Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. It combines different fighting techniques including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Judo, Karate, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and Taekwondo. What started out five years ago as unfamiliar territory during the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” program on television has turned into a can’t miss sporting event, gaining viewership rapidly.
But watching and competing in the sport are completely different animals. It’s one thing to watch an MMA fight from the comfort of your couch, but to actually step into the cage and go head to head in a fight can be quite daunting.
That’s not the case for 35-year-old Marion resident and Old Rochester Regional High School graduate Jim Manning. In just over a week, he will be making his American Fighting Organization (AFO) debut at the Holiday Inn in Boxboro, MA on Saturday, February 16 at 7:00 pm.
“I’m really excited. This is something I’ve always wanted,” said Manning. “I feel prepared, I’ve trained hard, done my homework and I’ve got great coaches. I’m looking forward to fight night.”
Manning began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a few years ago after catching MMA fever. During his training, he met his Coach and friend Marcio Silvia. Silvia owns Xcel Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in New Bedford, where Manning both trains and teaches classes.
“When Coach Marcio opened Xcel this summer, we only had three or four students with us,” said Manning. “Today, we often have 20 students at our fundamentals classes. We just added kickboxing on Tuesday and Thursday and our youth classes are packed. It’s pretty amazing.”
For the past eight weeks, Manning has spent six days in “camp,” which is what MMA fighters call training. Between teaching classes and taking classes, there are days during the week where Manning spends almost six hours at the gym. That’s six hours spent in the gym on top of working full-time as a carpenter and spending time with his kids. But Manning doesn’t mind the busy schedule.
“I love waking up every day knowing I’ve got the chance to out-train my opponent,” he said. “I truly believe that if I do that day after day, it will pay off when we meet in the cage. There’s no way I’m being outworked.”
One week after his fight in Boxboro, Manning will fight again in front of a more local crowd in Plymouth. Cage Fighting Extreme (CFX) 22 will take place at the Jungle Plex and doors will open at 6:30 pm.
“The hardest part of the sport is waiting until it’s your turn to fight. I’m not looking forward to that,” said Manning.
In two weeks, Manning will have his first two fights as part of the AFO under his belt. What would be a lofty accomplishment for many is only just the beginning for him.
“Hopefully I’ll get through these next two fights with two wins and injury free,” he said. “Then I’d like one more amateur fight this summer and turn pro by the end of the year.”
For more information on Manning or MMA in general, or for tickets to the upcoming fights, contact Marcio Silvia at 774-202-7260 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the AFO, visit www.afomma.com.
By Katy Fitzpatrick