HONOLULU - The roar of the crowd and adrenaline coursing through a young warrior\'s veins serves as a reminder that determination and the drive to succeed is what makes a fighter step into the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).

Spc. Thomas Shields, 28, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, crossed the threshold from beginner to amateur-level fighter when he entered the ring for his first MMA bout for "Strictly Bangers 9," an amateur fighting event, held at Hawaiian Brian's, in Honolulu, October 3.

"When you're in training, you are more in tune with what can happen, but that all goes out the window when you step into your first competitive match," Shields said. "You don't know what to expect really, and it can be nerve-wracking, but you have to drop those feelings fast when the match starts."

Shields, a Tucson, Ariz., native, began his journey a few months ago when he entered Oahu Central Jujitsu to become an MMA fighter.

"I started five months ago," he said. "You can see a huge difference from the first day to now. When I started, I was learning grappling techniques, take-downs and strikes for approximately four hours a week, along with four-hour practices with my friend over the weekend to get me to this point."

Shields said athletes have to be conditioned for a high-contact sport such as MMA.

"It's not a sport you can just hop in to," he said. "You have to train to deflect hits, throw punches and learn all the take-downs, and it takes time to learn and improve on that skill."

Shields played football, wrestled, and experienced occasional scuffles growing up, which he credits to helping him in his new passion of fighting for sport.

"It's nothing like football and barely similar to wrestling," he said. "In wrestling, you have to worry about take-downs; with MMA you have to think about so much more. You have to be able to react quickly to what's going on or you can get hurt bad."

Shields offered one piece of advice for any aspiring fighter: Be prepared and focused to handle the rigors of fighting.

"You have to take a hard look at yourself and think if (MMA)Aca,!E+is something you really want to do," he said. "Some people don't want to step in a ring, they just want the training, but me, I want to step in that ring. I want to test my abilities.

"You need to see if you can meet the physical and mental requirements of this sport, more so than any other sport," he added.

Although his first fight was a short one, Shields looks forward to his next time in the ring.

"It was a good feeling. It was cool ... not knowing if you would win or lose," he said. "And you have all these people watching you there to see your fight. It was a great feeling to step into that ring and have all these people cheer for you, admire you, and just wish you a good fight as you walk up to the stage."

His first fight ended with a loss, but Shields' goal lives on.

"I'm going to take a couple more months to practice for more training and more classes," he said. "Losing was disappointing, but I fought against someone with more fights than me. It makes what I did in there worth the pain.

"I held out for a whole match against someone with way more experience than me, so in my own way, I was victorious," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16