Mixed feelings about mixed martial arts?

Just opening the door to Guardian Mixed Martial Arts immediately satisfies a hunch that this place differs from the standard martial arts studio.

To the left, a gauntlet of punching bags separates a four-rope boxing ring and a chain-link UFC-style octagon. In the center, thick climbing ropes dangle from the rafters. Huge industrial size fans whirr, sending a light breeze across the training area. Two sweaty guys sidestep across the giant padded training floor while passing a medicine ball back and forth. It’s no surprise that they’re sweating, since the temperature rivals that of a cool sauna.

“The heat helps keep injuries down,” explains owner Cliff Fonseca. “It allows the athletes to warm up properly and stay loose.”

Having been involved in martial arts for 15 years, Fonseca knows his stuff. After seeing a need for this type of facility, he and Doug Frazier opened Guardian two years ago.

“We’re open for anybody of any age wanting to train in boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jui-Jitsu, wrestling or judo,” says Fonseca. “We also offer training for mixed martial arts (MMA) competition.”

One example of MMA is the popular Ultimate Fighting Championship. Right now Fonseca and Frazier are preparing Shane Primm for his next MMA fight. With a 5-0 record, he has the skills, but they’re fine-tuning his kicks at the moment.

Primm, 6’3” and 215 pounds, warms up with stretches and slow kicks. He immediately doesn’t fit the outsider’s expectation of how a guy who fights until the point of submission would act. He’s calm, friendly and well-spoken. When asked about pump-up music for a match, he lists nothing specific but mentions country music or mixed CDs that his girlfriend makes. This is a far cry from my expectation of heavy metal, rap or something with aggression. Primm quashes this misconception by explaining that one must stay relaxed before and during a fight to conserve energy.

So just why would someone want to participate in a sport that appears so aggressive?

“It’s just like any other sport,” Primm says of MMA “You’re in it for the competition and the challenge.”

But what about the pain?

“A fighter doesn’t even think about the pain,” explains Primm as he slams Frazier to the boxing ring floor. “He’s busy focusing on his or his opponent’s next move.”

And the injuries? They mostly happen accidentally. According to Fonseca, most injuries happen during practice.

“We aren’t out there to injure each other,” says Primm. “The point is to give the other guy an opportunity to tap out, ending the match.”

Other match-enders include a knockout and injury, and the official will end a fight if a contender passes out or falls face down.

Unfortunately for Primm, Tennessee banned MMA competitions like UFC three years ago, so he must travel to Georgia, Illinois or Kentucky to fight. Unfortunately for Tennessee, the state misses out on a substantial chunk of possible funds generated into the economy. Primm maintains that, while MMA is considered barbaric, it is no more dangerous than boxing and should be legalized in our state.

His next fight is set for around October, so keep an eye out for a local fighter. Or head down to Guardian Mixed Martial Arts and pay him, Cliff and Doug a visit. They’re super nice guys and they offer martial arts for people of all shapes, sizes and ages.

Other Illegal Activities in TN

Fishing with a lasso

Daring a child to buy beer

Giving and receiving oral sex

Carrying skunks into the state

Driving while sleeping

Shooting game other than whales from an automobile

Selling hollow logs


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