April 23, 2014 - Austin Bryant literally kicked off his career in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting by winning his first amateur bout April 12 at the Kaliseum Recreation Complex in Kalkaska.
Oxford resident Austin Bryant, 21, has his hand raised in triumph after winning his debut Mixed Martial Arts fight in Kalkaska on April 12. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
Making his fighting debut at Big John's MMA Fighting for Fight Family 3, the 21-year-old Oxford resident won by technical knockout less than 50 seconds into the first round.
"It's just something I've always wanted to do," said Bryant, a 2011 graduate of Oxford High School. "It was probably the most calm I've ever been for a competition in my life. I just had a good feeling. I felt like I was really prepared."
Bryant set the scene.
"(My opponent) took me down. I created a scramble and got back to my feet. I caught him with a punch and I could tell he was hurt, so I just kept hitting him. He was covering up . . . I didn't stop punching and I caught him with a couple knees. The referee had to stop it."
"I was excited," Bryant noted. "That was probably the happiest I've been in a long time. I was really happy with how I performed."
MMA is an extreme full-contact combat sport that allows contestants to use the fighting techniques of wrestling and boxing along with those of martial arts such as kickboxing and karate. Striking, kicking and grappling are all permitted.
"I like how it puts everything together," Bryant said. "It's the purest (form of) competition to me. It's two people going in (the ring) with all their skills and seeing who's the best."
Involved in martial arts since he was 3½ years old, Bryant has a second-degree black belt in karate and a white belt in jiu-jitsu.
In 2011 and 2012, Bryant competed as part of the USA Karate Team at the world championships in Portugal and Spain. He earned silver medals in fighting both years.
He's also boxed for two years and engaged in a handful of kickboxing matches since age 13.
Right now, he's working to improve his wrestling skills, which for MMA fights are "a little different," according to Bryant, than those utilized in high school competitions where "you don't have someone kicking or punching you in the face."
Ironically, Bryant didn't wrestle when he attended OHS. He played football up to 10th grade and lacrosse all four years.
Bryant's next MMA fight is scheduled for July in Vanderbilt, Michigan.
Turning pro in the MMA world is a "long-term goal" for him. Someday he could step into "The Octagon' – the famous eight-sided cage where MMA fighters do battle – to compete in an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout.
"That's a big dream of mine," he said. "But right now, I'm just thinking about (scheduling) fights and getting better."
Bryant would like to build a team of MMA fighters to train with on a regular basis.
"If I got something going here in Oxford, it would be amazing," he said. "I'm driving all over just to find places to train with good people. I go up to Lapeer. I go all the way up to Grayling just to work on my skills with pros and people that know what they're doing."
He trains every day, every week. On Monday, it's boxing at the Strike Boxing Club in Oxford. He does jiu-jitsu on Tuesdays at Dragon MMA in Lapeer. Wednesdays are for cardio workouts involving running, jumping rope and lifting light weights. On Thursdays, he engages in karate sparring and works on his kicks at Bryant's Karate in Oxford. Fridays are for grappling.
"I probably put in about 20 hours (per week)," Bryant said.
Anyone interested in training with Bryant is welcome to call (248) 969-7859 and leave their name and contact information.
"The more training partners, the better," he said. "I want someone to push me and who wants me to push them. People don't think it's a team sport, but it really is. The more people you have, the more you can learn from each other and grow. That's my short-term goal right now – get a team started down here in Oxford."
"The winning's done inside the gym," Bryant added. "It's all about how much work you put in. If you've got someone there to push you, you can only get better."
All Bryant asks is that potential training partners must be serious about MMA fighting and committed to doing whatever's necessary to improve.
"There's a lot of people that say they want to do this because it looks cool, but not a lot of people want to put in the hours or end up getting hit in the face," he said.
No matter what life throws at him, Bryant is ready to face it. "I love fighting and I'm going to do it as much as I can for as long as I can," he said. "I know God has a plan for me, whether it is teaching martial arts and training fighters like my father, or competing as a professional. I'm just excited to be doing what I love and seeing where God's plan takes me."
Bryant wished to thank his father, Jeff Bryant, owner of Bryant's Karate, "for everything that he's done for me."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.