MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Service members of all branches faced off in the 2012 US Military Mixed Martial Arts Championships, at Camp Pendleton’s 53 area gym in Camp Horno, May 12.
A total of eight teams, comprised of 112 military members, competed for placement titles and prizes. One team came out on top with nearly every member performing with strength, speed and determination to win.
“We had 14 fighters total, we took 7 gold medals, 4 silvers and 2 bronze,” said Mark Geletko, the coach of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center’s team from 29 Palms. Geletko believes that much of the team’s success is due to their dedication to the sport and continuous conditioning, he said.
“This is the third, first place we’ve taken in Pankration this year. We’ve won the nationals and the states; so this is our ‘hat trick’,” said Geletko. “These guys put in a lot of hard work, through many weeks of training to build up to this armed forces championship and they all performed well.”
For some, dedication is what powers these fighters and keeps them in top physical condition to endure each evolution of their training and competition.
“We had several gold medals and these guys do all of their training on their own time,” said Geletko. “They all come in after work and trained for about two or three hours every day and I think it’s safe to say that it’s paid off in a major way.”
For others, the success isn’t as much in the triumph as it is the effort.
“If I win or lose, it doesn’t matter,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, who took home the gold for the 265 weight class. “I go in with the warrior spirit and even if I don’t win I still walk away happy because, at least I got to step on the mat, cage or ring and give it my all.”
Smith can attest to the idea that success in the ring and on the mat is a continuous challenge. He has been training and competing for years and, every so often, he still has a bit of trouble adjusting in a match.
“I just love to do it. I’ve been in mixed martial arts and fighting since I was five-years-old,” said Smith. “Pankration feels a little weird for me at times because I’m a pro MMA fighter and I like to strike to the head, so I almost got disqualified for being too aggressive.”
Some fighters had to fight in a different weight class then they were used to and many found it challenging.
“The hardest part for me was competing in at 170 because those guys are beasts,” said Arthur Powell who placed first in the 170 pound weight class. “They are strong, fast and mobile. These were fights that were brutal and I needed a lot of stamina to keep up.”
Powell wanted to remain practical in his strategy before and during each match; especially since he would be competing in an unfamiliar weight class.
“I really didn’t want to get into a jiu jitsu or wrestling match with these guys because I knew they’d all be stronger than me,” said Powell. “I knew from the beginning that mobility would be the key, so I focused more on striking.”
Many of the fighters spoke of remaining humble and preparing themselves for what’s next. “I think this win was good but now it’s time to move on to the next challenge,” said Powell.
Marines took the top three overall team spots, in addition to first place in the women’s open and first in all weight classes from 135 to 265 pounds.