Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Do you want to be a fighter? Part II

As I continue to explore the answer as to why someone would choose a career path in fighting, I interviewed two more fighters that will be competing later this month at PA Cage Combat. While both will be competing in amateur fights, they both debuted victoriously back in June and look to continue their winning ways. The difference is one is a 30 year old female firmly entrenched in another career, while the other is a 19 year old male dreaming of making this his career.

In some ways Rachel Kendall appears to be your typical young lady, but in others she's just the opposite. Born and raised in North Plainfield, New Jersey, this resident from Philadelphia said, "I don't think I ever could have imagined myself doing something like this;" yet, her background suggests she was always destined to be.

As an active child she told me, "I was always involved sports; gymnastics, street football you name it." However, around the time she was 15 years old she got started in Karate in the renowned Tiger Schulman system, that has since become Tiger Schulman's MMA, and has been there ever since. "I started in Karate, but we always cross-trained; I have always competed doing tournaments in Karate, grappling etc. but never considered fighting in MMA."

When I asked her what spurred her interest, her response was a combination of reasons. Initially, it was the first instructors she had in her Sensei Paul Querido and his wife professional fighter Munah Holland. "They are an awesome instructor duo. He was my rock, my source of strength and seeing her evolution from instructor to successful fighter has been inspirational." Holland is currently (5-1) as a pro and has fought in the prestigious Bellator Fighting Championships.

"On top of that," she said, "I started seeing other people I train with compete and become successful and it was all inspiring." However, in talking to her the biggest reason was the essence of martial arts itself. "I enjoy the process of training; I crave the structure and the constant work ethic. The calmness of knowing you worked your ass off is a natural high," she said.

Currently working with troubled youth as a social worker, she has the full support of both her parents; she also has the support of her significant other, who also happens to be one of her coaches, Shane Baker. However, when I asked if she could someday see fighting in Strikeforce or Bellator her response was interesting. "That is a challenging question; my career in the education, reform and working with children is where my passion lies. However, experiencing this path, it's enticing. It's just like fighting; you can't predict what will happen in the cage, but you can prepare for it."

On the under card of the event on August 24 at the PA Sands Casino, there is another promising young fighter in lightweight Tim Kunkel of Northampton, PA. At 19, Kunkel was the youngest of the three fighters I interviewed, but he may possibly be the best prepared for a career path into MMA as he's been wrestling since the age of 5.

After four years at one of the most well respected high school wrestling programs in the country at Northampton, Kunkel reached a personal best #3 overall ranking in the state his senior year before being derailed by a controversial referee's call during the district tournament. Yet, he was able to ascertain a scholarship offer to Clarion University where he spent a semester before finding out a technicality in his high school transcript deemed him ineligible to wrestle.

Unwilling to wait a whole year to compete, he returned home and began taking classes at Northampton Community College. He also works part-time in his father's plumbing & excavating business and as security at a local nightclub. However, his craving to compete drove him to pursue mixed martial arts. Besides wrestling his whole life, he too trained in the Tiger Schulman system during his childhood, so he returned there where he currently trains two-five hours a day depending on his work schedule.

When I posed the question why do you want to be a fighter, his response was, "As I was growing up I was always a decent kid, but I also got into my fair share of scrapes. That's where wrestling helped me to learn I could do something more constructive with my life. In MMA I'm hoping to better myself and make a better future that will help me in the long run."

Rachel Kendall, Tim Kunkel and Rick Nuno (Part I), will all compete at PA Cage Combat/Valley Fight Series VI on August 24 at the PA Sands Casino Event Center. Other fighters of note on the card include professional fighters Scott 'The Animal' Heckman (11-3), Zach Sigley (1-0), coming off a 17 second professional debut victory, and talented amateur Adam Atiyeh (4-0).

Thanks to Rachel Kendall and Tim Kunkel for their time during these interviews.

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