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MMA: Bragging rights

Fort Irwin team trains in Valencia before tourney

Posted: July 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Sgt. Jon Loftin, left, spars with instructor Majid Raees as other active military members from Fort Irwin train mixed martial arts on Friday at Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate Training Academy.

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Elite members of the United States Army have gathered at Fort Hood, Texas for the U.S. Army Combatives Championship for a chance to say that they are the best of the best.

For the team from Fort Irwin, the road to the mixed martial arts tournament, which begins today, first ran through Valencia and locally based Big John McCarthy's Ultimate Training Academy.

"Oh, it's very big as far as bragging rights go," said NTC and Fort Irwin Combatives head coach, Sgt. Erick Martinez of the tourney. "It's a really big issue for us, for the installation and chain of command. You can say you are the best fighter in the military in your weight division."

From July 6-15, the team traveled 157 miles from its base just outside of Barstow to take part in six training sessions at BJMUTA.

The connection was light heavyweight fighter Sgt. Jon Loftin, who also competes for the gym's competitive fight team.

"Anything that we can do for any military force or anything like that, we do," said "Big" John McCarthy, who owns the facility and has refereed at the All-Army competition in the past. "These guys are very good at what they do."

Joining Loftin is fellow light heavyweight 2nd Lt. Sean Boland, 2nd Lt. William Flynn (cruiserweight, 185 pounds), Sgt. Justin Roswell (middleweight, 170 pounds), Spc. Albert Garcia (welterweight, 155 pounds), and Sgt. Carlos Bernal (welterweight, 155 pounds).

Additionally, two women will take to the ring - Pvt. 2nd Class Morgan Frier (lightweight, 157 pounds) and Staff Sgt. Anabel Avalos (bantamweight, 123 pounds).

Competitors from across the country, plus bases in Italy and Germany, will fight in eight different weight classes. The tournament, which Strikeforce middleweight contender Tim Kennedy won three times from 2005-2007, ends Saturday.

"We have potential," Martinez said. "We have some that may not take it all, but they will win a hand full of fights.

"At least for the winners' bracket in some of weight classes, you have to win at least five fights to make it to the semifinals, and that's just in the winner's bracket," he added. "If you lose, you have to fight about nine or 10 to get third or fourth."

That means that competitors are looking at multiple bouts each day.

The team is ready for the grind, Martinez said.

"We did a lot," he said. "We did cardio workouts, we did weight-lifting sessions and strength and conditioning. And overall, we are all in the military, so our conditioning is up to par."

The work at BJMUTA will help too, he added.

That work spanned wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai and take-down defense.

The team sparred with BJMUTA professionals German Baltazar and Dave Weber. The Fort Irwin contingent also received a great deal of one-on-one instruction from staff members, including fight team head coach Brian Peterson.

"They did everything," McCarthy said. "Every day, they were coming out and working on a new technique or something new to their game."

The eight-member team will put that training to work soon.

"The training was very valuable for most of us," Martinez said. "It was helpful (to have) that extra tip on what they can and should be doing. It definitely opened up their game as far as what they can and can't be doing."




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