Stanley: Minooka firefighter to make professional MMA debut
By Brian Stanley Life of Brianemail@example.com April 4, 2013 8:50PM
Updated: May 6, 2013 6:36AM
Jimmy Fritz is a firefighter, but the night of April 6 will mark the first time he gets paid for another kind of fighting.
After six years of amateur competitons, the Minooka firefighter will make his professional debut in a mixed martial arts match in Valparaiso, Ind.
Fritz wasn’t particularly athletic until six years ago when his friend, Zach Weider, started talking about the classes he was taking.
“I asked how high he could kick and he had me hold my hand out about 7-feet in the air,” Fritz said. “I was hooked.”
Fritz started training at what is now Joliet’s SUDA Mixed Martial Arts Academy run by brothers James and Ron Hill, who coach the national team for Sambo, a martial art developed in Russia. The Hills are also the former coaches for Team USA in two other combat sports.
James Hill said Jimmy’s stiff and awkward technique made him Fritz “The Freak” around the gym. The nickname has stuck, but the movements have become fast, fluid and ferocious.
“I’ve just fallen in love with (everything about) it,” Fritz said. “Though I prefer grappling over striking.”
The Hills have trained other fighters who have turned pro, but Fritz is the first to completely come up through their system.
Fritz has two silver medals from international competitions and took an amateur title in 2009 after beating Belal Muhammed.
“I’d been ill before that match and wasn’t in the shape I wanted, but I was able to use my skills to outlast him,” Fritz said.
Fritz expects April 6’s co-main event, a rematch between the two, will show he’s even stronger now.
“And I’m sure (Muhammed’s) people are saying the same thing,” he laughed.
The match could end unexpectedly with a knockout or “submission” from one of the opponents, but is scheduled for three 5-minute rounds.
“Listening skills are one of the most important things a fighter needs,” James Hill said. “Trusting we see what he needs to do.”
The Hills will be coaching cage-side, so Fritz has to be able to pick their voices out of a boisterous crowd and translate what he’s being told as Muhammed’s coaches are trying to do the same.
So as not to expose the plan, James and Ron will use foreign languages, initials, superhero references and a few other vocabulary surprises as code words.
“By the time the other side figures out what you’re telling him, he should already be finishing it,” Ron Hill said.
In the last few weeks, Fritz has switched from a long daily workout to two more intense 30-minute sessions. In an attempt to cut weight, his diet has been mostly vegetables and fruit with lean meat.
“The guys at the firehouse are giving me a hard time, but they have been doing that since I started,” Fritz said. “And, of course, they’re coming.”
Fritz has been a Minooka firefighter for two years after two years with the Channahon Fire Department.
He’s confident going in, but since he can kick 7-feet in the air now, why shouldn’t he be?