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Fort Riley dominates at MMA event

By Sgt. Michael Leverton | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | August 04, 2014

Six fighters from the Fort Riley Combatives Institute dominated bouts during the Victory Fighting Championship Fight Night July 12 at King Field House.

Victory Fighting Championship is a midwest-based fighting organization that has hosted more than 30 Mixed Martial Arts events, recently adding Junction City as a regular venue.

VFC launched the careers of many Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters, including former lightweight champion Benson Henderson.

The event was a way for local fighters to show off their skills and tactics nationally. The Fort Riley team won the National Pankration Tournament May 17 in Temecula, California, qualifying for the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, later this year. Fight Night allowed a few of those fighters to test their mettle against opponents who specialize in the MMA style.

The July 12 event not only featured service members, but Joe Wilk, a professional fighter based out of Manhattan and a civilian coach for the Fort Riley team.

“When I got to Fort Riley, I saw how great the coaching staff was and knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Spc. Branden Chevrefils, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, about the post’s Modern Army Combatives program.

Chevrefils, a native of Kenora, Ontatio, Canada, who moved to California to live with his mother when he was in high school, found combatives-style fighting as way to help him channel his temper, he said.

“When I was younger, I was one of those angry kids,” Chevrefils said. “A fighter by the name of Jesse Bongfeldt took me under his wing, and I started training in his gym, and I have just progressed from there.”

Chevrefils said he doesn’t get nervous before a fight.

“I’m not nervous; I’m ready to go,” he said.

Chevrefils proved his nerves were in check with an early first-round knockout of Robert Holstein with a swift kick to the chin.

Chevrefils’ knockout was one of many for the Fort Riley fighters during the event. Members of the combatives program, including Wilk, stole the show with a combined record of five wins and one loss.

While the Soldiers participated in a series of amateur fights, Wilk competed on the professional level. Wilk has worked with the team since 2006 and fought professionally since 2007.

“I owe my career to the combatives program,” Wilk said. “I wouldn’t have pursued fighting if it weren’t for the program – at least not to the level I have.”

Wilk didn’t disappoint a home crowd of fans and Soldiers with a first-round arm-bar submission of his seasoned opponent Joe Pearson of Davenport, Iowa, who holds 43 professional wins.

“It’s always sweet to get a win, but (it) means a little more when it’s where you call home,” Wilk said.

Wilk improved to a professional record of 18 wins and nine losses.

Maj. Carl Johnson, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div., and the reigning 2014 National Pankration champion in the 220-pound weight class, said Fight Night was a way for the Soldiers to show off their skills.

Johnson’s experience began in high school with judo, boxing and wrestling. After graduating, he enlisted in the Army and wrestled with V Corps and the U.S. Army Europe freestyle Greco wrestling team. It wasn’t until the Modern Army Combatives Program came along that Johnson became interested in MMA.

“Combatives offered me a way to bring it all together and another way to compete,” said Johnson, who commissioned in 1999.

Fort Riley has a competitive team with fighters who are at the top of the nine weight classes, but he stressed there are more than just nine team members.

“We have our top nine, but we are two- or three-deep in every weight class,” he said. “We train against each other, and tonight are some of the results of that hard work with five competitors from the combatives program on this card.”

It is that team mentality that contributes to the success of the Fort Riley Modern Army Combatives program.

“Here, on this post, we are a really tight family,” Johnson said.
Tag Combatives