Memorial Gym was awakened Saturday night with thousands of people, both young and old, lined up along Quadrangle Drive, eager to see Cookeville’s very first organized fighting event. Blood was spilled, consciousness was lost, and seats were filled as the hoards of fans screamed at the top of their lungs with each blow.The doors opened at six that night and every seat in the house was full within the hour. The Mixed Martial Arts event consisted of 11 bouts ranging in weight classes from Flyweight to Super Heavyweight.
Three Tech students competed, including Flyweight Brent Jackson, Welterweight Charles Fields, and Catch Weight Danny Hickmann.
Jackson, a senior Food, Nutrition, and Dietetics major, weighs in at only 145 pounds, but don’t let that fool you. As he stepped into the ring, the crowd went wild, awaiting the first hit in the first fight of the night.
His stomach full of butterflies, Jackson was excited about making his debut. “I’ve actually never been in a fight with anybody before,” he said. With several friends and family in attendance, Brent used their energy to push him through the anxiety. “When I came out here the crowd was awesome,” he said.
The referee gave the signal and the fight was underway. One could almost see the fire in his eyes as Brent glared at Mike Stoglin, his opponent. Jackson’s light, agile body bounced around the ring, ready to strike.
“I planned on standing with him a little bit more,” said Jackson, “but I came in and pressed him against the cage.”
After taking a blow to the head, Jackson took Stoglin down.
“My instincts kicked in and I got him in a body lock,” he said. “I tagged him with a few shots in the face, then got him in a rear naked choke,” he described.
Within a matter of seconds, Jackson had his adversary right where he wanted him as Stoglin was left with no decision but to tap out. Jackson smiled as he concluded the synopsis, saying, “One minute, easy fight.”
In the third fight, senior Charles Fields took to the mat. The 170-pound business management major from Franklin, Tenn. has been wrestling for 12 years, but had to alter his techniques for this fight.
“I started training in Judo for the last month or so,” he said.
Fields was eager to get in the ring and perform at his best.
“If a fighter says he’s not nervous, he’s lying,” he said before the fight.
Charles, fighting for Team Underdog, was energized by the excitement of the audience.
“It gave me chills,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”
Fields entered the steel cage to face another amateur, Jeremy Boles.
“He came out like a brawler and just wanted to throw haymakers,” Fields said. “As soon as he threw the right hook, I ducked under it and got him in a side clinch.”
From there, Charles took him to the mat using Jiu-Jitsu maneuvers and got Boles in a rear naked choke.
“He almost slipped out of it for a second,” he said. However, Boles’ efforts to escape were futile against the strength of Fields. “If he didn’t tap, he was going to sleep.”
The most intense fight of the night was the Catch Weight match between the inexperienced Danny Hickmann and undefeated Mike Israel.
Hickmann is a junior Fitness and Wellness major here at Tech. As someone who studies fitness, one would think Hickmann would have been well prepared for the bout. What did he do before the fight?
“I played a rugby match today, man.” Hickmann admitted, “That was definitely a stupid decision on my part.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, he also said he only had a week’s notice to prepare. “I actually hurt my shoulder in the rugby game, but I didn’t say anything because my brother already told me I was an idiot for playing,” he added.
As Danny took to the mat in the tenth fight, the crowd was as electric as ever. He was a huge underdog, being matched up against the taller, more experienced Israel.
“I came in there wanting to throw hands,” Hickmann said.
After each fighter landed a couple of hits, they went to the ground.
“I didn’t want to be on the ground with the guy,” he said. Hickmann was pinned under Israel who was relentless with his blows.
He was dropping bombs on my face,” said Hickmann. “I was actually throwing back from the bottom, but my punches weren’t what I wanted them to be.”
Danny eventually got into position to guard his face from the hits, but that’s when Israel made his move. He got Hickmann into an arm-bar, hyperextending Danny’s right elbow. This move is almost sure to make the victim tap-out because staying in the position too long can cause muscle and ligament damage and has the possibility to cause arms to break or dislocate.
“I thought it was over,” Hickmann said. The clock seemed to slow down as he suffered in the excruciating pain, however, he held on. “I heard ten seconds left so I did what I could to hang in there,” he said.
At the end of round one, Hickmann stumbled to his feet, dazed. His coach, his brother, urged him on, encouraging him to not give up.
“It gave me confidence when I saw he was winded too,” Hickmann said, referring to Israel.
“The fans got me going,” he said. As the second round began, the crowd started chanting his name. “Danny! Danny! Danny!” they screamed.
The fight again went to the mat. This time, however, the roles were reversed as Hickmann was able to get on top of Israel.
“I split him in the eye with a left hook and that gave me more confidence,” he said. Each fighter was bleeding and mustering every ounce of energy they could. “I heard them say 30 seconds in the round. I thought to myself ‘Man, I’m so gone right now, I just gotta hurry up and end this’,” Hickmann said.
Blow after blow, Danny’s fists pounded away at Israel’s skull. “I just wouldn’t give up,” said Hickmann. His face cut and swollen, Israel was in a daze. His eyes were unable to focus and were rolling into the back of his head. The crowd continued to support Hickmann.
“I couldn’t let them down,” he said, “They were looking up to me calling my name. It was the best feeling ever.”
The bell rang, and the match had been called due to excessive striking. Hickmann had done the improbable. He jumped to his feet and looked around at the enormous crowd still calling out his name. Danny leaped to the top of the cage, pumping his fists in the air.
“I heard them calling my name, screaming for me,” he said, “That made me feel so good. I loved it.”
“I surprised myself, man,” he said.
When asked if they want to fight here again, without any hesitation, all three fighters gave an emphatic ‘yes’.
Mickey Swafford, owner of Chattanooga Jiu-Jitsu and one of the organizers of the event, says he hopes to hold another fight night at Tech before the end of this semester.
Jackson looks forward to contending again, saying, “We’re definitely coming back; Alpha Jiu-Jitsu’s coming back here. Everybody just remember my name because Brent Jackson’s coming back to tap out some more fools.