How a controversial sport changed a life
Itâs a quiet morning in the Underground Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Academy in Kettle Falls, except for the steady, slightly labored breathing of two participants just wrapping up the Senior Boomers Boxing session. After their workout, the husband and wife team visit with the acadÂemyâs trainer and owner, David âThe Vikingâ Anderson, who sits at his desk.
âThe community doesnât know what it has here,â says the husband, who readily ofÂfers that he is 62-years-old and he and his spouse work out at the academy six days a week. âDavid has made a supportive environment with this place.â
Senior training at an MMA gym? Absolutely, says AnderÂson, 27. Thereâs also Grade Kids Boxing for kindergarten through 4th grade and 5th through 8th grade, as well as Muay Thai Kick Boxing, strength and cardio weight loss classes, self-defense for special needs, kids wrestling, and, of course, training for those who actually aspire to be Mixed Martial Arts fighters.
âUnfortunately, a lot of peoÂple still think that this is a place where a bunch of guys get toÂgether and just beat each otherâs heads in and act maÂcho,â Anderson said. âThatâs not what weâre about. You donât even have to be inÂterÂested in MMA to work out here.â
Located at 235 East 3rd Ave. #B in Kettle Falls, Anderson started Underground MMA after he moved back to Kettle Falls three years ago (he grew up in the community). The gym moved into its most reÂcent site last August, between Napa Auto Parts and Kettle Falls Inn.
The first ticket out
For one so young, Anderson has packed a lot of living into life thus far. A professional MMA fighter who came into the sport due to a combinaÂtion of pure chance and kisÂmet (depending on which you believe in), Anderson has fought Middleweight MMA bouts around the world, inÂcluding Russia, Japan, and Thailand. His record includes 13 losses and 22 wins. His wins include three KOâs (knockouts), 17 submissions and two judgesâ decisions. He continÂues to fight professionÂally and teach classes at his academy. He trains the 12 MMA fighters that are curÂrently on his rosÂter.
The impression that AnderÂson gives upon first meeting is one of straightforwardness and discretion. While some people offer up every sordid detail of their past transgresÂsions whether the listener wants to hear it or not, AnÂderson comes off as temperate and honest. He doesnât readily offer up information, but he doesnât feel the need to put a gloss on the truth.
âI made a lot of bad choices when I was younger,â he conÂceded. âI was angry; I went looking for trouble wherever I could find it. Training for MMA acÂtually mellowed me out and helped me find some calm.â
Anderson got his start in the world of Martial Arts when he was 14, taking kick boxing lessons in Spokane and SeatÂtle. At age 16 he dropped out of Kettle Falls High School and took the test for his GED, looking to join the United Starts Army. Though GED testing is usually spread out over the course of several days, or even weeks because of the amount of subject matter, Anderson finished all five tests in one day. When he took the ASVAB for military job placement in 2002, he scored in the top percentile in Washington State.
âMy high school counselor tried to encourage me to stick it out, to graduate, but I wouldnât listen,â Anderson reÂcalled, a slight smile on his face. âI thought I knew it all, you know? When it was time for me to pick my job in the army I wanted whatever would get me out off this area the quickest. I didnât care what it was, as long as it got me the first ticket out of here.â
A chance meeting
Leaving for basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia three days after he turned 17, AnÂderson was assigned to inÂfantry. He was in two years before dislocating his knee in Ranger School. He was honÂorably discharged in 2004.
It was from there that AnderÂson found his way into the field of MMA. At a party with friends in Auburn, sevÂeral fights were scheduled throughout the evening. For his first experience watching a supposed MMA bout, AnderÂson wasnât impressed.
âHonestly, I thought, âThese guys are stupid,ââ AnÂderson remembered thinking. âI didnât see what was so cool or exciting about it. I couldnât care less and was acting like watching it was a waste of time. The promoter heard me talking smack and said, âIf you think youâre so tough, why donât you get in there (the ring). I said I would fight anyÂone they paired me with.â
Anderson was put in the ring with a fighter that had several black belts in various martial arts and had yet to lose a fight. Anderson ended the match in the first round; his training from the Army kicked in and enabledhim to put his opponent in a submisÂsion hold and win.
Though MMA didnât make a good first impression on AnÂderson, there was someone in the audience that night that Anderson did make a good first impression on. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight Chris âThe Cripplerâ Lebon approached Anderson after the fight and urged him to train. He must have been convincing enough, because Anderson began travÂeling to various gyms from Spokane, to Chicago, AlbuÂquerque, and Woodland Hills, CA.
You learn fast who your true friends are
âFor awhile, all my stuff could fit in two duffel bags and go on a Greyhound bus, and thatâs how I lived,â AnderÂson said. âI slept at gyms, stayed with trainers and other fighters.â
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Anderson cites Chuck LidÂdell as the MMA instructor that was most inspiring to him during his training. He says he stayed with Liddell for several months while Liddell helped hone his skills and foÂcus in the sport.
âBasically, I was his house maid,â jokeed Anderson. âSeriÂously though, he taught me a lot. I couldnât have asked for a better teacher.â
One lesson that Anderson learned quickly, and that he says is the biggest surprise to those who start training in MMA, is the amount of endurÂance it takes to go round after round in the ring.
âPeople underestimate how much energy you need to keep going in a fight, whether youâre winning or not,â exÂplained Anderson. âItâs hard to explain how tiring it is. Unless youâve done it, you donât unÂderstand. But the workouts you do in order to get to that point are refreshing, mentally and physically.â
While he has developed a passion for MMA and appreciÂates the opportunities it afÂforded him, the constant travÂeling and what he refers to as âtwo-faced attitudesâ within the industry made him long for a home base. He says he moved back to Kettle Falls to be closer to his family and establish his gym.
âYou learn really fast who your true friends are,â he said of his experiences in profesÂsional MMA. âOne minute someone will be acting like your best friend, like they have got your back no matter what. Then you lose a fight and they totally trash you. You have to learn how to just focus on what youâre doing and not care so much what other people say, because there are always going to be critics.â
Anderson still fights profesÂsionally and he and his team travel to various sanctioned matches throughout WashÂington, Idaho and Montana. He recently found out that the Triad Fight League selected him as a number one draft pick for the 2013 sseason with the SanDiego Spartasn. Heâs currently concentrating his energy on running UnderÂground MMA and building a good reputation for the sport he loves.
âIâm trying to set a good exÂample,â Anderson added. âI tell the kids that come here that if they are getting into trouble and failing in school, they canât train here. Itâs a privilege for them to come here, not a right.
âPeople might think we train a bunch of bullies here to hurt other people and thatâs not what we do at all. We help each other just as much outÂside the gym as we do inside it. I want this to be a place where people can come and feel good, like they are accomÂplishing something. Itâs about being the best you can possiÂbly be.â
For more information on Underground MMA, or to schedule a class (first one if free) call 609-680-3944.