The Roanoke Times
The Roanoke Times has an article written by
by Steve Greico who does a feature on a local MMA fighter.
No longer ‘barbaric,’ but still primal
By Steve Greico
“I’m a nice guy outside of the ring,” says Radford-born and aspiring ultimate fighting champion Tim Mannon.
Tim Mannon doesn’t try to sugarcoat it. The sport he loves is violent. Blood and broken bones, he said, come with the territory.
Fortunately for Mannon, he has been relatively injury-free during his 8-0 run in professional mixed martial arts competitions, better known as ultimate fighting. It is a relatively new combat sport in the United States, where competitors skilled in boxing and various martial arts battle it out in a cage.
They kick, punch, choke and twist limbs until someone is knocked out or, more often, ends up in a painful, inescapable position and surrenders.
Now Mannon wants to take his undefeated record to the big league of ultimate fighting. Within the next year, he expects to be competing for the Ultimate Fighter Championship, the premier mixed martial arts organization in the country.
Ultimate fighting has surged in popularity in the past few years, thanks largely to the Ultimate Fighter Championship and a of number televised events and programs, including a reality series.
This is a big change from the 1990s, when the sport attracted a lot of negative attention. Fights broadcast on pay-per-view television were advertised as no-rules battles where anything goes. It was more of a spectacle than a sport, and a violent one at that. As a result, televised ultimate fighting was banned in most states.
“For a while, it was considered sort of barbaric,” Mannon explained. “To keep the sport around, they brought some basic rules in.”
The addition of rules, weight classes and other boxing-style conventions have helped ultimate fighting gain a level of respectability in the sports world. Tactics such as eye gouging, hits to the groin and hair pulling are not permitted, but choking, kicking and various other moves are fair game.
Fighters wear small 4-ounce boxing gloves that provide only a marginal amount of protection. The result is that ultimate fighting matches still have a very raw, primal feel — and appeal.
Last year, Mannon’s talent caught the attention of the promoters for King of the Cage, an ultimate fighting competition that often airs on pay-per-view. Unfortunately, he had to decline because he had an interview for a new day job on the same date.
Now he’s planning to submit a video application to be part of the next Ultimate Fighter reality series on Spike TV. The winner gets a six-figure Ultimate Fighter Championship contract.
Mannon’s expertise is in a form of wrestling called Brazilian jiujitsu. It is a martial art that emphasizes chokeholds and submission holds, which basically mean bending an opponent’s joints — like an elbow, knee or ankle — in such a way that causes extreme pain or fear of injury.
A competitor wins when he can get a challenger to surrender by “tapping out” — essentially signaling that he submits. The best ultimate fighters are skilled in some form of submission wrestling, as well as a variety of other combat arts like boxing and karate.
“You’ve got to know from the standing to the grappling part to compete,” Mannon explained.
In addition to training in Brazilian jiujitsu for ultimate fighting competitions, Mannon is also an instructor.
He said about 95 percent of his students are not interested in competing but want help with physical conditioning or self-defense skills.
Submission wrestling skills, he added, can be incredibly useful in a typical street fight or barroom brawl, even enabling a weaker man to defend against a stronger attacker. A practitioner with a good command of the techniques can often take down and control an assailant before anyone is hurt.
“After two classes I was hooked,” said Justin Chong, a senior at Virginia Tech. “It’s different from other martial arts because it’s so practical. I also realized I’m not going to find someone with that level of expertise anywhere around here.”
Mannon, who was born and raised in Radford, has been studying Brazilian jiujitsu for 10 years and recently earned his black belt. He offers additional training for students who want to compete, but most are not ready to commit the necessary time and energy. At 35, he trains six days a week — wrestling, running, weight lifting, boxing and more — balancing everything with family life and a full-time job at Cintas.
It’s the one-on-one competition that drives Mannon through such a hectic schedule. He became interested in Brazilian jiujitsu after dabbling with boxing. Ultimate fighting, he found, combined those interests and more.
“It’s going at it, and the best man wins,” he said. “In my sport, you let down one time and you’re going to get knocked out. There’s nobody there to back you up.”
Richard Jessee teaches Brazilian jiujitsu part time at the Weight Club in Blacksburg and has known Mannon for years. He described Mannon as world class, the most complete fighter he has ever met.
“As far as raw natural talent, I don’t think anybody around here comes close,” Jessee said. “This guy needs to be on the top of the contenders list.”
Still, Mannon said he occasionally finds people who disapprove.
“They automatically think I’m some kind of troublemaker,” he said. “I’m a nice guy outside of the ring.”
Mannon is only 5-foot-7, but he is built like a brick house and can look menacing. He figures much of the criticism comes from people who don’t understand the sport and the hard work required to be successful. The best ultimate fighters are truly world-class athletes, he said.
“It’s about time my sport gets some credit,” Mannon said.
Even if Mannon’s bid for a spot on the reality series fails, he will continue training and fighting with the intention of applying directly to the Ultimate Fighter Championship. He expects he’ll be ready after another three to four fights, if not sooner. Judging by the decisiveness of some of Mannon’s victories, he should do well in the upper levels of the sport.
In one fight, for example, Mannon’s nose was broken — one of just a few injuries he has sustained. Without hesitating, he took his opponent to the mat and unleashed a flurry of punches to force a surrender. His latest match was over in just 33 seconds, after Mannon took the challenger to the floor and quickly maneuvered him into an arm lock.