MMA: Joel Bauman brings fight to Willmar
Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 2010 football / wrestling / track star idolizes Bruce Lee as a martial artist and philosopher. And the idea of bringing together all the different martial arts came very early on.
“I wrote articles in fourth grade about wanting to host a battlefield for the world’s greatest martial artists,” Bauman said. “Karate, taekwondo, wrestling. Lo and behold, around the same time, I had a Sega Dreamcast and I went to Cashwise and rented a video game called “UFC”.
“I said if it was real, I had to do it someday.”
These days Bauman is a professional fighter with a 5-1 record. And he’s helping bring MMA (mixed martial arts) to west-central Minnesota with seven fights scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Willmar Civic Center.
Bauman was scheduled to compete in the main event in a middleweight (185 pounds) bout against Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz. But, that fight was called off after Bauman was diagnosed with a staph infection this week.
While it’s disappointing not to step into the cage with a hometown crowd behind him on Saturday, Bauman hopes to continue hosting MMA events in Willmar and the surrounding area. Bauman and a group of local investors have started their own Fight 4 You sports promotion business.
“Once people see that, people feel the energy of what MMA is… Willmar doesn’t know how much fun these events are and how family friendly these events are,” Bauman said. . “People think, ‘Oh, this is fighting.’ I used to watch UFC with my dad growing up. We invited all my friends when we were in sixth grade. … It is a great gathering event. You can cheer on your local heroes, your local fighters and that’s a big deal. We want to give that to the community and show that this is a big deal, that it’s not going anywhere, and that it will be a good first show. “
Winner of the West Central Tribune’s Hengstler-Ranweiler Award in 2010, Bauman’s path to MMA has seen many twists and turns.
Aspiring rapper / songwriter, he was deemed ineligible to wrestle at the University of Minnesota in 2013 after refusing to remove his name and image from songs and music videos. He violated NCAA rules prohibiting student-athletes from using their athletic status to promote the sale of a commercial product. This year, on June 30, the NCAA board of directors voted to suspend this rule, allowing college athletes to monetize their name image.
In 2014, Bauman returned to the area, playing amateur football with the West Central Broncos.
Hopes of becoming MMA were never gone, but the timing was never right.
“I did network marketing and sales for six years and didn’t have to do a normal day job,” Bauman said. “I was making a lot of money and it allowed me to do music full time and allowed me to sit at home with my two twins and do whatever I wanted to do. As I sat around being blessed and grateful I said what I’m doing, as healthy as I am – I’m healthier than all those other people I watch fight on TV – I know that I can compete with these people. Why am I not doing this? “
Finally, Bauman took the plunge.
“It’s my dream, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” Bauman said. “I was always traveling and speaking on stage in front of 2,000 to 3,000 people and I didn’t know if I necessarily had the time to devote myself to it. So I said (forget) this; I can’t tell people to live their dreams and not live mine.
For the past two years, Bauman, 30, has trained at the Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of the top gyms in the world. Several UFC champion fighters have come from Jackson Wink: Jon Jones; Rashad Evans; George Saint-Pierre; and Holly Holm, among others.
“I train with some of the best coaches,” Bauman said.
Bauman has won his last two fights. On April 16, he won a unanimous decision over Julien Leblanc in Shawnee, Oklahoma. On June 18, he won by TKO in the first round of an MMA hand-to-hand fight against Brandon Johnson in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Now Bauman is trying to add a promoter to his resume, bringing MMA to the place that spawned his love of combat sports.
“I was really surprised at the number of people who wanted to participate and play,” said Bauman. “These different individuals (with Fight 4 You) have done nothing but good things for the community. The community is behind it. We add value to it. We bring entertainment, we try to bring people together. In the end, it could be a gambling game for a lot of people.