Mixed Martial Arts: An Enlightenment

November 30, 2011

Columbus, MS, News, Sports

Mixed Martial Arts – An Enlightenment

By Dick Mahoney

While I may be considered an “expert” on the subject of baseball, I have been woefully uninformed concerning the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Thanks to a recent opportunity to interview Dustin Pumphrey, an owner/partner in an enterprise named “Relentless Grappling and MMA”, my ignorance has largely evaporated; enlightenment has dawned, and a desire to learn more has emerged. A Columbus native and 2003 New Hope High School graduate, Pumphrey has partnered with Kevin Fitzpatrick, and fellow enthusiasts Jake Reeves and Canyon Boykin, as the operating force behind this growing enterprise.

For background, Dustin is an employee of Severstal, and works as 2nd Helper on the Furnace Deck of the local steel mill. This position speaks to a necessary tolerance for exposure to high heats, a tolerance no doubt developed by Dustin during two tours in the deserts of Iraq as a veteran of the Army. As any veteran can relate, skill in hand-to-hand combat is a training requirement. The seeds for becoming knowledgeable and expert in MMA were thus sewn.

So what exactly is the scope of mixed martial arts? If one has a perception solely from movie thrillers starring Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris or Jackie Chan, then the surface has been barely scratched. For MMA is truly a sport that is highly regulated by the Mississippi Boxing Commission, and offers benefits to the participants far in excess of the perception some may have — that it is only an outlet for pent-up violence. Indeed, to become an expert competitor in this sport, it requires lifestyle discipline, required of athletes in any sport. One must also be trained in several fighting styles and philosophies (disciplines) to compete well. People who go through life looking for the path of least resistance need not apply.

Pumphrey and his partners both compete and teach “Muay Thai”, (phonetically Mow-A-Tie), which is the national sport of Thailand: a combination of elements of several ancient and not-so-ancient fighting techniques. Consider Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as part of the mix of martial arts styles one may encounter, and you begin to get the idea that this sport is not for couch potatoes. Dustin related that his own dedication to the sport has resulted in positive lifestyle changes, having lost a significant number of pounds and returning to the physical shape he had known as a member of the military. He is now more aware of the need for proper diet and admits to living a much healthier lifestyle.

The competitive structure of the sport breaks down as follows: for the strictly amateur level of non-title competition, a match consists of three, 3 minute rounds. For a title match, competition stretches to five three-minute rounds. Professional level fighters compete in five-minute rounds. All matches take place in a circular or maybe octagonal cage, dimensions of which can be 24 to 32 feet in diameter. The floor is padded, and the walls are vinyl padded chain-link fencing, 6 feet in height. The participants compete in weight classes similar to boxing, e.g. featherweight, lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight (186-205 lbs) and heavyweight (205-265 lbs) are some of the weight classes. All serious competitors must be licensed for each match through the Mississippi Boxing Commission and, among other requirements, submit blood tests every six months. The aforementioned Jake Reeves is planning to compete in the middleweight class in early December in Hattiesburg.

People get involved in this sport for various reasons. At the most basic level, some want the benefits of a good workout, and the self-confidence that comes from the discipline and knowledge of self-protection. For those who wish to test their knowledge and skill, competition as outlined above is available. Those who have a desire for recognition will ultimately compete for weight class titles on an amateur level. For the truly passionate and dedicated at an adult level, professional level recognition beckons.

Located at 126 S. McCrary Road in East Columbus, the gym is currently being upgraded to provide a better facility. The stated objectives of this 3-year-old business include developing an awareness, interest, and participation in the sport here in the Golden Triangle Area. At present, MMA is well-represented in larger cities in Mississippi, especially along the Gulf Coast and in the area south of Memphis. Dustin currently teaches approximately 30 students, ranging in age from 11 years up into the 30s. He feels that local police officers may find a benefit in learning various techniques, augmenting the skills they acquired at the Police Academy for dealing with difficult situations.

For further information, Dustin may be reached at (662) 574-4360, and leave a message.

Dick Mahoney writes occasional sports feature stories, mostly dealing with various aspects of baseball.

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One Comment on “Mixed Martial Arts: An Enlightenment”

  1. carlton Says:

    Fast growing sport, glad to see a local place for people to train. We have at least one star from Mississippi fighting in the UFC, Alan Belcher, fighting out of Biloxi Would love to see another come out of this guy. Good luck to all the fighters.


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