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The ultimate in fighting
2008 M-P grad breaking into mixed martial arts, saving money to train in Thailand
EVERETT — Tyler Belan has to fight to keep fighting, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
In a humid gym full of sweaty fighters looking to make a name for themselves, Belan, a 2008 Marysville-Pilchuck graduate, is easily spotted — he’s the one with a smile on his face.
“People ask me ‘Why do you want to fight and maybe get beat up?’” he said. “They don’t get that it’s an art form, and when it works right — it’s amazing.”
And these art forms are exploding in American culture. Mixed martial arts, a style used by fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, are generating millions in pay-per-view and ticket sales.
But that kind of explosion wouldn’t be possible if gyms such as Charlie’s Combat Club in Everett didn’t start to mentor and promote aspiring fighters like Belan.
Chris Garcia, a trainer at Charlie’s, instructs some of the handful of nightly classes at the gym, as well as provides private lessons and promotes some of his own proteges to fight in Northwest Fight Scene events that are televised.
“Most of the students are here for recreation,” Garcia said. “They’re not interested in fighting, just getting in shape and learning some self defense.”
Gyms like Charlie’s are popping up all over the state as this has become a new fitnness alternative.
Belan, however, is not one of the average students. He has already has a pair of fights under his belt from last year and loved the experience so much he wants to take the next step.
Belan looks at a picture of himself taken after his second fight as a motivational tool.
“I just learned from it and don’t want to look at it again,” he said.
What’s more, he is trying to raise $4,000 to pay for four to six months of training at the world-renowned Fairtex training facility in Bangplee, Thailand. There Belan will train with some of the top Muay Thai — a fighting discipline — enthusiasts. He hopes to leave June 1.
“It would be a great experience to learn over there,” Belan said about potentially practicing under Apidej Sit-Hirun, who has fought in 400 fights.
His interest in the sport began about two years ago. Belan tried wrestling in high school, but didn’t care for it. He was also a football player, but that didn’t end up taking.
“Football was my life,” he said.
But an MCL injury forced him to sit out his senior season and he renewed an interest in boxing that began in eighth grade.
As for now, Belan is studying business at Everett Community College while working a few part-time jobs, meeting with local businesses about sponsorships, tutoring and even having bake sales to raise enough money. Recently he is organizing a church bingo event that will also benefit Children’s Hospital.
Finding the time to do all of that and maintain his fixed diet to maintain his 145-pound frame and 3-4 hours of nightly training that includes grappling, kick boxing, submission and MMA is difficult.
Garcia said he doesn’t know anybody who has traveled to Thailand to train, although he has heard of a few fighters doing it.
“It definitely is another level of commitment,” he said.
Garcia said that many fighters start out just like Belan.
“It’s not a traditional martial art with the gee and bowing — not that those things are bad,” Garcia said. “This is a fighting gym where we’ll give you tools to put in your tool box to use later.”
While Belan has the dream of fighting professionally, he has more practical applications from his interest.
“I don’t want to ever be in a situation where I don’t know how to protect my family,” he said.
Even if most people don’t get why he fights, Belan will keep doing what makes him happy.
“People tell me, ‘It’s summer, why don’t you go hang out and have fun?’” he said. “This is my fun.”