To most people, the thought of entering a ring and going toe-to-toe with a fierce opponent is alarming. Likewise, the thought of entering a burning building as others flee isn’t exactly comforting. However, local firefighter Eric Little says the fear associated with both scenarios is what drives him to face them.
Little, 31, will enter the ring Saturday as a mixed martial arts fighter in the Father’s Day Knock Out Fight Night on Fort Stewart. Even though it’s Little’s first fight as an MMA competitor, he said he is ready to rumble.
"I love competition and I always love to push and test myself," he said. "I’ve been training for the last six months and I’m ready to go."
According to Little, during the past six months, he dropped his weight from 238 pounds to 170 pounds and is in the best shape of his life. Even though he is physically fit, the fighter said he is older than most of his competitors.
"For amateurs competing in the MMA, most are between 25 and 30 years old. But in reality, for a lot of the bigger fighters, when they hit 30 they are either at their best or they are beginning to slip," he said.
Little said MMA’s soaring popularity in recent years has allowed some athletes who were at the end of one sporting career to continue to compete in another area.
"Probably the area where the MMA is drawing the most people is from college wrestlers. In the past, most of them had very little opportunity after they finished their college careers. They are probably its largest base," he said.
Little thinks MMA competitions provide entertainment for families. The goal is to put on a good show for the fans, he said. And although the fights are designed to entertain, Little wants people to know there is nothing fake about it.
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"You want to put on a good show, but there is nothing fake, nothing staged, no good guy verses bad guy plot," he said. "Everything you see is real, and can be dangerous."
Little said dangers associated with the sport are similar to injuries that typically occur in boxing matches. But with the grappling and wrestling, the competitors are more susceptible to tears, strains and broken bones, which is why fighters must be in tip-top shape.
"People need to know, all of us (fighters) have to pass a physical, and we take blood tests. A lot of measures are taken to help ensure the safety of all of us, so they do what they can to make sure we’re OK," Little said.
The fighter, who is with Liberty Mixed Martial Arts, said Saturday’s event is a first for this area, but he thinks more MMA fights will follow.