Lindsey chases his UFC dream

By Joshua Kinder

Clark Kent prefers the Daily Planet.

Jake Lindsey, well, he likes the library.

Either way, both are pretty super in their other life.

For Lindsey, the other life is in an octagon, caged with walls of metal chain-link fence where he’s been nothing short of super as a mixed martial arts fighter.

“That’s kind of how it is,” said Lindsey, who’s worked at the Manhattan Public Library for nine years, earning the nickname “The Librarian.” “I’m a laidback, nice guy, not real aggressive and because of that, a lot of people are surprised when they find out that I do MMA.

“I like to play video games, I work at the local library and I’m really polite and quiet, and everyone’s like, ‘oh, what else do you do?’ I’m like, ‘I punch people in the face for money.’”

And Lindsey is good at it too. Fighting out of Manhattan’s Combative Sports Center, the 155-pounder in the lightweight division, is 8-0 as a professional fighter and eying a possible move to the UFC — the pinnacle level of the sport. And for what’s its worth, the 27-year-old Lindsey didn’t lose as an amateur either, going 9-0 before turning pro.

“Jake is very special,” said Joe “The Nose” Wilk, a fellow professional fighter who owns CSC and trains Lindsey. “He’s a video game dork, who just happens to be the best fighter I’ve ever met.”

That’s saying something too, because Wilk is a very accomplished fighter in his own right — compiling a 17-8 professional record in the octagon and working as a certified hand-to-hand combat instructor for the U.S. Military, as a civilian.

“He can go as far as he wants to go,” Wilk said of Lindsey. “I’ve trained all over the world with more famous people than I could name, and Jake is as talented as anyone I’ve ever trained with. He’s at a point now where it’s more of an issue finding him a challenge. We need to go to the UFC.

“When you’re a 7-0 kid and you take a fight on short notice against another 7-0 kid from a more popular gym and you see what happened, then its time.”

That fight, on June 7 at Fort Riley, was against Zach Freeman, another fighter who was considered to be on the fast track with Lindsey for the UFC. Lindsey needed just two-and-half-minutes to dispose of Freeman, earning $4,000 and winning the fight on strikes with referee stoppage.

“I kind of fished him — I’m super-relaxed and loose and they get used to me having my hands down and moving, not going really fast,” said Lindsey, who was born and raised in Manhattan. “Then I switched the speed up — that punch I caught him with, I turned it on for two seconds and it clipped him.

“He was really good, but I mean, I’m doing something right.”

Lindsey’s been doing a lot right in MMA since he started fighting six years ago. Introduced to the sport by watching the Pride Fighting Championships on TV, a Japanese mixed martial arts organization, Lindsey decided he wanted to taste the same glory his favorite fighters experienced after victories in the octagon.

“I fell in love with the drama of it, the intensity of it,” he said. “When somebody would win, the music, it was so awesome, especially if your favorite guy would win, no different than a little kid and his favorite football team.”

So, naturally, Lindsey turned to YouTube to begin his training process. Soaking up everything he could from Internet videos and punching sessions with tackling dummies on Manhattan High’s football practice fields, Lindsey decided it was time for a real fight.

“I called up a promoter because I heard about a show in Junction City on the radio,” he said. “I was like, ‘I’m just going to get in there and do it.’ I had no real training at all. The promoter asked me if I had ever trained before, and I was like ‘nope.’

“He wanted to help me out, so he told me to go to a gym and he gave me Joe’s number. The rest is history.”

Lindsey didn’t play sports in high school, “unless football video games count,” he said.

“I ran from cops a little bit — that’s the only intense workout or exercise I got, just running around, causing some trouble and having a good time,” he added. “I never did anything athletic.”

Yet Lindsey seems to be natural in the octagon, starting with his first-ever amateur fight against “some guy named Arthur Torres.”

“He was nicknamed Looney Tunes or something stupid like that — he came out from California,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey had two days notice for the event in Wichita when Wilk called and asked if he wanted to fight.

“I was just sitting at home watching TV,” Lindsey said. “I couldn’t wait to actually fight, but what got me into it in the first place was the glory of it, wanting to be like that guy, the superstar status of it. But my first amateur, I was so nervous that I lost sight of that stuff pretty quick. I just didn’t want to get my (butt) kicked. I was super-nervous.”

It didn’t show.

“He threw a haymaker, the crappiest punch, I ducked under, took him down and choked him out in 25 seconds,” Lindsey said.

Now a perfect 17-0 as an amateur and professional, Lindsey is looking to become the first Kansan to join the UFC, the top level a fighter can reach in MMA. Getting to the UFC is difficult, because after all, you have to win at all the other levels first — and do it against quality opponents — just hoping to get scouted and eventually signed.

“I fought a lot of guys people didn’t want to fight, like Bobby Cooper in my first pro fight,” said Lindsey, who trains twice a day five or six days a week when he’s preparing for a fight. “He’s really tough and people didn’t want to fight him. It’s about not turning down fights and fighting tough guys. You can beat 11 guys who suck, but they’re going to look at it and be like, ‘oh, he beat a guy was 0-4.’”

It’s that mentality that Wilk said makes Lindsey great.

“I don’t mean this as an insult at all, but Jake is just dumb enough to be as great as he is,” said Wilk, who also fights at 155 pounds. “He’s missing that fear component in his brain — it doesn’t matter who’s standing across from him. He fights the same way and to the best of his ability when he needs to the most — that’s really the key.”

But with every win, it’s easy to see how the pressure can begin to mount for “The Librarian,” who says he’s never really been injured during a fight.

“Everybody, my family, they’re like ‘Jake’s a killer, he’s going to kill this guy,’” Lindsey said. “And I might still think that myself, in my head, ‘yeah, I’m going to get this guy.’ But still, everyone’s piling on, like my fourth or fifth pro fight I was kind of getting bored with it. Everyone was like, ‘oh, you’re going to get to the UFC, you’re so good. Everyone kept telling and telling and telling me that.

“I never thought about it actually, but around that time I started to think about how disappointed everyone will be if I lose. I know they’re still going to love me, but it’s like your parents when they say, ‘I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.’ That’s so much worse.

“At this point now, I think I’m over that pressure. Everyone loses eventually. If I lose, I lose. I just don’t want to get my (butt) whooped. That’s my goal, to not get toolboxed, because there are a lot of tough guys out there.”

Wilk said Lindsey handles the pressure as well as anyone he knows.

“Is there pressure? There always is, I mean, its two men fist-fighting in the middle of a steel cage,” he said. “But if he’s nervous, he’s got me fooled.”

Just like Clark Kent.

“I’d rather be Wolverine, by the way,” Lindsey said. “I think Superman is a wuss.”

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