Mixed Martial Arts professionals come from all around to learn from a man who has been in the business for two decades — as a fighter, trainer and promoter.
Not only does Todd “The Bulldog” Brown fight in the cage, he fights the perception still held by some despite the combat sport’s explosion in popularity.
“The same guy who loves Muhammad Ali and Notre Dame football, has a stigma about MMA,” said Brown, who runs The Bulldog Fight Team out of Midwest Martial Arts in Osceola with about 10 pros in a rotating group of 30 fighters. “Somehow, it is different, more violent.”
Brown notes that the cage is there for the fighters’ protection so they don’t fall off the fighting surface and that MMA professionals are just like pros in any other sport with their attention to fitness, diet and technical prowess.
“It’s not just a bar brawl or someone who jumps in there because they are hoodlums,” said Brown, a 40-year-old with a 26-4 pro record, including three Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bouts. “MMA is mainstream. It’s popular because there are so many ways for a fight to end.”
Brown said MMA fights are “as real as it gets.”
“We get to find out who is the toughest guy,” said Brown. “People like the idea of that.”
Brown and his supporters have run the Michiana Fight League for 14 years. The MFL has four annual shows at Century Center in South Bend (the next one is scheduled for Dec. 15) and one at Coveleski Stadium in South Bend.
Brown helped get MMA re-licensed in South Bend and in Indiana. While Michigan does not yet have sanctioning for MMA fights, the Athletic Division of the Indiana Gaming Commission began setting the rules the past two years.
Indiana Administrative Code Title 68, Article 24 as well as Indiana Code 4-33-22 covers boxing and mixed martial arts.
“In one respect, they’re trying to take care of the fighters,” said Brown. “But when you get the government involved, they find ways to put money in their pockets.”
Required bloodwork costs about $120 and a fighter must have an off-site doctor’s physical (which usually costs at least $50) before meeting with the on-site licensed physician.
Arizona senator John McCain helped outlaw MMA fights in the mid-1990s in some places and New York still does not sanction ultimate fighting or MMA.
“It’s a state-by-state thing,” said Brown. “It’s an old-school mentality. People have never been to an event and they want to judge it.”
As the name implies, the sport is a mix of different styles.
Brown said most fighters have a favorite style, but having a variety of ways to attack is best.
“There are specialists,” said Brown. “But most guys who move forward in this sport are well-rounded.”
Troy Yoder, a Tae Kwon Do and kickboxing instructor at Goshen Tae Kwon Do Academy where Goshen MMA is housed, said martial arts especially mixed — is not for everyone. He has seen countless people who did not come back for a second workout.
“It’s really intense,” said Yoder. “Guys put in a lot of hours (per week). It’s not 30 minutes on the treadmill and you are out the door.
“It’s a huge mental thing,” he continued. “Can you come back the next day and do it again?”
For those who stick it out, it becomes a lifestyle.
Said Goshen MMA Muay Thai instructor Salvador Vincencio, “What we’re teaching is hard.”
Jon Barrick, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor at Goshen MMA, knows that the sport has a bad reputation in some circles but said that people should not paint with a broad brush and that things are getting better with state sanctioning.
“You’ve got bad people in everything,” said Barrick. “It’s usually on the promoter’s side where the sleazier things would happen in MMA.”