FORT STEWART — Spectators packed Fort Stewart’s Newman Gym on Saturday night, eager to see a live mixed martial arts fight. Emcee Duke Oursler kicked off the Father’s Day Knockout event by introducing the first fighters to the crowd of nearly 500 men, women and children, many of whom had never seen a live MMA match.
MMA is a full-contact, combat sport that combines Brazilian jiu-jitsu, mai tau, kickboxing, wrestling and boxing. The matches are held in a cage.
"Mixed martial arts is the fastest-growing, extreme sport in the world," said Reggie Bunting, Club Stewart assistant business manager. "It has overtaken boxing and is a billion-dollar business now."
For the inaugural event, organizers brought in many fighters. A few hailed from Team Beaufort MMA and one fighter traveled from Tallahassee, Fla., but most are members of two local fighting clubs, Team Redline and Team Liberty MMA.
Redline MMA operated in Savannah for quite awhile, according to Oursler, who is also a wrestling trainer. About a year ago, however, the team moved into a new training facility in Pooler.
Liberty MMA was established about a year ago and, according to trainer Dewayne Taylor, the team has 11 active fighters.
The event featured 12 matches, each consisting of three five-minute rounds. One fight went the distance and the judges declared a winner. The others were decided by technical knockouts. One match lasted only 12 seconds.The crowd cheered on the fighters, and the night culminated with the main event, which pitted Team Redline fighter Chris Scott against Team Liberty MMA fighter Chris Brinkley.
Scott joined the Redline team about four month ago after transferring from another gym. The former 3rd ID soldier said he had a traditional, family lifestyle for a while, but is now divorced. He said he started training in judo, jujitsu and MMA as a way to relieve emotional stress and positively channel his energy.
He won a gold medal at his first event.
"After that, I got real competitive with it," he said.
Scott admits he didn’t know much about his opponent’s style going into the fight, but he was ready for a challenge. "He is good at what he does," Scott said of Brinkley. "They (Liberty MMA) train every day and they train hard."
Before the match, Scott boasted a 7-2 record. Now he’s 7-3.
During the first minute of the first round, Brinkley made a hit and sent Scott to the floor, ending the fight with a TKO.
Even though he lost, Scott said it was great to fight at the event, which was scheduled for Father’s Day weekend.
Scott’s 13-year-old son Christopher Brandon attended the fight and supported his dad. Win or lose, though, the fighter said he was looking forward to celebrating Father’s Day with Christopher and his other two sons, Nathan and Roman. The family also celebrated Nathan’s birthday.
"I think Chris is ready," Oursler said before the match. "He works hard in the gym every day and pushes himself really hard. He is a great workout partner and he does a great job. Chris is fantastic on the ground. His jujitsu is top-notch. I’ve been working with him on his wrestling quite a bit and his take-down offense has improved dramatically."
Brinkley said he has been fighting in MMA matches for about a year. He entered Saturday’s match with 3-0 record.
His trainer, Dewayne Taylor, said Brinkley has the best cardio endurance he’s ever seen, but predicted the fighter’s hands would seal the win.
"To be honest with you, that right hand right there is pretty nasty," Taylor said.
"I’m going to try and throw a lot of punches," Brinkley explained his strategy before the fight. "He’s got good ground work so I’m going to try and keep him off his feet."
Brinkley said his wife and three children, Tanner, Braxton and Grayson, inspire him to do his best. The couple also celebrated their wedding anniversary Saturday.
"We … have a lot to celebrate," he said.
Scott and Brinkley tapped gloves to begin the fight. Scott went for a head kick. Brinkley returned the move with a right-handed hit of his own and executed a head kick. Scott came back with a takedown, bringing both fighters to the floor.
The men returned to their feet, but within the first minute of the first round, Brinkley made a hit and sent Scott to the floor.
Brinkley earned his TKO and improved his record to 4-0.