View Full Version : A Kickin' Profession - Article on Eric Henry

5/15/2008 11:43am,
A Kickin' Profession
By: Steve Lawrence

I'll be the first to enter a guilty plea.

When I hear that a person attended the Alternative Community School (or the ACS), I envision leisurely field trips, maybe some Frisbee for phys ed, and some acoustic guitar standbys for music class. I do not envision a kid from ACS pounding on someone as a professional in the emerging sport of Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA.


Eric Henry, now 28, remembers his days as a schoolboy well. "I was born and raised in Ithaca," he says, "and the only sport I was ever interested in was martial arts. I was an introverted, bookworm kind of kid, and I was never into team sports. This was something I could do on my own, and I started when I was 10 or 11."

Henry went on to earn a Black Belt, and finds that his early training has served him well in MMA. "I'm basically a Karate guy," he states. "I find that the old-school stuff still works." Four years ago, Henry heard that Ryan Ciotoli, a wrestling coach at Ithaca College and a three-time Division 3 All-American for the Bombers, was starting up a mixed m0artial arts school in Cortland. "I heard that Ryan had connections in MMA," Eric recalls, "and I kept calling him. He took me up on it."

Henry says that he is committed to making MMA a full time job, but at this point, "I'm working all the time." He is a bouncer at a nightclub, an employee at a fitness center, and he trains every day. As for his full time move into the pro ranks, he says, "The process is going slower than I had hoped. I need sponsorship, but I also need more time to rest. I practice, then work, practice then work. I train about 3 to 4 hours per day - once in the morning and once in the afternoon - and I need to find a balance of good relaxation time and good training time."

Henry's efforts have thus far landed him eleven MMA bouts, and he presently sports a 7-4 record. "I just fought in a World Combat League match (the Chuck Norris-affiliated organization), and that's pure kickboxing," Eric offers. "I had never done that before. I went there to learn, and I went toe-to-toe for 3 minutes. It upped my game tremendously."
Ciotoli's MMA team - known as the Bomb Squad - also features a coach and fighter by the name of Alex Stewaret. "He is a pure boxer," Henry says, "and as a result of training with him, our stand-up skills are growing by leaps and bounds."

Like many quickly growing sports with lots of visibility on cable television and the Internet, MMA tends to draw some people who think they can get up to speed quickly. Henry scoffs at such an attitude, saying, "This is a profession, nothing less. Like anything, the danger decreases with skill, but if everyone could do it, nobody would train." He adds, "Anyone who tries to do MMA as a hobby is looking for two things: to get hurt, or to lose their good looks."

Eric Henry's MMA career will take a big step forward in two weeks, when he fights on the undercard at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. "The promoter is getting some really big names," Henry says. For more details, go to www.cnymma.com.

A few weeks back, I wrote a story about Ithaca's Audra Ravo and her first-ever trip to the Equestrian Nationals in California. I promised Audra that if she won, she would be eligible for another 15 minutes of fame. Start the clock. Congratulations, Audra.

Congratulations also to Ithaca College's baseball Bombers, who won the Empire 8 title again and will play in the NCAA Regional (which begins Thursday, in Auburn's Falcon Park). The Bombers will enter the tournament as the number two seed, and would like nothing better than to end the phenomenal 34-game winning streak of the Cortland Red Dragons. IC and SUNY Cortland have built a great rivalry in recent years, and if the Bombers can slay the Dragons, they will by any measure deserve a trip to the Division 3 World Series.