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Birthday presents and a punch in the mouth.
Lawrenceburg's Brandon Yocum can expect both March 27 when he turns 22 and fights for the American Fight League's amateur middleweight title at Rupp Arena.
The event, which features 11 bouts including former Ultimate Fighting Championship contenders and is being billed as the league's "ERUPPTION," is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
Yocum, who sports a 6-1 amateur record, said he's not nervous about fighting in Rupp Arena in front of what will likely be a crowd of at least 8,000 fight fans.
"There is no fear," said Yocum, an affable and well-spoken young man whose eyes instantly blaze when the discussion turns away from training and his family's reaction to his chosen pastime. "When I hear the crowd and my music's going, fear is not in my head.
"I don't want to say that I make myself [angry], and I really can't describe how I feel when I step in the ring. It's almost like a controlled rage.
"I take offense that this guy even thinks he can fight me."
Yocum, who made his fighting debut in 2006 during a mixed martial arts event at Eagle Lake Convention Center and now has a small but energetic legion of fans, is clearly a favorite when he enters Rock Fitness Center on Monday afternoon to train for his upcoming fight.
Following a round of questions, he agrees to shed his shirt and flex his 6-foot, 2-inch 185-pound frame for photographs, much to the delight of the young ladies who stop to watch.
A certified Toyota technician at Glenn Toyota in Frankfort, Yocum describes his passion for fighting, saying it's an extension of his days wrestling for Anderson County High School.
"I needed something to fill the gap," said Yocum. "I like the thrill of the 1-on-1 competition. You have no one to blame but yourself if you lose, unlike basketball. Plus, it's a good release; a good anger management technique."
Yocum is no stranger to rough-and-tumble experiences. He said his older brother, who died three years ago in a car accident, and his brother's friends often rough-housed with him as a kid.
"They did plenty to make me tough," he said, followed by a smile. "I've been punched in the face more than a few times; once I had my braces come right through my lips."
That type of training comes in handy for mixed martial arts fighters. Typically, the rules are there are no rules, expect fighters are not allowed to gouge eyes or attack an opponent's groin. If a fighter is being overpowered, a referee stops the match. Fighters can also "tap out" by tapping the mat with their hand, which signals they give up.
Yocum said he had never trained for mixed martial arts before his first fight at Eagle Lake. Now, he says, he's 10 times better than he was when he easily outclassed his first opponent.
"Then, I had never trained with Brad, but I was a wrestler, had seen fights on TV and had been in some street fights."
"Brad" is Brad Brisco, a physical therapist in Lawrenceburg who trains Yocum on weekends.
While the two work on the assorted punches, kicks and other fight techniques, Yocum said he is at a bit of disadvantage when it comes to actually sparing with teammates.
"It is a drawback," he said. "Brad and I will roll with each other, but he's 225 pounds. We use punch pads and he puts me in different situations to work out of, but the good part is that when I go into a fight, I'm not all beat up from someone punching on me."
Mixed martial arts has gained remarkable popularity in a short period of time. The sport translates well to TV audiences and national events continue to outdraw traditional sports such as professional hockey and basketball.
Yocum, who acknowledges that some people consider the sport "human cockfighting," said it's rough but clean and includes plenty of good sportsmanship.
"There are bad sports, just like in any other sport," he said. "But most of us will help each other off the mat. I can't think of one time that I've made someone tap out by pounding on his face without helping him up off the mat."
Face poundings, kicks to the jaw and other tactics are sure to make any mother flinch while watching her son compete.
Yocum said his mother does get nervous watching, but attends his fights.
"She'd rather be there if I get hurt than find out about it later," he said.
Tickets for the March 7 bouts range from $50.50 to $25.50, and are available at the Rupp Arena box office or online at www.ticketmaster.com.