PLANT CITY David Craft said he learned one thing very quickly when he first tried his hand at mixed martial arts:
When you face a trained opponent, height and weight won’t necessarily matter. The 6-foot-2 Plant City native who weighed 220 pounds at the time found out the hard way.
“I’d come up against guys who were half my size and they’d get the best of me every time,” he said. “It was very humbling and embarrassing but it was also very motivating. It made me want to be the best I can be.”
He stuck with it, even after his arm was broken in eight places during a bout. And on Saturday, he’ll be on the card at a Florida Championship Fighting show at The Regent in Brandon.
More than 10 bouts will be held, including three Florida championship title fights. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the action starts at 7:30 p.m. at the venue, 6437 Watson Road.
Craft, 28, said he is eager to get his turn in the ring, as part of his plan to enter more and more fights in the next year.
He said he got interested in the sport six years ago when he co-owned a furniture store in Tampa with his uncle Eddie Wasik that was down the street from Gracie Tampa, which offers mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu jitsu training.
He said he took a pounding at first but was determined to succeed under the instruction of Gracie Tampa owner and chief instructor Rob Kahn.
He said he saw big, tough men cut down to size because they thought they could approach the sport like a street brawl.
With Kahn’s help, he learned the skills he needed to win in the ring, he said. He got leaner as he worked out and competes in the 185-pound category.
Craft grew up in the Antioch area, the only son of the late Allen and Debbie Craft. After his father died when Craft was 16, he finished school and started working to support the family.
After co-owning the furniture store, he started his own business, Superior Plumbing and Concrete.
As a business owner, he can clear his schedule for evening workouts at Gracie Tampa. He said the skills and discipline he learned in the ring come in handy in life in general, he said.
“Win, lose or draw, you learn to give it 100 percent. You work to keep improving all the time. If you find something you’re not good at, work until you’re good.”
He credits his instructor, Rob Kahn, with working with him and showing him the skills he needs to succeed. He said he also draws from his faith and prays to God before each fight.
He said his fans include his sisters, Shana, Heather and Michelle, who he said he will be at his match on Saturday.
Highlights of Saturday’s fight include title fights involving Gracie Tampa’s Terry Janoski vs. Tony Murphy of Pinellas Park; Venezuela’s Dan Martinez vs. Tallahassee’s Stephon Reese; and Clark Brightwell of Sarasota vs. Ocala’s Patrick Corrigan. Also on tap is a female fight featuring Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Erin Harpe vs. Amber Rodriguez of West Palm Beach.
Tickets are available www.fcfighting.com and cost $30 for general admission seating and $65 for VIP premium seating, which includes reserved seating in Rows 1-3, in-cage photo with the Winghouse Ring Girls, VIP laminate pass, program and early entry.