[b]Teaching the trade
Higher Power Promotions guides amateur fighters to compete in the cage
Sports Writer
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LANCASTER - Aaron Crowell remembers thinking something wasn't right. A veteran of at least 60 amateur mixed martial arts fights, Crowell looked across the octagonal cage at a man standing with one of his gloved hands raised.

The event's announcer had just asked all the first-time fighters in attendance to raise their hands.

That memory, at what was supposed to be a main event last January, stopped Crowell in his tracks. The 1996 Lancaster High School graduate decided to change the seedy side of the sport he came to love.
"I got tired of seeing a lot of amateurs getting beaten up by seasoned, well-trained guys," Crowell said. "I moved myself from a competitor's role to more of a coaches' role."

That role became the cornerstone for Higher Power Promotions, Crowell's night job. The promotion company brings together mixed martial arts fighters from around the state and provides the training and guidance necessary for cage-fighting success.

What's known as mixed martial arts to the fighters is the Ultimate Fighting Championship-style made popular by the UFC Pay-Per-View events and recent reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a hybrid of wrestling, kick-boxing and jujitsu.

"During its first five to six years, (MMA) was portrayed as a brutality thing," Crowell said. "And it really was up until recently. We've kind of helped frontline MMA here in Ohio."

All of the reputable fights are sanctioned and licensed by the state, but the sport's relative newness has left back-alley brawlers eager to jump into the cage.

"My biggest interest is making sure these guys have a place to train and that there are people pointing them in the right direction," Crowell said.



Not a day goes by that Phillip Tomelin doesn't regret signing away his amateur fighting career. Tomelin, who moved to Lancaster from Shawnee when he was 14, was conned by a fight promoter and railroaded into the cage to fight against opponents with years of experience under their cinched-up belts. Tomelin, who put his record at 7-3, hasn't struggled in terms of wins and losses, but there's a tinge of regret in his voice.

"Now I'm working to a point to where I'm feeling comfortable doing things," he said. "I don't think that somebody should step into the ring against a pro that has the training and the experience.

"You just don't go in there not knowing what you're doing as a pro athlete. You can't just sign a piece of paper thinking you can step in with best in the world. It doesn't happen like that."

Tomelin has teamed up with Crowell and now trains at the Fairfield Athletic Club, which has become the de facto home of Higher Power Promotions and Crowell's collection of fighters.

The appeal of MMA spans ages, professions and backgrounds. Crowell, who owns a utility construction business, said the fighters he's taken under his wing range from factory workers to gas station attendants to college students.

The appeal of the sport to many of the fighters mirrors that of Crowell's initial impression of it.

"I grew up wanting to be a fighter. I used to train as a kid doing my own type of karate," he said. "I wanted to somehow compete within the limits of the law, to do it legally and put on a show in front of a crowd."


When Crowell teamed up with Bill Shook, owner of the Fairfield Athletic Club, fighters from as far away as Dayton and Delaware not only have a new place to train, they have a venue in which to learn how to fight. The distinction between brawling and fighting is one any mixed martial artist is quick to make.

"It's a lot safer to learn the skills than to just go in there and be a street-fighter," Sean McIntyre said. "You might be able to punch somebody, but if he gets you on the ground, he can break your arm."

McIntyre, who fought and won his first amateur bout over the summer when he broke his opponent's nose, quickly learned the importance of martial arts in MMA

"I just went in there wanting to see what I could do," the Crooksville native said. "That's definitely not a good thing to do. If there's somebody with any kind of experience, you're going to end up getting hurt."

And that's the role Crowell is trying to fill. Training in the different aspects of MMA is offered almost nightly at the Fairfield Athletic Club. Crowell, a two-time Golden Gloves boxing champ coming out of high school, purchased his own octagonal fighting cage and hauls it around to fights he's arranged and promoted. He's currently working on a fight scheduled for Feb. 11 in Lancaster.

"Lancaster and Fairfield County have a pretty good base of fighters," he said. "They've got good, solid athletes that call this place home. They want to be a part of game, but they don't know how crooked it is."

Originally published December 18, 2005


Good article with interesting perspective.