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PizDoff
9/03/2007 2:57am,
‘A chess game on the ground’

By Jake Rosenberg
Albany Democrat-Herald

“I guarantee you that in the next couple of years, mixed martial arts will overtake boxing,” says Steve Boyd.

You wouldn’t think that this 53-year-old, third-generation roofing contractor from Albany would be the man to ask about America’s fastest growing sport, but Boyd is not your typical roofer.

He has trained with some of the best martial artists and wrestlers in the world with a list as impressive as it is long and diverse.

After starting out in tai kwon do and gaining a black belt in kung fu, Boyd turned his attention to a martial arts form developed by Bruce Lee known as jeet kune do, training with Lee’s wife and daughter, Linda Lee Caldwell and Shannon Lee.

In 2000, Boyd won the gold medal in his blue belt division in the Pan-Am Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Kissimmee, Fla. In that same year, his former MMA training partner, Matt Lindland, won the silver medal in Greco-Roman wrestling during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

With more than 25 years of martial arts experience, Boyd, a veteran instructor at Elite Martial Arts, is making the small Albany business more accessible by offering classes at Gold’s Gym.

EMA will continue to offer martial arts classes for roughly any age, with classes ranging from mui-thai boxing to the same MMAs that provide a living for the likes of Randy Couture and others.

But as Boyd says, it wasn’t always as easy for the professional fighters to do so.

“When they first started back in the mid 90s, these guys were fighting for $1,000. Now they are fighting for $100,000. All of these Olympic-caliber athletes had no way to make a living besides coaching. Now these guys have found a way to make a viable living for themselves. Look at Chuck Liddell, he’s making millions of dollars a year.”

Couture’s career has been no exception. Following a six-year stint in the Army and a successful wrestling career at Oklahoma State University, Couture moved to Corvallis in 1992 where he started a six-year tenure as an assistant wrestling coach at Oregon State.

While coaching the Beavers, Couture immediately got involved in mixed martial arts after watching footage of the upstart Ultimate Fighting Championship, the MMA world’s most recognized North American fighting league.

“One of my athletes brought a tape over to my apartment and I just thought, that’s something I’ve got to try,” said Couture while taking a short break from his training schedule. “It was an immediate application to my wrestling skills.”

In one week (on Saturday Aug. 25), Couture will be applying those skills in the famous UFC Octagon as he defends his world heavyweight title against Gabriel Gonzaga in UFC 74, a highly touted pay-per-view matchup.

While Boyd’s chances at a pay-per-view fight have probably passed him by, it won’t keep him from honing his skills while teaching them as well.

“If you train with the best, then your chances are that much better,” says Boyd, who trained in MMA with Couture for two years in the late 1990s. “I sought those people out and I trained with those people because of who they are. They inspired me to continue to train. I’ve found that you can do this all of your life if you train correctly.”

For the last decade, many skeptics have felt that one’s life-span in the UFC would be short-lived as the sport was labeled as “brutal and in-humane.”

When the UFC initially started back in 1993, their slogan was “No Holds Barred.” That slogan translated into some negative publicity.

“UFC was created to show the weaknesses of other martial arts in combat. What people don’t realize is that most of these guys are very intelligent,” Boyd said. “We’re not just a bunch of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. This is a chess game on the ground.”

Boyd’s former training partner agrees.

“There are people that think we are just some dangerous thugs,” Couture said. “When really, there are a lot of college-educated guys out here who are just dedicated their lives to martial arts.”

The sport that was once banned in 49 states in now a respected, government regulated sport sanctioned by athletic commissions.

“The Northwest is generally a hotbed for fighting, and that area generates a lot of interest,” says Couture. “I bet you will see UFC in Oregon and in the Rose Garden here real soon.”

Until that time, the next Randy Coutures of the world will be training in places like Elite Martial Arts and Xtreme Couture gyms. Maybe the next great fighter is lifting weights, wondering what class is going on in the back of the building.

“A gym is a great place to get people involved in the sport, but not everybody that walks through those doors wants to get punched in the head,” says Couture. “It sure is a lot more exciting than running on a treadmill though.

http://www.democratherald.com/articles/2007/08/18/sports/top_story/2spt01_mma.txt

Cool stuff, I hope to be still practicing at that age.

DSL
9/03/2007 12:49pm,
Dang, I should have posted that. I read it and saw Trona in there (friend of a neighbor and a great grappler locally).

The local circuit is:
http://www.pccagefights.com

It's the local one I know of, they do fights every couple of months here in Albany, Corvallis, Eugene (some other spots as well but Albany/Corvallis lately). If there are others around here I'd love to find them as well.