MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
The smell of blood, sweat and aggression permeates the senses, stinging the nostrils, clenching the throat and tingling the skin. The roar of the crowd deafens the ears. The anticipation builds. All the training has been for this moment inside a six-sided cage. This is mixed martial arts.
This is the world that Lance Cpl. Forrest Mudge, Combat Logistics Company 16 welder, inhabits in his off time, training his body into a weapon so he can compete in one of the most violent sports in the U.S.
Mudge, a Houston native and former high school football player, began fighting after high school as a way to continue his love of contact sports.
“After high school I started practicing Soo Bahk Do while I worked as a welder,” said 21-year-old Mudge, the only Marine on station who competes in sanctioned fights. “Then I saw a fight on the Ultimate Fighting Championship and I thought to myself, ‘I want to do that.’”
From there, Mudge started training and fighting at a local Houston MMA gym, before joining the Corps in 2009.
“I joined to improve my welding and to get money for school,” said Mudge. “Then after six months of basic training I got stationed here and one of the first things I did was find a place that would train me.”
Mudge now sharpens his skills at Arizona Athletics Club in Yuma where he trained for eight months before his first exhibition match in September.
“I was really nervous,” said Mudge. “He was about five pounds heavier than me and looked tough, but after he threw his first kick and I countered with kicks of my own, I knew I was going to beat him.”
Mudge won the match in 1 minute and 40 seconds with a technical knockout.
“After I kicked him I threw a straight punch and he flinched back, we circled each other and then I went low and threw him, after he landed I came in and got in the full mount position, then I just started hammering him,” said Mudge. “The next thing I knew the ref pulled me off and I went back to my corner expecting the match to continue, but the ref came over and told me to settle down, I won. It was a rush, I felt like such a badass.”
After the match, however, he realized that he still had to improve his skills.
“The match made me see that I really need to work on wrestling more,” said Mudge. “I think it’s boring, but it’s a huge part of MMA.”
Training six days a week at Arizona Athletics Club and during his lunch hour at the station gym to improve his skills, Mudge is preparing for his next fight at Cocopah Casino in April.
While Mudge dedicates a lot of his off time to MMA, he realizes that it can’t interfere with his day-to-day activities at work.
“Sometimes I do think that my job interferes with my MMA,” said Mudge. “Then I remember that I’m a Marine first, and I still have an obligation to get what needs to be done, done.”
After completing his 4-year enlistment, Mudge plans to attend San Diego State College and eventually open his own gym dedicated to MMA. In the meantime Mudge is focused on gaining fighting experience.
“I don’t want to be one of those guys who opens a MMA gym and has no idea what he’s talking about. I want to have a few professional fights under my belt so I have some credibility.”