By Amber Avalona/ParaglideFebruary 11, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Soldiers and civilians turned out to see the caged Beast on Saturday, as Dan Severn (former world wrestling entertainment star and record holder of 15 title belts) made a guest appearance at the Rock Shop Music Hall for a night of mixed martial arts cage fighting.
Partial proceeds from Rockin' the Cage went to the Special Forces Association, Chapter I-XVIII and Afghan war veterans like Sgt. 1st Class John Masson, who lost both legs and much of his right arm while serving as a Special Forces medic.
"A lot of the mixed martial arts, that's the type of training you're going to use downrange anyway," said Harold Fields, a Soldier who watches pro cagefighting on pay-per-view. Fields met Severn ("The Beast") at a Friday meet and greet at the Green Beret Club.
Fields said he plans to fight in the future. "I like the physical aspect of it, the actual raw of getting down to it. It's always something new - you never know what's going to happen."
The Academy of Martial Studies hosted the live-action event, with tickets ranging in price from $33.50 (general entry) to cage-side spots for $70.
"This is an Army where Soldiers look out for Soldiers, and when they hear something is happening, they all step up with 'what can I do''" said Michael Warren, owner and lead trainer at AMS.
He welcomed the volunteer time of active-duty, reservist and veteran troops.
To give his Soldiers an edge in the cage, Warren invited Severn, a hall of fame, triple-crown heavyweight champion for a two-day, pre-fight training seminar. Severn is also a former freestyle, national wrestling champion and Greco-Roman wrestler. He designed a 10,000-square foot training facility in Michigan, which features instruction in martial arts and professional wrestling styles. Severn brought this same sense of professionalism to the South, with two days of MMA wrestling and ground fighting seminars designed to take Soldiers to the next level in their fighting skills.
Submission holds, chokes, take downs, arm locks and grappling techniques gave athletes a mental and physical edge over their opponents for the Saturday fight.
"It provides the outlet that a lot of my fellow warriors need to maintain their warrior edge," said Warren, speaking of the MMA program.
According to Severn, who taught the program with his 18-year old son, MMA was only recently recognized as an amateur sport in North Carolina. He proposes easing fighters into the hard-hitting world of MMA using a tier-type system, which includes shorter fight times (three, 2-minute rounds versus three, 5-minute rounds) and an initial "no elbow, no knee to the head" policy.
"There's risk and reward to being an amateur. It's one thing to be choked out or arm barred or just to be punched. It's a whole different thing to be hit with a knee to the head that could either lacerate it (or worse)," said Severn, adding that many non-military fighters don't have health insurance.
Severn has taught in various government agencies for more than a decade and is developing a closer working relationship with the Army. "Mixed martial arts has impacted everything. It's impacted law enforcement, it's impacted corrections, it's impacted the military. What I look at is, are they learning the best stuff'"