by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
So, what’s a college senior majoring in philosophy doing in Mixed Martial Arts, a sport so savage it makes boxing look civilized?
“I’ve been curious about MMA since I was a kid watching UFC,” said Jake Bunker, 23, former Elk River wrestler who made his MMA debut with a victory Saturday evening at the Anoka Armory.
Bunker had limited success as a wrestler, but when he moved on to judo and then Jiu jitsu in the five years since high school, he won a few tournaments.
“Jiu jitsu and MMA allows you to fight from your back,” he said. “Wrestling was a little too much of a sport and not close enough to martial arts.”
Bunker was recruited by another former Elk wrestler, and current MMA fighter, Jim Clark, who recently purchased a promotion company and was looking for fighters. One bond between the two pugilists is their interest in philosophy, which Clark has studied intensely and taught.
The event Saturday was Clark’s second, with five amateur bouts and four pro bouts. Bunker was introduced as Jake “The Viking” Bunker.
“It was fun. A whole ‘nother experience,” said Bunker, “like nothing I have ever done.”
Facing Kiel McGrath, a Californian with a 1-1 record, Bunker was almost taken out in the first half minute as McGrath threw some punches including a left hook to the temple that staggered the former Elk.
“I can’t really remember that,” Bunker grinned, “but I remember reaching at him to try get a grip on him.”
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Bunker managed to wrap up his opponent at the waist, then worked his way up the torso and took him down. That’s when Bunker’s wrestling and Jiu jitsu skills easily trumped McGrath’s big edge as a puncher.
“Instinct took over when I got my mount, and I let my hands go,” said Bunker.
A flurry of punches made McGrath cover his face, and even though many of them missed, the official called the match because McGrath was unable to defend himself in that position.
Clark said he knew once they were on the mat that Bunker had him.
“I’d like to work with Jake more on standing up,” said Clark, “because he took some shots I’d like to see him avoid, but his Jiu jitsu is off the charts.”
Bunker did find it a bit amusing that he trained twice a day, five days a week, for several weeks, for what turned out to be about two minutes in the ring.
“But if I hadn’t trained like that, he would have won with that one shot.”
One victory is just a start, of course, but Bunker indicated he might not get back in the ring anytime soon. His senior year at the U of M starts in September and “that has to be my focus.”