By Parker Rome, Fort Riley Public AffairsMarch 29, 2012
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Training at the Combatives Center prepared four Fort Riley Soldiers for easy victories in a mixed martial arts competition near St. Louis.
A team of Fort Riley Soldiers was invited to compete in Gateway Fight League's MMA Hostile Takeover Feb. 25 in DeSota, Mo. Each Soldier won his bout in the first round.
"The outcome was what we had hoped and what he had planned for," said Staff Sgt. Francisco Portillo, combatives noncommissioned officer in charge. "Our guys just came in -- in better shape and ready to fight. That's the military mentality: you're always ready to fight -- and that's how we train."
Portillo and Jon Menke, instructor, Combative Sport Center, Manhattan, Kan., coached the four Soldiers -- Sgt. Joseph Andrede, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division; Spc. Joseph Hunter, 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div.; and Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div., Soldiers Sgt. Justin Overton and Spc. Calvin So -- and one civilian who made the trip.
"These guys train hard for this type of competition," Portillo said. "Of course, we never want to underestimate the opponents the guys are across from in the ring, but 99-percent of the time our guys do come in shape because they're Soldiers and they have to maintain a certain level of physicality for their job. Then for MMA, they up the ante in their physicality so they can participate in three three-minute rounds at a high, intense level."
Overton said this was his first time he participated in an MMA competition.
"It was just an awesome experience," he said. "We got to go to St. Louis and fight guys who do this for a living and see what we were made of and how we could do."
Overton's opponent had prior MMA experience.
"He was a real nice guy -- I got to meet him before the fight, but we both went in with the attitude of, 'I'm going to break somebody,"' Overton said. "Just going out there was a lot of fun. I had all my team behind me and I wasn't going to lose. We all just got to be confident and have a lot of fun."
The Fort Riley Combatives Center was crucial for preparing Overton for his easy win, he said.
"This program's great for building guys from the ground up and just teaching us what to do, how to do it and when to execute," he said.
Overton earned his victory with a rear naked choke in the first round.
"I can't wait to do again," he said.
While the competition was Overton's first MMA experience, Hunter wasn't completely new to competing. However, his recent training at Fort Riley made him feel like a new fighter.
"This isn't the first I've fought, but it was the first time I've gone in with the amount of training that I've had being here," he said. "I've been here four months now and have a lot of good training."
Portillo and Menke are both really good trainers, he said.
"When I first got here, just going through Level One and Level Two, I learned 10 times more than I did doing MMA outside of the Army," he said. "The combatives program they have here is an amazing thing."
Hunter earned his victory just 51 seconds into the first round.
"It's the fastest I've ever competed and actually won," he said. "The training was way better. My cardio was better. I knew going into this fight that there was no way this guy trained as hard as I did. I wasn't nervous at all going into this fight. I walked in to the cage knowing I was going to beat this guy."
Hunter said the Fort Riley Soldiers were able to win over the crowd with their performance, even though they were defeating local fighters.
"They saw the amount of skill we had so they kind of rooted for us too," he said. "Little kids came out and asked for our autographs, which is pretty weird for it being an amateur fight."
Hunter has made the most of his four months of training, but he does have one regret.
"I've been at Fort Riley for three years, and I just finally found this place six months ago, so I wish I would have been here a lot earlier," he said.
The combatives center is near the Battle Command Training Center at 77670 Fox Lane. For more information about the program, email email@example.com.