sport can bring to the local scene. Before the commission went through the administrative and regulatory changes it did, cage fighting was frequent and fairly popular in Corvallis. A tanking economy combined with the newly implemented regulations has slowed the number of events. However, even though there have been fewer matches held in or around the Corvallis area, there is no shortage of local talent and high-level places to train. Local gyms have contributed to the skills of several notable fighters, and each gym continues to teach classes on most days, providing virtually anybody with the opportunity to see what the sport is about.

Ben Egli, a professional fighter currently training out of Tigard, has trained at several local gyms throughout his six-year career. Egli trained at Oregon Pound Jiu Jitsu in Corvallis and Victory Boxing Gym in Albany while working towards a degree in exercise and sports science. He holds a professional record of 1-0 and was 10-1 as an amateur, with all 10 victories earned by submitting his opponents. Being involved in MMA has been very rewarding for Egli. When asked what benefits local MMA brings to the community, he stated, “The MMA community is very strong and positive. I have been to many events that have shed light on some amazing local businesses. As a fighter any business or service that can improve my health, wellness, performance, attitude, and lifestyle are a blessing, and we pass that on to people we know.”

Egli also feels very fortunate to have the support of his friends, family, and community. “The community definitely supports me. The great thing about MMA and any combat sport is that the people train with each other to make themselves, each other, and the sport better. As fighters we respect each other and want to push our sport even higher. People that don’t do MMA in my life are genuinely interested in my sport and my success, and I feel I get to expose people to the most exciting sport on the planet.” He is currently training for his second professional bout in Vancouver, Washington on Saturday, April 19, the bout is at 7 pm and tickets can be had through http://maineventmma.net.

The Pound, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym owned by Mike Downing, holds classes six days a week, and members routinely compete in all levels in tournaments around the state. Although Jiu Jitsu is just one facet of MMA, several fighters have stopped in to train with skilled instructors and sharpen their ground game. The Pound also hosts seminars taught by the likes of Pedro Sauer and Rylan Lizares.

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Rise MMA, another high-level gym owned by Josh Mcnamara, is located in South Corvallis. Rise MMA has been open for four years and offers classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, women’s boxing, Women-Only Boot Camp, self-defense, Children’s Jiu-Jitsu, After School Children’s Jiu Jitsu, and a Children’s Summer Camp. Members of Rise MMA have and are currently competing in local MMA competitions at both the amateur and professional levels.

Mcnamara, a black belt under Megaton Diaz, is passionate about MMA and strongly believes in the positive influences it can have on one’s life. When asked about the benefits a local MMA gym brings to a community, he said that it provides an outlet for young adults where they can exercise and be taught valuable skills, all the while learning discipline and working towards a goal. Having an indoor sport or interest can offset the rainy months when most people tend to stay inside and as a result become less active. And, judging by the steady growth in participation Mcnamara has seen at his gym, members of the community are beginning to notice the advantage.

By Kirsten Allen

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