Eric Phillips, a member of the KnuckleUp family, recently made his debut as a competitive fighter. He writes about why he decided to fight and what it means to him to be able to test himself inside the ring.
As long as I can remember, I have wanted to step inside of the ring. Growing up during the Mike Tyson era and watching Bruce Lee, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Chuck Norris movies fed that desire. I remember my parents buying me a pair of boxing gloves with a digital Sugar Ray Leonard autograph for my 6th birthday. I was always practicing boxing and other martial arts.
Fast forward to when I joined Knuckle Up Fitness a few years ago, I focused primarily on Brazilian jiu jitsu and dabbled in Muay Thai when I had a chance. After watching my teammate Maryia Arlova’s success in the past year, I decided to finally to add a greater focus on Muay Thai and feed that childhood desire of stepping into the ring.
My first fight was set with another fighter that was fighting for the first time. All that I knew was that he was a Tae Kwon Do black belt. Our plan was to clinch and grind him out with pressure, knees, and dirty boxing. I put in as much training as possible in Muay Thai, boxing, and cardio kickboxing classes at Knuckle Up Fitness. During the Muay Thai classes, I would spar 5-10 rounds at a time. After each round a new partner would step in. This was a grueling process but forced me to push myself past exhaustion.
The night of the fight I was obviously nervous. I was the 12th fight on the card, so I had time to think about the fight. I did my best to relax and focus on my strategy. Once it was time to start wrapping my hands, I switched my mind to the business at hand. I started to warm up by hitting pads. Once the warm up started, I began to relax. My coach Ryan Raleigh pulled me to the side. We went over our strategy, and he gave me words of wisdom.
It was now time to walk to the cage. Many teammates, friends, and family came out to support. Hearing the cheers when I walked out was motivating. When the opening bell rang, I got into the clinch early. I felt that I had the advantage there and continued to work from that position. In the second round, I continued to work the clinch. I could hear all of my fans and his fans chanting back and forth. This was just as I imagined it. I was having fun out there. Later in the round, I landed a knee. I heard him grunt and lower his hands as if I hurt him. I went for the finish and started working in hooks and uppercuts. I hit him with everything I had, and he did not fall. He was able to get off of the cage and came back at me. Those training sessions of working those rounds with a fresh partner each time definitely helped me push through this exhausted state. The third round continued as the previous round had with me working the clinch and kneeing him. I was so tired. I kept telling myself, “just twenty more seconds and then just twenty more seconds.” When the final bell sounded, I knew I had done enough for the victory. I wanted to finish him, but I was proud that I left it all in the cage. My name was announced as the winner, and I had won my first fight. This was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I can’t wait to do it again. I thank all of my teammates and coaches for preparing me for the fight, all of those who came to cheer me on, my wife for her support, and my opponent for pushing me to the limit.