Posted On:1/17/2006 11:06pm
MU student Jake Hecht knows how to roll with the punches and throw a few of his own.
Story by GREG MILLER of the Tribune's staff
Published Sunday, January 15, 2006
Fight. The word is part of our everyday vocabulary. He fights for justice. She fights for equal rights. In those contexts, fighting can be a noble and lofty pursuit. But to MU student Jake Hecht, to fight means to inflict pain on another human being, to put his opponent's arm in so painful a vise that the other man cries out, to pound the other guy's face until blood gushes. The first definitions are more acceptable, more respectable, more dignified, aren't they? Jake Hecht doesn't think so.
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For one night, Jake Hecht can put aside the responsibilities of going to college and holding down a job to focus on one thing: beating the hell out of another man.
It's early December, and after months of sweat, stitches and bloody knuckles, Jake, a 21-year-old University of Missouri-Columbia senior and bartender from Troy, Mo., is about to step into the ring for his sport of choice: mixed martial arts.
A combination of kickboxing, wrestling and jujitsu, mixed martial arts or MMA was introduced to the masses by a televised league known as Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993. But in cities and small towns across the country, amateur and professional shows crop up.
The matches consist of two men or two women fighting with minimal rules for three three-minute rounds. The fight ends when one of the combatants is knocked unconscious, submits or "taps out" because of unbearable pain, is saved by a merciful referee or loses to a judge's decision at the end of the third round.
Travis Day, 30, trains about eight fighters, including Jake. A professional MMA fighter — Jake is an amateur — Day gets paid to fight.
Day has been training fighters for close to six years. He organized the Dec. 10 MMA show at the Fieldhouse, 1107 E. Broadway.
It's now seven days before the fight and Jake knows he will soon stare across the ring at his next opponent. He isn't worried about much, except ending up on his back. Jake Hecht hates to be on his back.
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Looking at her son's trophy case, Diane Hecht never imagined that enrolling Jake in a tumbling class as a child would ignite a love for athletics that has taken him to MMA.
"What are you going to do?" she said. "This is what he likes to do."
Before Jake was knocking out opponents — all three of his fights have ended in knockouts — he played soccer and football, wrestled and boxed. Now, all those sports pale for him.
"What's nice about MMA is if someone is pounding the **** out of you, you can shoot a takedown and sit on their chest," Jake said. "It takes them out of their game."
His parents make it a point to go to each of Jake's fights — even if Diane doesn't approve.
Right now, Jake plans to graduate with a degree in secondary social studies education in May 2007 and teach.
Although Jake doesn't plan on making a career out of MMA fights, he wants to turn professional and go for as long as his body will hold out. Pros can get between $200 and $1,000 a fight.
Jake will get nothing for the Fieldhouse fight. It's five days away.
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Jake's average day is a lesson in time management. He's in classes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then heads to Hickman High School, where he practices with the wrestling team. Around 5:30, he heads to his training with Travis Day, which lasts until 8 p.m. Then it's time to go to the Martini Bar, where he works as a bartender, sometimes not leaving until 3 a.m.
Making matters worse, December's fight is the weekend before finals week. After duking it out with his opponent, Jake will have to tackle a political science research paper, an English outline, two tests and a project for his education class.
"I barely have time to take a ****," he said.
To Jake, MMA is like a chess game, not a barroom brawl. Each move is calculated and has an appropriate response.
He likes to size people up before the fight. If his opponent is a nice guy, he'll release a painful hold as soon as he feels the tap-out. But if the guy is an "asshole," he'll wait until the referee hauls him away before letting up.
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Contrary to some impressions, MMA fights have rules: no groin hits, eye gouging, biting, poking fingers in orifices, striking the spine or kicking opponents when they're down.
For the Fieldhouse fight, Day also ruled out knee strikes to the head.
"It's an amateur fight," said Day, who added that his events are legally sanctioned. "I don't want these guys coming into town and getting injured, and I sure as hell don't want my guys getting injured."
Day said that although a fighter died in a non-sanctioned MMA match in Europe, no fighter ever died in a sanctioned fight.
Jake has been training for Saturday's fight four days a week, three hours a day, for the past six weeks.
"I make damn sure these guys are prepared," Day said. "It's going to be pretty rough every night. Once they say they want to fight, I need their total commitment."
Practices include climbing stairs backward, beating on punching bags, crab walks, bear crawls, chokes, grapples, jump rope and hanging from pipes. It's a system Day has honed over the years.
Jake knows that the grueling practices work — not only physically, but also mentally.
He straddles a punching bag as though he were straddling an opponent's torso. He punches the bag as hard as he can over and over for three minutes.
Each shot falls where an opponent's face would be.
He gets a minute-long break, jumps up, grabs a volleyball and chokes it as hard as he can. The break ends, and Jake is back on the bag punishing it with alternating fist and elbow strikes.
"Do your fists hurt?" Day asks.
"Yeah," Jake croaks between punches as sweat drips from his body onto the bag.
"Good," Day says.
● ● ●
It's fight night, and the Fieldhouse isn't its normal downtown student beer joint. The dance floor is covered by a boxing-esque ring, the line to get in stretches past the front of Willie's next door and more than 350 sold-out folding chairs are spread out around the ring.
Usually, the bar's second floor acts as a lounge for customers to get a drink, sit on plush-fabric couches and chat. Tonight, it's filled with fighters. An EMT checks vitals while fighters from one group tape their hands and fighters from another warm up on a black mat sprawled out in front of the bar.
The entire time, Jake has quietly waited.
He's in the main event. He thinks he got the spot by putting on exciting matches. Selling 45 tickets to his friends didn't hurt either.
Jake likes being in the main event, but he hates the wait.
From the second floor, Jake can't see the fights, but he can hear them. He hears the ring announcer's booming voice open the show. He hears the shouts and screams of the crowd. The roar grows louder in the second fight when his teammate forces an opponent to submit an excruciating arm bar.
Jake looks up when his friend returns to the upstairs waiting area sweaty, exhausted and ecstatic.
Five fights to go.
Jake looks across the room. He sees Justin Shields, the man he will fight later that night. Justin is built like a bank vault — 200 pounds and stout. Jake knows his opponent's wrestling background will make him his toughest challenger.
The two men smile briefly as Jake makes his usual offer that the winner buys the beer.
He is as confident as a man can be who is about to fight someone 20 pounds heavier.
Jake says he's gone over the fight in his head 5,000 times, and every time he's the winner.
If only he can stay off his back. A fighter on his back is susceptible to a brain-rattling blur of punches that can render a man unconscious in seconds.
● ● ●
With the fight now just minutes away, Jake bounces around the room in a long-underwear shirt, black shorts and a pair of tattered sandals. In the ring, Jake, like all MMA fighters, will lose the sandals and shirt and don a pair of finger-less gloves. Boxing gloves provide 12 ounces of padding; MMA gloves provide 4.
How does it feel to be hit?
"It's like a bare fist," Jake said. "Not very good."
Jake puts in his mouth guard and practices a few more takedowns and holds with Day and another coach. The fight before Jake's finishes, and Day pulls in Jake's head until he and his fighter are forehead to forehead.
"Four and O!" Day vows.
Someone runs in and tells Jake he's up. Day and Jake break their hold and walk toward the stairway. Jake crosses paths with Justin on the way.
"Let's put on a show," Justin tells Jake as they pound fists.
Jake moves to the top of the stairs and rolls his neck while bouncing around.
"Dump a bottle of water on me when we get to the ring," he tells Day.
"Jake 'Hitman' Hecht!" the announcer calls, and the crowd erupts as their hometown hero climbs into the ring.
Under the bright lights, Jake is a 180-pound warrior — no shirt, no shoes, black trunks, black gloves, buzzed haircut, 5 o'clock shadow and snake tattoo on his right biceps. On cue, Day produces the water-bottle shower. Now Jake is soaking wet.
After exchanging quick glances for three hours, Jake and Justin stare at each other for the first time. Neither averts his eyes.
Jake comes out throwing quick punches, but Justin lowers his head and charges. The two are wrapped in a collar-and-elbow tie-up. Justin reaches down and tries to grab Jake's leg. Jake avoids the move, but Justin tries again and Jake goes down.
The Columbia crowd collectively gasps as their undefeated fighter falls.
Justin throws jabs into Jake's ribcage while jockeying for position on top of his opponent.
Jake is flat on his back.
Now, the crowd is the quietest is has been all night. Many think the fight is all but over.
Justin throws body shot after body shot, and now Jake starts to feel the rhythm. Justin shifts to throw another punch, and Jake flips him.
The crowd explodes and is on its feet. The fighters who had been watching from the wings spill into the room.
Now Justin is on his back, Jake is on top, and it's pandemonium.
Jake stands to get a better vantage point, with Justin's legs wrapped around his waist.
The crowd is cheering louder and louder with each punch. Flashbulbs pop.
All of Jake's punches are landing, and Justin is powerless to do anything but cover his head and face. Suddenly, Justin's right eyebrow explodes in blood. The referee stops the match.
The roar is deafening. Day and other trainers surge into the ring. The fans move closer and closer to congratulate their winner.
In 79 seconds, the fight is over, and Jake won't even have to spring for that beer: Justin abruptly leaves to get stitches.
Jake "Hitman" Hecht is 4 and 0.
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Posted On:1/18/2006 2:07am
Style: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
.....you expect people to read all that?
I'll make one when I can find one I like.
Posted On:1/18/2006 2:13am
Style: MT (no, not "empty")
Originally Posted by Carbon
.....you expect people to read all that?
Apparently, you have been choked out one too many times. :byewhore:
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