Eielson Airman kicks his way to the top

  • Published
  • By Glyn Gardner
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Kicking his way to the top, an Eielson Iceman swiftly and efficiently fought his way to a first place victory during the Rumble on the River mixed martial arts championship June 22 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Brett Laswell, an Airman with the 354th Maintenance Squadron, defeated reigning bantam weight title holder Jeff Bailey of Fairbanks' Gladiators Mixed Martial Arts team with a reverse arm bar two minutes and 45 seconds into the first round.

Laswell's victory brings his record to 3-0 since he began competing in March of this year.

"It felt incredible to win this fight," said Laswell. "It is definitely a dream come true."

Laswell is a member of Martin Suarez's Yudansha fighting team, who practice at the base fitness center. He is the first member of the Yadansha team to win a championship.

His victory may also qualify him for other, more prestigious, tournaments.

"He has earned the respect of the local fighters and promoters here in Fairbanks," said Martin Suarez, Laswell's Yudansha fighting sensei. "I will not be surprised if he is called to fight in a higher level of MMA bout very soon."

Laswell began martial arts when he was 16 years old and trains five to six days a week.

"My main focus was avoiding a takedown," Laswell said of his training. "I also did a lot of conditioning: working with medicine balls, takedowns, boxing, kicks, sprawls, and jujitsu."

Rico Respicio, another member of the Eielson team, also won his first victory June 22. Respicio, an Airman also assigned to the 354th MXS, defeated his opponent, Justin Thomerson, in only 45 seconds.

Respicio gave up 13 lbs to Thomerson, but still was able to pull off a quick victory against the larger man.

"I was really hyped for the whole thing," he said.

Although excited, Respicio also admitted he was a bit intimidated by his opponent's size difference.

"When we went to the center of the cage before the fight, I literally stared straight at his chest," he said. "But, after being taken down to the mat, I saw an opening for an arm bar and took it."

"Now that I got this first quick win, it'll be pretty hard to get one faster than that," said Respicio. "But I'll never know till it happens--and trust me, I'll try to get a faster win or put on a better show in my next fight."

Respicio, whose father was in and out of the hospital while he trained, claims it was the support and advice of his instructor and team mates who ultimately helped him to his first victory

"What set these students apart is their dedication to the sport and their commitment to the training," Sensei Suarez said of these two warriors. "Furthermore, they are committed to train to win the fight."

He said that both men are exceptionally attentive during training. "That is what makes champions in a team."

In the sport of mixed martial arts fighters from many different styles of fighting compete against each other. The techniques utilized in mixed martial arts competition generally fall into two categories: striking (punching, kicking etc.) and grappling (holds, throws, and takedowns).

Most bouts take on a combination of three phases: standing (boxing and kickboxing), clench (judo throws and wrestling takedown moves), and ground (when the fight moves to the floor). As hand to hand combat is ever changing, a fighter wants to stay one step ahead of his opponent.

Fighters must be able to fight in all three phases of a bout.

"The goal of our training is not to master a single phase of combat, but rather develop skills to win at any phase; standing, clinch, or ground," said Sensei Suarez.

*Editor's note: all Airmen interested in participating in high-risk sports must get prior approval through their chain of command before doing so.