Thursday, July 30, 2009

Peloton ready to rumble

By Jon Wordingham, staff writer
GateHouse News Service
Posted Jul 29, 2009 @ 03:11 PM

Spencerport, N.Y. — As the sport of Mixed Martial Arts grows into the most popular fighting sport internationally, it only makes sense that the wrestling hotbed of New York plays host to one of the premier MMA gyms in the state.

Peloton Martial Arts studio— run by Jiu-Jitsu instructor Paul Ferranti and Muay Thai instructor Mark Stutzman— has seen a recent spike in interest because of the new cultural phenomenon, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The studio is a direct beneficiary from it’s location in NY’s top wrestling town.

“It’s just a natural transition for a lot of former wrestlers,” Ferranti said. “We get a lot of guys, living in this town, that want to continue to compete when they’re done wrestling.”

The Muay Thai element of the sport along with the submission based art of Jiu-Jitsu refines the grapplers’ arsenals. Muay Thai is the stand-up, kickboxing facet that MMA’s best “strikers” utilize in the cage.

“MMA is pretty mainstream right now because it’s getting more popular,” said Stutzman, who has been training fighters in the art since 2002. “Muay Thai completes the fighter who already knows how to wrestle and do some Jiu-Jitsu.”

Former Greece Olympia and University of Virginia wrestler, Don Carlo-Clauss, is one athlete that came to MMA following a successful collegiate career. He has been fighting professionally for two years and recently turned his pastime into a full-time gig.

“I just decided that I didn’t want to stop competing,” he said. “At first it was just a good way to keep in shape but then I started doing it for my full-time job and now I’m a professional.”

With a 6-2 overall record in eight pro fights, the 29-year-old Carlo-Clauss is one of three professional fighters that train at Peloton. Another former high school and college wrestler, Casey Lamb of Canandaigua, has competed in sanctioned professional fights and UFC enthusiast Colin Schrader was scheduled for a bout earlier this year, before his opponent failed to make weight.

“I’ll probably get a fight in September,” Schrader said. “I was ready to go but then I got a call from my manager and he told me that the guy I was supposed to fight passed out trying to make weight.

“I’ve had a couple of amateur fights since but I’m very anxious for my first pro fight.”

Schrader became interested in the sport when UFC exploded on the scene a few years ago. After some time as an avid fan of league, he decided that he wanted to try his hand at the craft.

He came to Peloton because Ferranti was one of the few Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructors in the area.
“Most of the professional fighters were from Brazil and knew Jiu-Jitsu so I decided that’s what I needed to do,” Schrader explained. “I would like to take this as far as I can. I’ve trained with high-level fighters and this program is definitely right up there with them.”

Lamb— a Victor grad who wrestled for Boise State and Cornell— used Peloton as an outlet after several unfortunate incidents that led to a small bout of depression and obesity.
Following the death of his infant son from a staff infection, Lamb took it out on his body— overeating and drinking— to the point that he was 335-pounds. The weight gain coupled with his desire to compete again led him to the Spencerport MMA studio where he now fights at 205-pounds.

“I would watch UFC fights on T.V. and think to myself, ‘I could take that guy,’” he said. “I left a lot of things undone and after my first son died I got into a little funk— MMA helped me get back.”

Ferranti and the rest of the Peloton instructors constantly dispel the notion that MMA is a sport for barbarians and miscreants. In reality the matches are more strategy-based and, because there are several ways to win, MMA is arguably more complex than other fighting sports such as boxing.

“It’s not just a bunch of meat heads beating each other to a pulp,” said Ferranti who received his instructor certification after years of competing in Jiu-Jitsu. “Once people start to really watch the UFC more and get to know the rules a little bit more, I think that they will see that.”

Lamb concurred and feels that the sport has taken large strides since UFC 1, which was much rawer and resembled a bar-room brawl. Now there is a much thicker rulebook and stauncher guidelines to stopping fights early and avoiding serious injury.

“My first fight lasted 51 seconds and I didn’t know if I could hit somebody in the face full out,” he said. “Once I got in there, I realized that I could, but I don’t fight with animosity or with the anger to kill somebody.

“I view it more like a chess-match and a competition rather than a human cockfight, which is what it used to be like.”

Carlos-Clauss— who lost his most recent bout in Massachusetts by decision— noted that there is even a specific, very cerebral, way to train. Before fights, the athletes ramp up their regimens to prepare for the rigors of cage-fighting.

He generally goes through an eight-week training camp to prepare his body and mind for a bout.
“You can’t just go crazy the whole time you have to be smart about it,” he said. “Coaches plan the workouts accordingly so that you’re peaking at the right time for the fight.”

It is currently illegal to hold sanctioned MMA events in New York state, but it appears that fights could be approved as early as 2010. Ferranti believes that Peloton will continue to see growth as mixed-martial arts becomes ingrained in popular culture.

“I think when parents see that the sport is legal in the state they’ll be more willing to bring their kids to the gym,” he said. “I think the sky’s the limit for this sport.”

By-Jon Wordingham