By Jonathan E. Coleman
The biggest surprise for Jim Carey as he finished his Ruckus in the Cage ultimate fighting title match in Roanoke, Va. wasn’t the strength of his opponent or the amount of energy he needed for the three-round bout.
It was a hug from his mother and sister as he exited the cage after his fight.
“I told them not to come,” Carey said. “It’s bad luck.”
But Carey, 33, didn’t need luck. After two and a half years of training, the 145-pound fighter was ready, physically and mentally. It was a day he’d prepared long and hard for.
“I knew I had one the first two rounds,” Carey said of the three-round title match. “I knew I just had to not lose in the third round.”
And, despite being exhausted, Carey outlasted his opponent to claim the title.
Carey was one of five amateur ultimate fighters who train together at the Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu training network in Harrisburg to fight.
Viewed by some as a blood sport, ultimate fighting has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with new rules to curb the brutality the sport continues to gain national appeal.
Not everyone, however, has been so quick to jump on the bandwagon.
“Some people say, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing that,’” said Hallie Hair, known to most as “Snake.” “But if you train for it, it’s not as bad as it looks. It’s not a bar fight, swinging wild like you’re in the streets. We just do it for the fun of it, to keep in shape.”
A master of Jiu Jitsu, Royce Grace started the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a professional organization of fighters.
“He was basically trying to figure out which martial arts form was the best one to learn as far as real-life fighting,” Hair said. “When it first came out, there were basically no rules to it.”
Eventually, as to sport developed, so too did its rules, and the competition.
“Now the sport has grown so much, you’ve got to know it all,” Hair said. “When you learn the game, it’s a fast-paced chess match. You have to be able to think and move at the same time.”
And to be the best, you have to train.
Hair, who trained Carey and the four other fighters – Ray Halstead, Mike Kogan, Jason Lineberger and Adam Jetton – worked with them for about three hours a day, five days a week for the last six weeks before heading to Virginia.
But the success was well worth it. In addition to Carey’s win, Jetton won his bout, making him the number one contender. As number one contender, he can next challenge the title-holder in his weight class for the top spot.
Perhaps when Carey returns to the ring to defend his title, he’ll extend the invitation to his family to join him ringside.
Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.