How a controversial sport changed a life
It’s 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 academy’s trainer and owner, David “The Viking” Anderson, who sits at his desk.
“The community doesn’t know what it has here,” says the husband, who readily offers that he is 62-years-old and he and his spouse work out at the academy six days a week. “David has made a supportive environment with this place.”
Senior training at an MMA gym? Absolutely, says Anderson, 27. There’s 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.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people still think that this is a place where a bunch of guys get together and just beat each other’s heads in and act macho,” Anderson said. “That’s not what we’re about. You don’t even have to be interested in MMA to work out here.”
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 recent 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 combination of pure chance and kismet (depending on which you believe in), Anderson has fought Middleweight MMA bouts around the world, including Russia, Japan, and Thailand. His record includes 13 losses and 22 wins. His wins include three KO’s (knockouts), 17 submissions and two judges’ decisions. He continues to fight professionally and teach classes at his academy. He trains the 12 MMA fighters that are currently on his roster.
The impression that Anderson gives upon first meeting is one of straightforwardness and discretion. While some people offer up every sordid detail of their past transgressions whether the listener wants to hear it or not, Anderson comes off as temperate and honest. He doesn’t readily offer up information, but he doesn’t feel the need to put a gloss on the truth.
“I made a lot of bad choices when I was younger,” he conceded. “I was angry; I went looking for trouble wherever I could find it. Training for MMA actually mellowed me out and helped me find some calm.”
Anderson got his start in the world of Martial Arts when he was 14, taking kick boxing lessons in Spokane and Seattle. 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.
“My high school counselor tried to encourage me to stick it out, to graduate, but I wouldn’t listen,” Anderson recalled, a slight smile on his face. “I 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 didn’t care what it was, as long as it got me the first ticket out of here.”
A chance meeting
Leaving for basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia three days after he turned 17, Anderson was assigned to infantry. He was in two years before dislocating his knee in Ranger School. He was honorably discharged in 2004.
It was from there that Anderson found his way into the field of MMA. At a party with friends in Auburn, several fights were scheduled throughout the evening. For his first experience watching a supposed MMA bout, Anderson wasn’t impressed.
“Honestly, I thought, ‘These guys are stupid,’” Anderson remembered thinking. “I didn’t see what was so cool or exciting about it. I couldn’t care less and was acting like watching it was a waste of time. The promoter heard me talking smack and said, ‘If you think you’re so tough, why don’t you get in there (the ring). I said I would fight anyone they paired me with.”
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 submission hold and win.
Though MMA didn’t make a good first impression on Anderson, there was someone in the audience that night that Anderson did make a good first impression on. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight Chris “The Crippler” Lebon approached Anderson after the fight and urged him to train. He must have been convincing enough, because Anderson began traveling to various gyms from Spokane, to Chicago, Albuquerque, and Woodland Hills, CA.
You learn fast who your true friends are
“For awhile, all my stuff could fit in two duffel bags and go on a Greyhound bus, and that’s how I lived,” Anderson said. “I slept at gyms, stayed with trainers and other fighters.”
Anderson cites Chuck Liddell 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 focus in the sport.
“Basically, I was his house maid,” jokeed Anderson. “Seriously though, he taught me a lot. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher.”
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 endurance it takes to go round after round in the ring.
“People underestimate how much energy you need to keep going in a fight, whether you’re winning or not,” explained Anderson. “It’s hard to explain how tiring it is. Unless you’ve done it, you don’t understand. But the workouts you do in order to get to that point are refreshing, mentally and physically.”
While he has developed a passion for MMA and appreciates the opportunities it afforded him, the constant traveling and what he refers to as “two-faced attitudes” 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.
“You learn really fast who your true friends are,” he said of his experiences in professional MMA. “One 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 you’re doing and not care so much what other people say, because there are always going to be critics.”
Anderson still fights professionally and he and his team travel to various sanctioned matches throughout Washington, 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. He’s currently concentrating his energy on running Underground MMA and building a good reputation for the sport he loves.
“I’m trying to set a good example,” Anderson added. “I tell the kids that come here that if they are getting into trouble and failing in school, they can’t train here. It’s a privilege for them to come here, not a right.
“People might think we train a bunch of bullies here to hurt other people and that’s not what we do at all. We help each other just as much outside the gym as we do inside it. I want this to be a place where people can come and feel good, like they are accomplishing something. It’s about being the best you can possibly be.”
For more information on Underground MMA, or to schedule a class (first one if free) call 609-680-3944.