Knocking out the competition: Senior follows in father’s footsteps to pursue MMA career

I walk into the ring. I feel numb. I can’t hear the crowd. Every sense is focused on my coach and my opponent. The bell rings and we both head to the center of the mat as the crowd awaits the victor. Senior Jackie Perry explains that he experiences this each time he competes in a mixed martial arts match.

The desire to participate in MMA started at a young age after Jackie’s father Carl Perry became involved with the sport.

“When I was 10 years old, I was at a baseball game in the dugout, and my dad walked up to me with a cast on his arm,” Jackie said. “He hurt it at his new job at Martial Arts and Fitness and told me I should try it out.”

Mr. Perry fought at a professional level and has continued to influence Jackie throughout his career.

“During my career, I’ve had many highlights,” Mr. Perry said. “I had the opportunity to compete in King of the Cage, Strikeforce, Bellator, and others. My highest accomplishment was winning my two Professional Championships.”

Jackie was introduced to a variety of martial arts sports and at first, he tried them for fun due to his father’s recommendation, but slowly he began to follow his dad’s footsteps and these hobbies transformed into his passion.

“MMA is my favorite because karate isn’t physical enough for me and boxing is too repetitive,” Jackie said. “Even though they’re fun, they’re just not me. I like to be crafty with MMA.”

Having a professional MMA fighter as a father and a coach has helped Jackie through his journey as a fighter.

“My dad’s success has affected me positively by knowing that I can look up to a professional MMA fighter as a father, not just a professional fighter that I don’t know and just watch on TV,” Jackie said. “Whenever he coaches me, we have a father and son bond instead of the normal bond you would have with a coach.”

Though Jackie’s dad’s success has been a positive influence on his own career, there have also been moments where it made things difficult for Jackie, who uses it to motivate him even more.

“Having a champion professional MMA fighter as a father has put a lot of pressure on me to live up to his hype,” Jackie said. “I have the pressure on my back of being the coach’s son and people expecting me to become a professional and champion just like him.”

External pressure isn’t the only obstacle Jackie has encountered as a fighter, as he has also dealt with injuries throughout high school.

“The biggest obstacle I’ve come across are knee injuries,” Jackie said. “I’ve torn my ACL twice. The first time during a football game my sophomore year, and the second time training for a fight just under a year ago.”

One ACL surgery is enough to cause strain in a fighter’s life, but Jackie went through two surgeries. The time he spent recovering kept him from training.

“The second time I tore my ACL, I tore more than I did the first time, so the recovery time was six months instead of the four months that we had expected,” Jackie said. “Due to that, I wasn’t able to play my senior year of football because by the time I was cleared, we were already in the playoffs.”

When thinking of all the people looking up to him, Jackie decided to keep going despite his setbacks.

“The way I’m looked up to at the gym has motivated me to keep going after being injured,” Jackie said. “Young and adult fighters alike look up to me not only as a coach’s son but as a very good pound-for-pound fighter.”

The majority of people at the gym know Jackie, and when anyone needs help, he’s always there to lend a hand.

“When Jackie is in the gym, he is always kind to everyone,” teammate Spencer Pierce said. “When someone isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do, he puts them in line and gets them back into practice. Everyone comes to him for advice and training techniques and he is always happy to help them out.”

Mr. Perry can testify to this fact from accounts he has witnessed at his own gym.

“Jackie is definitely a person that the other’s in the gym look up to,” Mr. Perry said. “They all talk about how good he is, and want to train with him. Jackie is a good leader and role model both in and out of the gym.”

Other athletes at the gym watch Jackie and strive to improve to the level he has been able to reach.

“Jackie is a great athlete and phenomenal technical fighter,” Spencer said. “I wouldn’t want to train with anybody else because he helps me train harder and be better.”

Jackie has used his personal experiences to teach boxing, adult kickboxing, and MMA.

“I like teaching because I can share my fighting knowledge with other fighters,” Jackie said. “I like teaching the older classes best because they have a better chance of becoming fighters, and knowing that they’ve won with the knowledge that I’ve shared with them as their coach is a really good feeling.”

Now that Jackie has recovered from his second ACL injury, he plans to make a comeback and has already started training.

“I lift weights and do kickboxing,” Jackie said. “I’m slowly building my strength back up and will be ready to be back at it again soon.”

Jackie believes that with diligence and determination, he will soon be back on track toward a career as a professional MMA fighter.

“If I can make it as a pro, then I’ll probably go down the road of professional fighting,” Jackie said. “Otherwise, if I don’t make it to professionals, I’ll probably just use it as a trade. Being able to defend yourself in the world is important, and I could always be a coach with my dad at the gym.”

Mr. Perry thinks that Jackie has what it takes to be successful and that soon he won’t just be seeing him fighting at Team Unleashed gym, he’ll be seeing him in the professional ring.

“Jackie is a complete fighter,” Mr. Perry said. “He has tremendous athletic ability. He can strike with the best of them and is comfortable with ground game. He has all the skills to be a champion.”