Mixed Martial Arts, competing through dedication and training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Trevor Rhynes
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Airmen around base use various outlets to better themselves physically. Some workout with friends, others play sports. But some Airmen, like Tech. Sgt. Jerry Nelson, 603rd Air Operations Center personnel Recovery Controller, simply beat people up.

He does this by practicing and competing in mixed martial arts, which is a combination of wrestling, Brazilian Jujitsu, boxing, and kickboxing.

Nelson has competed in multiple fights in various regions, earning a record of six wins and only one loss along the way.

"My favorite experience was fighting for the Pancrase Association in Japan," Nelson said. "Pancrase was the first organization in the history of MMA. Many MMA legends, such as Ken Shamrock and Bas Ruttan competed in Pancrase prior to the (Ultimate Fighting Championship). I had always dreamed of fighting there."

Competing isn't just about the few minutes in the ring, it's also about the weeks of preparation for each fight.

"MMA requires you to push yourself to levels you never thought were possible. The amount of technical skills you have to learn from all the disciplines is truly staggering," said Ashley Bradt, fellow MMA fighter and coach. "All that coupled with the long hours of training, ridiculously strict diet, as well as balancing your home and military life is pretty strenuous. You have to be equally strong mentally, as well as physically."

Bradt explains that MMA requires a different type of stamina, rather than the kind weight-lifters or distance runners may have.

"There are plenty of people who can run fast or lift heavy weights in the gym, but you can't run inside a cage and weights don't try to kick you in the head," he said. "It takes a lot of courage to walk out in front of a large crowd of your friends, family and other spectators while putting your body on the line."

As far as training goes, Nelson displays true work ethic toward preparing for a fight.

"Jerry is one of the most dedicated people I've ever had the pleasure to train along side with," Bradt said. "Whether it's boxing, jujitsu, muay thai or wrestling training; he puts everything he has into it, putting long hours in at the gym on top of his duty hours with the Air Force."

Nelson said fighters need to go into matches prepared and with enough training; participants can't take breaks.

"What I appreciate most about MMA is that there are no shortcuts, you have to put in the work to be successful," Nelson said. "If I don't train properly or don't stick to my diet, then I don't deserve to win."

Nelson, has been involved in MMA for 17 years, starting when he was 18-years-old.

"I was hooked on the sport after seeing it for the first time," he said. "At the end of my senior year in high school, I started training with former a UFC champion and current UFC Hall-of-famer Dan Severn."

Many people have been involved in Nelson's career, or have been influenced by him throughout his tenure as a MMA fighter.

"I have had many mentors throughout my fighting career. My longtime mentor has been Jon Bozung, my first MMA instructor (who) used to coach me at Dan Severn's gym in Michigan," Nelson said. "Nowadays, I do a lot of mentoring."

For Nelson, he still participates because of his love of the sport.

"I continue to train because I truly enjoy the sport. I love everything about it. I enjoy ... training, exercising and performing submissions and strikes," he said. "I especially love that feeling you get when you touch gloves with your opponent, seconds before the fight starts. When all the training and preparation is over and all I have to do is go out there and have fun."

Nelson is currently training for his next fight, Feb. 2 for the light-heavyweight title after winning his last fight Nov. 17.