Ethan Stevenson, 23, has recently gotten more involved in mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting, a sport that simultaneously challenges the mind and body.
Stevenson first found his interest for the sport at the age of 10, while watching a Rocky movie.
“Rocky became my inspiration; I had always expressed interest in any kind of competition but I’d never even heard of mixed martial arts until I was 17 or 18 years old,” Stevenson said.
That was about the same time Stevenson started weight training seriously. He’d always been health conscious as both a wrestler and football player throughout middle and high school in St. Marys but to transform his body for MMA fighting he needed to vary his workouts and dieting.
By the time he moved to Manhattan following high school, he took time off from school to work and by the age of 20 he was further altering his diet and getting more serious about fighting competitively.
One of the ways Stevenson works out is CrossFit, which utilizes sledgehammers and other high resistance objects while doing high intensity routines. He also keeps in shape maintaining good form by practicing jujitsu, tai and muaythai boxing and sparring twice per week.
“Traditional boxing is where guys strike each other with padded fists; when you switch over to thai boxing, not only do they use their padded hands, but they also use their knees, elbows and shins to kick people and none of those areas are padded at all,” he said. “There is a lot of blunt force trauma with this type of competition; competitors are more likely to get cut because we are using eight points of the body to strike, instead of just two - it is a lot more effective.”
Stevenson finds having a strong wrestling background has given him an advantage because other fighters don’t have the knowledge to finish someone on the ground by submission — one of the four ways to finish a fight. The other ways to end a fight are knockout (when the opponent literally loses consciousness), technical knockout (when the referee decides the opponent can’t defend himself) or decision (when the match lasts past all of its scheduled rounds forcing judges to settle it with a point system).
At first, finishing someone by submission was the most comfortable way for Stevenson to beat an opponent, but he said he has come a long way and now tends to strike a competitor instead of trying to finish him on the ground.
“A lot of people have the most trouble when they’re standing because they are afraid of getting hit,” Stevenson said. “For a lot of people it is a new thing and they don’t know what it is like or what it will feel like — it is the fear of the unknown — getting hit in training or in a fight has been a great form of awareness for me for a competition.”
Stevenson admits he was afraid to get hit in some of his first competitions but that his second match was “very punishing” so he learned a lot from it. The match itself got “fight of the night.”
“After that was done and over with I wasn’t scared on my feet any more; I already knew the worst that could happen to me — the fear of the unknown was gone — and I had a lot more confidence,” he said.
Stevenson competed in front of roughly 700 spectators in his fourth sanctioned amateur fight June 15 in Emporia. On average, smaller venues bring in roughly 1,200 people, he estimated, whereas the bigger ones can draw crowds of more than 3,000 people.
So far his easiest fight was April 27 in Wichita.
“I wasn’t nervous at all even though there was a huge crowd, tons of people came down to watch me. But because of the fight a month and a half before, I knew there was nothing the guy could do to throw me off. I was ready to go,” Stevenson said. “I ended up hitting him really hard on his feet. He made some mistakes, and I finished him on the ground in submission in 1 1/2 minutes.”
Even though Stevenson is passionate about fighting, he admits the best part about a fight is the post fight meal.
“Knowing you can eat whatever you want afterwards — burgers, beer, whatever — I ate full-on meals of like 1,000 calories for every other hour after my fight… I have probably consumed well over 10,000 calories in 20 hours,” he said.
His favorite post-fight meal is a Reuben sandwich and glass of Guinness from his parents’ pub in St. Marys.
Dieting is a very important part of MMA fighting because if fighters don’t make weight, they are fined.
“I live a clean lifestyle to make sure I come in on weight and in shape,” he said. “I make my own meals and don’t go out to eat. It is hard to get any of the food you want to and stay healthy at the same time.”
Stevenson gets up 5 a.m. almost every day to get an extra workout in before working his day job as a security adviser for LiveWatch Security. After work he has another workout and usually finds himself in bed by 10 p.m., especially when he’s preparing for a fight.
Even though he is recovering from his fight June 15, he will soon be back in preparation mode for his fifth fight, which will take place July 24 in Junction City in front of many friends and family members.
“I like having the extra pressure because I will be more scared of losing in front of my family and friends,” he said. “It will be a good fight.”