Foster, Mixed Martial Arts Ready for D.C. Debuts

By Rich Campbell
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ron Foster wrestled and dabbled in boxing while growing up, but neither was like this.

His friend and wrestling partner in the Army had called to suggest that they participate in an amateur mixed martial arts event at a nearby club in Hawaii. The 808 Fight Factory, a local training school, was putting on the fight, so he agreed.

Later that night, Foster emerged from the ring a winner by submission. His hunger for competition, for the rush of a fight, had been aroused. He was hooked.

After more than three years of training as an amateur, Foster will make his professional debut at tonight's Mixed Martial Arts Championship event, dubbed "The Revolution," at the D.C. Armory. The event, the first of its kind in Washington, is headlined by fighters with experience in renowned federations such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pride, while the undercard includes several fledgling fighters trying to secure a foothold in the professional ranks.

Foster, 29, is the only fighter making his pro debut. After an 8-1 amateur career, he finally will get the opportunity he has coveted since that night in Hawaii years ago.

"I'm not nervous about the actual fight," Foster said, "but everything leading up to the fight is a lot of nerves."

During a training session in Rockville this week, nothing on the surface distinguished Foster, a 170-pound welterweight, from the experienced pro fighters who are in town.

Foster, a single father with a 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, juggles raising his kids with his job as a military police officer at Fort Belvoir and his mixed martial arts training. Sweat soaked his white T-shirt Wednesday as he methodically worked the speed bag.

Tonight is one of the biggest moments of his life, and he'll have at least 10 friends and family members on hand to see it. Not the kids, though. It will be past their bedtime.

Fernando Yamasaki, one of the event's promoters and a referee for some of tonight's fights, trained Foster for his bout. He sees in Foster a "natural strength that's crazy" and a burning desire to challenge himself with competition.

"To take a punch in your face, you first have to step up and say, 'I want to do this.' It has to come from your heart," Yamasaki said. "If you want to come here and just train for fitness, we'll do that. Then you can pack your things, go home, kiss your wife and kids. He wants to train in a different way."

Foster will make $500 for showing up tonight and another $500 if he defeats Kyle Baker, who is 1-0 as a professional and 7-1 as an amateur. The meager pay is on par with Foster's experience level, but it's not about that tonight. As the area's mixed martial arts scene begins its evolution, Foster's pro career will, too.

"Win, lose or draw, as long as I get out there and perform to the best of my ability, that's all I can ask for," Foster said. "This is finally my big opportunity."

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