mixed martial arts event and student fights

Student fighting in mixed martial arts event
6/23/2010 9:38 PM

By RACHEL JOHNSON
Staff writer

Where do you turn for physical gratification and challenges after high school graduation if you are a wrestler?

This is exactly the question one local man tried to answer as he sought a way to fill the void in his life. Kelly Cook, a USC Aiken student, grew up wrestling. During his senior year of high school in 2006, he competed in the state championships and brought home a bronze medal in the 145 pound 2A category. That was the last time he wrestled.

"I wanted to get into something, but didn't know what," Cook said. "I missed competing, training and the whole preparation of it all."

As he was leaving class at USCA one day he happened to notice a magnet on the side of a car advertising Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiujitsu in Augusta.

That was three years ago, and, now, Cook has attained his one stripe purple belt training under black belt Joshua Miller. Jiujitsu has allowed Cook to continue competing and developed his skills in an entirely different manner than wrestling, he said.

"It was very different to transition from wrestling to jiujitsu over the last three years," said Cook. "My wrestling coach stressed to never be on your back, but, in jiujitsu, it is considered a neutral position to be on your back."

The activity is much more than just a sport to Cook.

"It is very therapeutic for me. It is a way to release all of the anxiety of the day," said Cook. "If there is something wrong, the first place I want to go is to the mat."

In the past few years, Cook has competed in several jiujitsu tournaments, including the World Championships, and has brought home several gold medals; however, his skills and training haven't stopped there.

In recent months, Cook has transitioned to mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting, where he is able to utilize both his wrestling skills as well as his jiujitsu.

On the spur of the moment, Cook entered his first tournament.

"I have always watched it and wanted to give it a shot," said Cook. "I was nervous before the first match. I had a 24-hour notice before a competition in Myrtle Beach. I won my match in 21âÑ2 minutes."

Cook has found MMA fighting to be different from what he has experienced in the past.

"MMA is very different. You set up shots and incorporate wrestling moves. I like it a lot, and I think over the years I have developed a style that is conducive to MMA," Cook said.

On Saturday, Cook will put his training to the test as he competes with only 6-ounce gloves and a mouth piece in the Confrontation at the Convocation at the USC Aiken Convocation Center at 7 p.m.

He will compete in the amateur category; however, professional fights will take place during the event.

Cook admits that, while he thoroughly enjoys the MMA fighting and jiujitsu competitions, they aren't his only focus. He is a senior planning to graduate in the fall of this year with a degree in communications. He is an active member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

For right now, Cook plans to pursue MMA competitions and see where that leads but he hasn't forgotten the importance of education and hopes to one day work in the broadcasting field.

MMA fighting will make its official debut in Aiken during the event, which takes place inside a 24-foot steel cage. There are about 15 fights scheduled.

A portion of the proceeds raised from the event will be donated to Special Olympics (Area 15). Tickets are on sale at the USC Aiken Convocation Center Box Office, www.georgianlinatix.com or charge by phone at (866) 722-8877. Ticket prices range from $15 to $55. For VIP-only tables, call 514-0095.

Contact Rachel Johnson at rjohnson@aikenstandard.com.

Want to Go?

What? Confrontation at the Convocation

When? Saturday at 7 p.m.

Where? USC Aiken Convocation Center
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