Van in front of Grand Tetons

A Glimpse Into my MMA Debut

Jackson Nielsen

The roar of the crowd could be felt rather than heard as I stood in the back hallway of the D&N Event Center in North Platte, NE. After minutes that felt like hours, I heard my name being announced over the loudspeakers; “from the Bud Light blue corner, Jackson Nielsen”. My walkout music begins to play as I mount the steps to enter the arena. My eyes are momentarily blinded as the blazing spotlights focus on me. Walking down the path created by metal guard rails, I am robed in only my fight shorts, 4oz MMA gloves, mouthpiece, and my game face. The cheers from the spectators attempt to pull my focus away from the task at hand but I stare straight into the lens of the cameramen walking in front of me; streaming my every step to the numerous big screens scattered around the arena. I stop at the entrance to the cage to have a generous amount of vaseline smeared across the highpoints of my face; this aids in the leather gloves sliding off the skin instead of catching and causing cuts.  Before I step into the cage, the ringside doctor quickly checks me over, confirming my fingernails are cut and I have both my protective cup and mouthpiece in place. After one last drink of water from my boxing coach, Juan Arredondo, I mount  the steps to the cage and give three successive stomps to the floor and walk to the blue corner. As I stand, awaiting my opponent to make his walk to the octagon, my mind is filled with thoughts of no relevance to the battle ahead. After my opponent, Easi “Sol” Morales enters the cage, the announcer, Mike Kendall begins his introductions of the two warriors who stand facing each other. At the conclusion of the announcements, the cage is locked and the official walks to the middle of the cage.

At this moment, my mind is clear, I stare across the cage at the man I will attempt to hurt and feel no emotion. The official confirms we are both ready to go and calls a start to the fight. I bounce out of my corner, keeping my guard high and protective as I touch gloves with my opponent as a showing of respect. I begin to circle to my left to avoid the rear head kick that my opponent loves to throw from his southpaw stance. After 15 seconds of lateral movement, I step in to make first contact with a calf kick to my opponents front leg. Simultaneously, my opponent threw a rear teep kick up the front. The effect of these two kicks being thrown at the same time resulted in an off-balancing of Esai Morales which, coming from a wrestling background, I capitalized with a takeown which resulted in me being on top of my opponent in half-guard. This was all a part of my team’s gameplan; take the fight to the ground and use my wrestling to dominate with ground and pound. As I landed my first punch to my opponent’s face, I had a moment of clarity where I realized this was the first time I had used my full strength to punch someone in the face wearing 4oz gloves. The rest of the three minute round passed in a blur with me maintaining control and landing punches whenever the opportunity presented itself. 

As the bell rang, signifying the end of the first round, I got up off my opponent and my legs wobbled underneath me as I had been exerting so much energy controlling my opponent on the ground. The one minute break between rounds passed as though it was only a few seconds. My head coach, Richard Barajas, gave me simple advice, reminding me to stay relaxed, circle to the left, and be patient in getting to my takedowns. The warning blocks clack together, alerting everyone that there is only ten seconds left in the break and my coach exits the cage. The second round begins with more circling and lateral movement. As I circled, I faked a takedown and came back upstairs with a left hook to head. My opponent retreated as I hastily followed and threw a right side kick to the body. After this exchange, Esai circled out and we were back to the center of the cage. I continued my lateral movement and successfully blocked the left-side head kick which I knew would be coming at some point. 30 seconds into round two, I finally saw my opportunity to take the fight to the ground and stepped in and executed a perfect takedown on my opponent. This proved to be the beginning of the end as I controlled my opponent and began with a brutal ground and pound. After raining down huge punches and elbows, the official had seen enough and called a stop to the fight, ending it with a second round technical knockout. 

As I stood up in the cage, I looked at the camera, crossed my arms and gave a look which said “business as usual”. My coaches came in the cage and gave me hugs and I finally got my hand raised, officially cementing me as the winner.