MMA fighter moves to Jonesville for sport
JONESVILLE — Not just anyone can give the commitment and toughness needed to be a mixed martial arts fighter.
Then again, Jonesville resident Justin Stevens isn’t just anyone.
Stevens, 19, began training in his backyard with friends in 2011 for the same reason many young men think fighting is a good idea — it looked cool.
When Pinnacle Training Center opened in Jonesville in November, Stevens and his friends showed up. However, he is the only one who remains.
“Everybody wants to be a champion but they don’t want to put in the work,” Stevens said.
The difference between Stevens and the many others whose MMA careers end in those first few training sessions is the mentality he brought to the table, Stevens’ trainer Chris Kimball said.
“The attrition rate here is probably about 95 percent,” Kimball said. “The big thing with Justin is his longevity of staying mentally focused.”
The average training week for Stevens consists of at least one, although sometimes multiple, visits to the gym between Monday through Friday. These training sessions consist of kickboxing, MMA fighting, weight training or Crossfit-style workouts depending on what day of the week it is. Being physically fit is only a small part of what it takes, Kimball said.
“They have to develop their mind, their spirit, as well as their body,” Kimball said. “It’s not about winning competitions, it’s about being a complete warrior.”
Before starting his MMA career, Stevens was a musician. He won second place in a Jonesville music competition and made it to the final round of auditions for American Idol before getting cut. The feeling of playing music isn’t that much different from fighting, Stevens said.
“(Music is) a feeling you get in your soul, it’s the same feeling I get when I’m fighting,” Stevens said. “It’s all the same stage to me, it’s an art.”
Stevens, who quit his job in Monterey and started a car-detailing business with the help of Kimball, moved to Jonesville four months ago to be closer to the gym. He has a 4-2 record as a featherweight and put on nearly 20 pounds of muscle to move up to the lightweight division. That commitment and his relationship with his teammates is another difference maker for Stevens, Kimball said.
“MMA is a new sport that attracts a lot of negative personalities,” Kimball said. “Justin (Stevens) has invested himself in a relationship with me and his teammates. He has a good heart to help others.”
The lifestyle of an MMA fighter isn’t one to be taken lightly, but it is a worthwhile investment that pays off in more than just wins and losses, Stevens said.
“A lot of people joke around town saying we’re a cult, but they’re not that wrong,” Stevens said. “We’re a brotherhood.”