Working toward a dream
LOCKWOOD — When a true fighter gets hit they get right back up and keep fighting. That is what Lockwood resident Gerald Bradley continues to do in his drive toward a successful mixed martial arts career.
Being a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA) since roughly 1993, Bradley would watch promotions such as Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) and dream of that one day competing in that cage.
In 2000, Bradley and a friend got into PRIDE fighting and ever since he would “grapple” with anyone interested. After his son Caden was born with fiancé Amanda Wetmore in 2008, Bradley found his way to a group of fighters in Cortland training in a barn owned by Ryan Ciotoli, but the drive and becoming a new father made Bradley unable to train at that time.
Pricing became another roadblock for the new father who was also an employee and a student, but he did not let this stop him. Ciotoli offered Bradley the opportunity to fight in the gym anyway by cleaning the facility for a few hours a week in exchange for his dues.
“Not many people would offer me a free membership (by working off the dues),” said Bradley. “Ryan (Ciotoli) is a great guy and I can’t thank him enough.”
While Ultimate Athletics, in its new location at the Pyramid Mall since Jan. 1, teaches classes for the public such as kickboxing, it is also the home of “Team Bomb- Squad,” a group of 25 professional fighters. This group of fighters recruited from all across the country, and includes one fighter from Brazil, travels across the country to compete in mixed martial art competitions.
The gym has also trained one of the most popular MMA fighters in the nation, the youngest UFC title holder, and the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.
In the sport of MMA, the competitors use a combination of fighting techniques such as boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, Jujitsu, and wrestling, according to Ciotoli.
Starting MMA in 2002, Ciotoli eventually started a professional team in 2006. He added the endeavor started with five or six local fighters as more of a hobby, and as the fighters began to progress, competitors from around the country grew interest in the team.
Ciotoli said MMA is an interesting sport, and the younger generations are familiar with it and are starting to grow up with the sport.
“MMAhas no doubt replaced boxing,” said Ciotoli. He added that nine out of the top 10 Pay-Per-View fighting competitions sold is a MMA fight.
“It keeps growing,” said Ciotoli. “It’s not one of those sports that’s a fad.”
With MMA being illegal in New York state since 1996, Ciotoli said the team is the only professional team in upstate New York.
“We’re lucky. We can grapple with some of the best people in New York,” said Ciotoli. “We have a pretty good program.” The more Bradley trained, the better he became as he trains in the same gym as the professionals, who offer advice and guidance.
Bradley said he did an amateur fight tournament where he won nine matches.
Fortune Fight League
For his first official fight, Bradley will be fighting in the Fortune Fight League promotion at 170 pounds against a fighter from Rochester on March 17 at 7 p.m.
He will be dedicating his fight to his fiancé’s father, who almost died recently of kidney cancer.
Bradley explained the event is historic because it is being held in the Pyramid Mall and the competitors will be inside a cage during their fight. While the fight is considered a “pre-amateur” fight, there will be amateur fighters on the card, said Ciotoli.
Organized by Ultimate Athletics, the event will have Muay Thai, grappling and kick-boxing with take-downs. Ciotoli explained that there is a coin toss and the fighters pick which style will be used per fight, as a combination of the various forms of mixed martial arts is illegal.
Ciotoli, however, is confident legislation to legalize the sport will pass. It was close to becoming reality last year, but state officials ran out of time for it to pass, he added
“It’s actually a fairly safe sport,” said
Ciotoli, adding that several rules and regulations have been added since the mid-
1990s that have made it safer.
With a card of 15 fights, Ciotoli expects roughly 1,000 people in the audience for the event.
Doing well in any sport takes a large amount of drive and dedication, and for those in their beginnings of the sport, Ciotoli explained that the fighters spend immense amounts of time training and competing for a little amount of money.
“It’s a tough lifestyle,” said Ciotoli, “but it’s something a fighter expects and gets used to.”
“It’s tough mentally and physically,” said Bradley. “You have to be mentally, physically and spiritually strong to make it in this sport.”
Not only having the motivation to train six days a week, Bradley also works full-time as a security guard at the Nomac housing facility, working nights so he can train. He describes his life as work, his family, and fighting, adding that because he spends time from his family on his training, he is giving it his all.
“It’s like a second home for me,” said Bradley.
Bradley said he is thankful the professionals of Team Bomb- Squad take the time to mentor him. He also thanks his boss, Joline Carling, for letting him train and his mother, Cindy Bradley, for being his son’s main baby-sitter while he is training or working.
He has specifically been training to compete for the past three months, and his mentor Alexander Stuart said Bradley has been doing well.
“Once I start it, I’m going to finish it, and go with it and move to the next chapter in my life,” Bradley explained, adding that he has this opportunity so he wants to take advantage of it.
Bradley’s short term goal is to win his fight in March, but one of his bigger goals from the beginning of his training, is to become part of Team BombSquad.
“They are beasts,” Bradley said of the talent on the team. He added that it is like he’s “the kid” and the professional team is like his big brothers.
In addition to Stuart, Bradley is also being trained by professional Josh Lange, Pat Magreal, and Don Carlos Clauss to name a few.
Being a professional fighter and being into fighting since age 11, who lived and trained with Floyd Patterson–an opponent of Mohammed Ali’s and has dedicated his time to mold Bradley, along with the other professional fighters at the facility.
“He’s like my little brother, truthfully my son,” Stuart stated of his protege.
Aquality Bradley has that sticks out in Stuart’s mind is that he asks for help. He said this is a good quality for someone training to have because they will do better than those that are unable to ask for advice in order to improve.
“He’s working real hard,” said Stuart of Bradley. “He’s very dedicated, very disciplined.”
One weakness Stuart said Bradley needs to overcome is his nervousness, but Stuart said this can be a good thing to keep the competitor on point.
“Overall, he’s a great guy,” Stuart said of Bradley. “I think he’s going to do very well in this fight (in March).”
Another quality Stuart likes about Bradley is that he gets back up when he’s knocked down.
He gave the example that on Thursday while sparring, Stuart knocked Bradley down by a punch, but he got right back up and kept going which is necessary for a strong fighter.
“You have to want it,” Stuart said of a fighter’s drive. “You have to have the heart and desire for it.”