Students shed blood for love of MMA fighting

Chico State first-year student Valerie Wong does drills on the heavy bag at StandAlone MMA gym. Photo Credit: Aurora Evans.

Fighters at StandAlone MMA gym in Chico have gotten used to being kicked, punched and thrown to the ground as a part of the job.

“That’s my ultimate goal — not to get punched in the face,” said Ryan Hamilton, a senior exercise physiology major. “But you know, it just happens.”

Hamilton and a slew of other Chico State students train at StandAlone, a mixed martial arts gym, which gives them a place to test their fighting prowess.

They shed blood, sweat and tears all for the love of the sport.

They also get injured.

Once Hamilton’s ear swelled to the size of a golf ball. He had to get more than half an ounce of blood removed from it. Now he has cauliflower ear.

The cartilage in his ear broke, causing it to harden while it was healing. The result was a permanently swollen ear that resembles a cauliflower.

Doing MMA is tough but also exciting, said Valerie Wong, a first-year child development major.

“I wouldn’t willingly get punched in the face if it wasn’t fun,” Wong said.

MMA is a style of fighting that is more aggressive and less restrictive when compared with boxing.

MMA includes kicks, punches and wrestling, also called grappling. Competitors can employ many different styles of fighting when they square off in the ring. Some of these styles include but are not limited to:

· muay thai

· kickboxing

· Brazilian jiujitsu

· boxing

Training for a fight can be one of the most difficult things in MMA.

Connor Miller, who graduated from Chico State in 2014, put in 35 hours of training a week in preparation for his second fight, he said. This was on top of working 20 hours a week and balancing a full course load at school.

For that same fight, he also had to go through a grueling weight cut.

“(I) started off 30 pounds above weight and had to cut 16 pounds the day of,” Miller said.

Now training has become easier for Miller, he said. He has since graduated and moved into the loft above StandAlone.

MMA fighting is one of the most difficult and stressful sports there is, Hamilton said, which is why he feels pretty stress-free outside of the ring.

“(Nobody outside is) trying to take my head off,” he said.

Being an MMA fighter comes with its own stereotype. Wong and Hamilton said that they often get asked if they can beat people up.

They do have the skill set to take most people down, but they said they think it’s funny that people ask them that.

In the end, fighters do get a little more out of their hard work than just punches to their face.

“After the fight,” Miller said, “you party.”

Dylan Wakefield and James Groh can be reached at [email protected] or @dylan_wakefield, @James_Groh14 on Twitter.