Soldier in Japan defends title in mixed martial arts
September 26, 2013
TORII STATION, Japan - It's fair to say that Spc. Jay Morton, a patriot missile operator maintainer assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery (Regiment), lives a double life. By day he's a soft-spoken, hardworking, diligent soldier with his unit's patriot missile team.
"Being in the military you work more than the average person," said Morton. "I work an important job on the island dealing with patriot missiles; it's an important mission not only for Okinawa but the pacific region as a whole."
His supervisor, Sgt. Zachery Iverson, a squad leader assigned to Charlie Battery 1/1 ADA, explained Morton's attitude and motivation is great which makes being his squad leader easy.
"I've known Spc. Morton for a year and what a great outgoing soldier he is," said Iverson. "He brings a lot to the table and goes beyond the standard to make it happen not for himself but for the team," added Iverson.
At the end of the day when his military job is complete, Morton literally transforms into a heavyweight mixed martial arts champion on Okinawa, Japan.
"People that know me say that you would never know I'm a MMA fighter," said Morton.
Morton's love for wrestling started as a sophomore at Atlee High School in Mechanicsville, Va. By the time he was a senior he was a state ranked wrestler who gave up his college dream to join the Army in 2008. The enlistment turns out to be the catalyst that reignited the fire for his passion of wrestling. He explained while in advanced individual training he joined his unit's Army combatives team and performed well during a tournament at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Morton credits his first assignment to "the land of the rising sun" in 2009 as a dream come true and exactly what he needed to further his knowledge and ability in MMA.
"Japan has a rich history of martial arts and to be here fighting is a huge opportunity for me," explained Morton.
Upon arrival to Okinawa he joined a local fight club to continue studying the MMA game to condition his body while maintaining fitness standards as a soldier and a fighter. After completing a short tour on the island, Morton found himself back in Texas but this time for an assignment at Fort Hood. Once again, Morton was in the right place and time to continue his wrestling career. Fort Hood boasts one of the Army's top combatives team and military program.
"After making the team I was truly honored, I got a chance to work on my combatives skills for three months to prepare for the All-Army Combatives," said Morton.
Things began to shape up for Morton in 2012 when he was offered assignment back to Okinawa. He wasted no time making contact with trainers and friends within the Okinawa fight community. He agreed to take his first semiprofessional fight two weeks after his return to the island and won the bout. Morton says it motivated him to do more as an athlete and a year later he became the All Okinawa MMA heavyweight champion within a community that features five independent fight clubs with more than 50 semiprofessional fighters and hundreds of amateurs.
Since winning the title earlier this year Morton has remained humble and keeps everything in perspective in knowing that it takes time and experience to make it to the professional level.
On Sept. 8, Morton stepped into the ring with one of Japan's top MMA heavyweight contenders and a well seasoned professional fighter, Yusuke Kawaguchi. Kawaguchi is known for his tenure on Japan's DREAM fighting circuit and most recently held Japan's DEEP Megaton weight title.
During the fight it was clear to see the height and weight difference as Kawaguchi had a noticeable advantage. Morton brought excitement and laid a few thunderous strikes on his opponent but Kawaguchi's professional experience proved to be the difference as he defeated Morton by decision.
The fight symbolized Morton's thirst and hunger for MMA and at the end of the exhibition match his local Japanese followers as well as members of his unit showed support by applauding his efforts. It was Morton's first loss in six matches and he explained it definitely isn't the last time he will appear on the MMA scene.
"I'm not sure if I will get out of the military and pursue this full time so I'm at a crossroads in my life," said Morton. "I'm getting better as a fighter and I love my job as a soldier so either way I have determination and desire that I will win at either one."