Over the past few years, men of all ages, shapes and sizes have migrated from fighting sports such as kickboxing and wrestling to mixed martial arts. The sport brings full physical contact and complete mental focus to a one-on-one action intense fight.
Locally, Auburn has several MMA training facilities with several coaches and teams. The teams compete against one another across town and the country.
Nutrition First, an herb and vitamin store has one of the oldest and most well-known MMA teams in Auburn.
“I was a boxer back in the ‘90s,” said William Moates, owner of Nutrition First and coach of the Nutrition First teams. “(The store) opened 10 years ago and six years ago I started a boxing team.”
After finding true talent from many of his young competitors, Moates decided to stay involved with fighting and expanded his coaching. He soon began training men interested in MMA using wrestling, jiu jitsu, kickboxing, muay thai, submissions and grappling, all for no charge.
With a practice area located in the back of the store, Moates and his team members spend hours each day perfecting their skills, he said
“People think it’s a blood sport,” said Corey Hamrick, a member of the Nutrition First team. “It’s strategy … a chess match in the ring.”
Many of the fights shown on television, including the UFC 100, show bloody beatings and painful injuries but in the opinion of many of the Nutriton First fighters, including Hamrick, it’s not so dangerous.
“Out of 20 fights, one or maybe two will have blood,” Hamrick said.
For most of these competitors, they said that it’s not about the win against their opponent, but the skill and strength gained in themselves that they didn’t realize they were capable of.
J.D. Grider, a junior in education and Nutrition First fighter, said he enjoys the sport for its challenges.
“It’s a thinking man’s sport,” Grider said.
Not only does MMA allow Grider to challenge himself, but as an assistant varsity wrestling coach, it also allows him to perfect his technique making it easier for him to teach others at Opelika High School, he said.
Grider said that this past year he was able to coach a team member who became undefeated.
Many of the team members attend school and have jobs, but still find the time to put in up to four hours of training six days a week. Moates said he trains anyone and everyone, from police and firemen to bartenders and coaches. There seems to be a great variety of guys who come in each day to better themselves in the sport.
“I spend 10 to 15 hours training to fight and not get paid,” said Hamrick, whose record is currently 6-0. “It’s the absolute love of competition. I love training with the team.”
Nutrition First’s team is a non-profit group, training the members for free and fighting for no money, although the hope for each of them is to make it big one day.
“It’s great to have the possibility that one day I can say, ‘Hey, I trained with him,’ about a UFC fight on television,” Hamrick said.
Hamrick claims that approximately one out of every 10 or 15 fighters ends up making it to anything more than local shows. But if someone does make it further than just a local scene, they can count on their teammates to show up in full support.
“MMA is the ultimate sport,” Moates said.
On Saturday, Aug. 22, Nutrition First will be competing in the upcoming Main Event VII, presented by DJ Holleywood and University Heights. Tickets are available at Nutrition First, University Heights and Lexington Hotel. VIP tables and sponsor packages are available. For more information visit www.djholleywood.com.