By WAYNE QUESENBERRY/Staff
The action was hard-hitting with knockouts and plenty of blood at Saturday night’s Titans of the Cage. The sportsmanship was respectful and honorable.
“I wanted to do something new to Wytheville but not reckless,” said Greg Ring, owner/operator of Southwest Martial Arts, which sponsored the first-ever local mixed martial arts competition. “I did not want the participants to come across as disrespectful to their opponents or the audience. The theme was honor in the cage and I wanted to put martial arts back into martial arts. I teach my students respect. I teach them to be humble and to have a modest attitude.”
Five of Ring’s students, Micah Sheffey, McKensey Heath, Doug Williams, David Long and Dakota McGinn competed in the Global Combat Alliance sanctioned event. It was the first time in the cage for Sheffey, Williams and Long, with only 16-year-old Williams losing his bout.
“I was thrilled with their performances,” Ring stated. “It is nice to win but when we conduct ourselves like champions we win every time by not being disrespectful or sore losers or bad winners.”
There were 17 different bouts at the George Wythe High School gymnasium packed with spectators of all ages. Participants came from as far away as North Carolina and Tennessee.
Other local competitors included 18-year-old David Spencer of Wytheville, a student of Jinjer Covert at Kwik Kix in Wytheville and a student at Penn State University; Tony Fowler of Wytheville, a student of Jearl Sutherland of Sutherland Fighting Systems; and Craig Wilson, Aaron Davis and Cody Gibson, all of Wytheville and fighting as independents.
Bouts were based on the weight of the fighter and the amount of experience. Participants could not be under the age of 16 and their competitors could be no more than two years older.
Referees and score keepers from the state-licensed Global Combat Alliance oversaw the event. Each match was scheduled to last three rounds but most did not go the distance with fighters being knocked out or surrendering to their opponent.
One of the crowd-pleasers of the evening was the women’s match between Taylor Miller of Knoxville, Tenn., and Ashlee Nee of Indian Trail, N.C. The bout lasted all three rounds with Miller winning the judges’ decision over favored-to-win Nee.
Serving as ring card girls were Samantha Frye of Marion and Reva Akers of Radford. They took turns carrying cards announcing the number of rounds in the bout and posed for photos with winners of each category.
“It was a lot of fun,” remarked Frye, who teaches gymnastics and works at Cracker Barrel.
Akers is a certified nursing assistant and works at a nursing home. She remarked about Titans of the Cage, “I enjoyed it.”
They both said they applied online for the jobs. It was their first time as ring card girls.
Also sitting at ringside and presenting trophies to the winners was Miss Mountain Empire Misti Caviness of Wytheville, a contestant at the 2010 Miss Virginia Pageant. She sat with her hands over her face for most of the matches.
“I’d never seen a match before,” she stated after the nearly three-hour event. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
The Wythe County JROTC Color Guard presented the flags at the opening of the event. Leslie F. Mabe, music teacher at Spiller Elementary School, sang the National Anthem.
According to Ring, he began planning Titans of the Cage in early March. He was assisted by his wife, Kimberly Ring; his assistant instructor, James Heath; and many other volunteers over the course of the event.
Among the major factors were locating a place to hold the event, finding sponsors for the bouts, obtaining the official cage to hold the matches and securing participants for the bouts.
“This has been absolutely a learning experience,” stated Ring, a 25-year veteran teacher of martial arts. “It has taken an enormous amount of work to put this on. I couldn’t have done it without all the support everyone has given me. I’ve already been asked when I was going to do it again. I tell them to let me get over this one first.”
After the considerable amount of expenses are paid, Ring plans to donate the remainder of he money to the Learn Today Lead Tomorrow Afterschool Program at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Wytheville. His wife is the executive director.
“It is a very worthwhile program,” Ring added. “It provides a lot of activities for kids who would otherwise be left alone after school.”
Wayne Quesenberry can be reached at 228-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org .