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Mixed martial arts a lot of work but a lot of fun for Orion man
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Photo: Todd Welvaert
Eric Ford, Orion, is a welder for John Deere Harvester Works and a mixed martial arts fighter.
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ORION — Since picking up the sport of mixed martial arts, Eric Ford has been chasing a dream — and not getting much sleep in the process.

Mr. Ford, a 131-pound fighter from Orion, works as a welder for John Deere Harvester Works. He spends about 18 hours per day working, training and playing in two different bands.

"I spend a lot of time working, working out and driving places," he said of his daily routine.

A typical day for Mr. Ford starts at 4 a.m. at his home in Orion. From home he heads to Quad City Sports Performance in Moline, where he works out with his trainer, Darren Phelps. At QCSP, the pair work on Mr. Ford's cardio and conditioning. Mr. Ford also mixes in weightlifting and speed and agility drills, which help him compete in the ring.

From QCSP, Mr. Ford heads to John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, where he works on the corn head line. "I work a lot of hours, but I dig it," said Mr. Ford of his 12-hour-per-day job.

After work, Mr. Ford heads to Mardy's Martial Arts in Rock Island, where he works on his grappling and ground wrestling to reflect a match. When he wants to work out more prior to a match, he works with his brother Greg, who is a certified personal trainer and owns the Badlands Gym in Orion.

The mixed martial arts scene isn't all work for Mr. Ford, who picked up the sport a few years ago as a way to get a good workout. After some time, he realized that he was becoming more talented in the ring.

"It's really just about having fun," he said.

In three career sanctioned matches, he has a record of two wins and one loss. He won his first two matches via rear naked choke in the first round. In his loss, Mr. Ford faced the toughest opponent of his career, losing to Flyweight Champion Shane Curry in a three-round split decision.

"I want to just take it one fight at a time, focus on each opponent, fight tough guys and get some wins," he said.

In the week heading up to his matches, Mr. Ford intensifies his workouts and his eating habits. The Monday before a Saturday fight is generally the last day he and his sparring partner participate in hard sparring. Starting Monday he also starts cutting weight, cutting his portion sizes and counting his calories.

On Tuesdays he begins work on his "ground game," which includes practicing kicks, punches and escaping bad positions. Tuesday is also the day he begins work on grappling, which is a combination of holds.

On Wednesdays Mr. Ford and his trainers and partners start "game planning" for his opponent, which includes watching tape from both his and his opponent's previous matches to learn his opponent's habits and patterns.

On Thursdays Mr. Ford continues his game planning but starts watching everything that goes into his body, mostly cutting everything except for fluids.

Working so many hours at John Deere Harverster does have its benefits for Mr. Ford's MMA career.

"Welding and constantly sweating makes cutting weight easier," he said.

After a week full of game planning for his match and working on different MMA techniques, Mr. Ford uses Fridays as a rest day. Friday also is his last day to cut weight and is when he and his opponent weigh in for the pending match.

It all comes down to Saturday, when Mr. Ford and his crew find out if all the work from the previous week has paid off. Before the fight, he and his crew stretch to make sure Mr. Ford is limber enough to be able to fight out of holds and take more punishment in the fight. He also does a few more speed and agility drills to help him avoid such holds.

Just before his matches, Mr. Ford reviews his game plan, just like any coach or team in any other sport would do just before a game.

Eric Ford doesn't really know where his MMA career is going to take him, but he is happy to be on the ride.





Chasing the dream

Who: Eric Ford, a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter

Quote: "I want to just take it one fight at a time, focus on each opponent, fight tough guys and get some wins."


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(More History)