Amateur MMA fighter Chuck Yetter exemplifies how the sport requires equal parts physical training and intense focus.
It takes a lot of commitment, training and strength for practitioners of mixed martial arts, commonly known as MMA, to step into a ring. But there is more to the sport than the physical.
For MMA fighter Chuck Yetter, 29, a member of the BETA Academy fight team in Washington, D.C., it’s also the respect and mentality that fighters bring whenever they enter the ring or the cage.
“I step in the cage willingly. So does my opponent,” Yetter said. “That’s part of the reason we go in there with so much respect for each other.”
Yetter, a Silver Spring, Md., native who now lives in nearby Bethesda, was always active in individual sports. He first got into wrestling while in high school.
“You are one-on-one against somebody else, so there’s really nobody else you can put the blame on,” Yetter said.
After graduating from Fairfield University with a pre-med degree, Yetter got bored with lifting and running and decided to try something new.
“A friend of mine recommended I come in and take some Muay Thai classes, just to stay in shape,” Yetter said. “And I ended up loving it. The competitive bug caught up with me again and I started fighting.”
Audio: Rigorous training required
Yetter’s fighting style is founded on two styles of martial arts: Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Muay Thai is a form of standing martial arts that originated in Thailand. The style mixes striking movements from knees, elbows, fist and shins, and has been Yetter’s preferred fighting style.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on grappling techniques and ground-fighting, which also focuses on joint locks and chokeholds. Yetter’s wrestling experience has helped him become a whole MMA fighter, he said.
Yetter has been practicing MMA with the BETA Academy for more than 1o years. He is a member of its fight team lead by academy founder and head instructor Khun Kru Nakapan Phungephorn , as well as an MMA instructor.
Audio: Learning to take a punch
The Brains behind the Fighter
While people might look at MMA as all brawn, Yetter said the mental aspects are just as important.
There’s a lot of planning that goes into these MMA matches, he said. “You sit there and you scout your opponent out,” Yetter said. “So it’s not just get in there and swing away. There’s a strategy to it.”
Yetter currently works as a project manager for a construction company. He said he enjoys his work, though when matches come up, it can be struggle to balance the demands of his job with his need to train.
While he rarely brings up MMA at work, Yetter said that his co-workers notice a change in him whenever he gets prepared for a fight.
“It’s not something I like to just come right out and say,” Yetter adds. “ I let them know me first and let them understand that part.”
Yetter said that his co-workers do support him when he has a fight. A lot of times, people tell Yetter that they had no idea that he did MMA.
And while MMA could appear mindless to people unfamiliar with the sport, Yetter said that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The mindset you see a lot of the times, from people who don’t do it, is meathead,” Yetter said. “You see guys all muscular going in there, slugging it out. You don’t see the dedication it takes, the focus it takes to come in to train, to cut weight, to push through the injuries and stuff like that, so there’s a lot more to it.”