SANDPOINT — One is an amateur, striving to improve upon his 4-0 record in the ever-growing sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
The other is an elite pro in the sport, entering the cage against some of the world’s best while amassing a 26-9-1 record at the highest levels of MMA.
So it came as little surprise last week when Sandpoint’s John Hale got wrapped in a tight gi choke by Coeur d’Alene’s Trevor Prangley, tapping out during a jiu-jitsu training session in Sandpoint.
For Hale, red-faced, sweaty and breathing heavily, the outcome was half expected at the end of five straight minutes of grappling.
“You can’t do nothing against that guy,” said Hale of Prangley. “He’s so strong.”
The action was taking place at the newly-formed Black Bear MMA gym in Sandpoint, as owner Ted Greenblott is expanding his Black Bear Tang Soo Do space to accommodate a new cage and wrestling room.
Prangley, who runs American Kickboxing Academy Coeur d’Alene, drives north about once a week, offering the Sandpoint contingent of fighters a chance to test themselves against a seasoned pro and one of the top fighters in the Northwest.
Three Black Bear members will be fighting in Spokane on Saturday, Dec. 15 at the Vengeance in the Valley, starting at 8 p.m. at the Spokane School of Boxing and MMA.
Sandpoint’s Skyler Bonner (4-1) will face Coeur d’Alene’s Jesse Thompson (4-0) on the fight card. The contrast in styles of the two local fighters — Bonner is based in boxing and Thompson in Brazilian jiu-jitsu — is what makes MMA one of the fastest growing sports in America, both in popularity and participation.
“I plan to stand and trade (punches) a little bit,” said Bonner, who loves the challenge that different fighters bring to the cage. “I love the feeling of controlling the other person.”
Also fighting from Sandpoint is Mike McCray (0-1), who employs elements of jiu-jitsu, submission, boxing and Muay Thai in his fighting arsenal. McCray said the training sessions with Prangley have been invaluable.
“It’s a lot more intense. To train with a legend gives you definite confidence,” described McCray, who has been doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for more than five years and loves the adrenaline of climbing into the cage. “To be able to test yourself, test your skill set.”
Sandpoint High School senior Ethan Hazen (4-0) will also be looking to remain undefeated in a Unified Combat League title fight at 145 pounds.
Prangley, a former All-American wrestler at North Idaho College and originally from South Africa, is also busy training for a title fight later this month. Prangley will face Tony Lopez (22-3-0) for the King of the Cage Light Heavyweight Championship on Dec. 20 in Highland, California.
Prangley, who has notched impressive wins over the likes of Keith Jardine and Matt Horwich in a decorated career to date, calls the 6-foot-5 Perez both dangerous and tough. Based heavily in jiu-jitsu, Prangley feels his overall technical superiority should help him win the title in the main event, which will be webcast live on www.mavtv.com.
“I like the excitement of MMA. The feeling when it’s done is like no other,” described Prangley. “It’s like a drug. You know you have to earn it (the win).”
He enjoys coming up to work with the Black Bear team, and enjoys giving back to a North Idaho community that has been so good to him.
Greenblott has taken an interest in MMA, and believes his new team of fighters will make some waves in the sport regionally.
“I’m excited to bring amateur MMA to Sandpoint. There will be pros that come out of this gym that people will see at the top level of the sport,” said Greenblott, a black belt in Tang Soo Do who has become a fan of MMA. “They’re some of the best conditioned athletes in the world. Five minute rounds of guys trying to bash their brains in.”