Courtesy photo
Rich Ottley congratulates Hyrum LeBaron after winning his debut MMA fight in Mesquite on Aug. 11. Ottley coached LeBaron in the Lincoln County High School football program.

By Kim Froelich

Lincoln County High School graduate Hyrum LeBaron participated in a Mixed Martial Arts fight held on Aug. 11 in Mesquite, at the Casablanca Resort.

This was LeBaron’s debut fight in MMA. He fought Andrew Bonifaz from Las Vegas, also fighting for the first time. They were the opening fight for Mayhem in Mesquite, which promotes its fighters as being the “future stars of the MMA.”

The fight was supposed to last three two-minute rounds. As the opening bell sounded, the two young men squared off. Bonifaz took a few quick swings at LeBaron. In return, LeBaron threw a few punches and a kick of his own. At that point, Bonifaz closed in. The two fighters clinched up, with LeBaron wrapping his arms around Bonifaz to keep his hits at bay. A second later, the two separated.

Then, to the surprise of everyone in the audience, a pause was called to the fight. Spectators watched with interest while the support teams for both men stepped in to offer water and give advice. Spectators murmured in confusion at the sudden pause in the action.

Finally, the announcer spoke over the microphone: “And, winning the fight in one minute and twenty seconds, due to a dislocated shoulder, Hyrum LeBaron!” The official raised LeBaron’s arm high in the air to the sound of thundering applause, as a young lady approached and draped a medal around LeBaron’s neck.

LeBaron is still unsure when he dislocated Bonifaz’s shoulder. In looking at the video, there is some speculation that the injury occurred when the two were clinched up and LeBaron threw his arms around Bonifaz.

The victory was bittersweet to LeBaron. After months of training, the fight was over so quickly that he felt he never had a chance to prove himself or determine if his training had really paid off. On the other hand, the win means that LeBaron is undefeated and will go into his next fight with a 1-0 record. He is hoping the next fight will be sometime in October.

LeBaron graduated from LCHS in 2015. He is currently living in St. George, where he is studying to become an electrician.

“I started training almost a year and a half ago,” he said. “It started when I went to an MMA fight. I thought it was cool, and I told myself, ‘I’m gonna do that.’ After I made that decision, I’ve only missed about two days of training.”

LeBaron keeps a fairly strict regimen in order to fit everything into his schedule. A typical day begins at 4:30 a.m. He eats and does some stretches to keep his muscles limber. His workday goes from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then he hits the gym at 6:15 and trains until 9 p.m.. His training consists of Brazilian jujitsu, boxing, kickboxing, sparring, and wrestling. LeBaron works with two coaches, Aaron Reis and Aaron Pincus, both of Fusion MMA.

MMA involves more than just trying to beat someone up. “It’s a very technical sport,” LeBaron explains. “For every move, there is a counter-move. It’s a mental game. I’d say that it’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. You have good days and bad days, just like with any sport, but when you have a bad day in this, it really taps into your primal senses and throws everything off. You have to be focused and clear.”

For the week or so leading up to the fight, LeBaron had to focus on every aspect of his training, diet, and sleep schedule. He was fighting in the Bantam Weight Class, also referred to as the featherweight class or 135 pounds. His normal weight is between 155 and 160 pounds. “It’s typical for fighters to cut that much weight,” LeBaron said. “If I didn’t cut weight and I fought at 155, I’d end up fighting someone who normally weighs 170 pounds and that wouldn’t be fair. We cut weight that week, but then, after weigh-ins, we start eating and drinking normally and gain it all back.”

LeBaron was surprised and excited at the number of people from Lincoln County who heard about his fight and came to watch and offer their support. When the fight ended so quickly, he felt that, in a way, he had let them down because they didn’t get to see him really perform.

“I appreciate everyone who showed up to support me. It wasn’t the fight I wanted, but I’ll be back, sharper than ever,” he said.

LeBaron recognizes that there are risks with the sport, but he also recognizes that he is perhaps the strongest and healthiest he has ever been. “I’m considering going professional,” he said. “I’m young. Now is the time to try new things and find out what I’m capable of.”