Team Knockout trains at Abundant Life Church

Published 12:24 am Monday, July 2, 2007

NATCHEZ — This isn’t a backyard wrestling match or an after school brawl. This is mixed martial arts fighting. These guys are out to hurt someone.

No, the Ultimate Fighting Championships didn’t come to Natchez. But if they had, you can bet the guys from Team Knockout would have been there.

Team Knockout is a group of guys that meet twice a week to punch, kick and wrestle the living daylights out of each other in the name of training.

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They don’t train in some fancy gym with a ring, an assortment of protective gear and coaches, and they certainly don’t pay a hefty fee to train.

One-inch-thick gymnastics mats on a concrete floor and a punching bag in the back room of Abundant Life Church is Team Knockout’s fighting sanctuary.

Their facilities aren’t the best but that doesn’t mean members aren’t.

“I hold the 01Productions Super Heavy Weight Mississippi State Championship belt,” 27-year-old Wes Givens said. “I do have job. I work on a oil rig.”

Givens is the most senior member of Team Knockout and the one of the biggest. He weighs a bone-crushing 275 pounds, and everything about him is extreme, from his Mohawk to his tattoos, not to mention his 8-inch long goatee. Givens is not someone you’d want to mess with.

But 185-pound Tony Godbold, 19, does just that every Tuesday and Thursday night.

“Fighting Tony is good for both of us,” Givens said. “He gets the challenge of fighting someone who just out-powers him, and I get the challenge of fighting someone quicker than me.”

Godbold is the defending middleweight 01Producitons Champion.

“I am still in college, at Co-Lin, but I would like to have a career as a fighter,” Godbold said.

Godbold and Givens are not the only competitors that train at Abundant Life Church. Matthew Henderson, 21, Austin Williams, 18, Austin Weeks, 18, Tel Faulkner, 19, and Cody Allen, who is only 15 years-old also train.

“Cody is too young to compete but when he turns 18 he is going to be unstoppable,” Givens said.

Everyone fights everyone at practice. Nothing matters weight, height, experience or age.

“Whatever your weakness is fighting someone who exploits it will only make you a better fighter,” Godbold said.

Henderson a brown belt in karate who used to compete in MMA and karate matches fought Allen. Of course they wore full combat gear, but a kick to the head is a kick to the head, even with a helmet and mask on.

During every practice match whether two guys are on the floor trying new grappling moves or if they are wearing pads and throwing jabs and roundhouse kicks, the rest of the group coaches and tries to help both fighters.

“Get your arm between his neck and your chin then roll your hips,” Givens told Allen, who was being choked out by Weeks.

Out of breath and gasping for air both fighters still entangled paused and listened to Givens advice. Then it was back to arm-locks and makeshift submission moves.

In addition to coaching bystanders also push the mats on the floor back together so neither fighter hits the concrete too hard.

“When we first started training here all we had were two mats to train on,” Godbold said. “I just kinda got used to my head hitting the concrete but its nice having the new mats.”

Experience of the Team Knockout fighters varies as much as their ages and weights. But seeing the amount of fun they have whaling on each other makes it hard not to want to jump in and take or lay out a beating of your own.

“Anyone can come out to practice the more the merrier,” Givens said.

“It’s a lot of fun and you don’t have to compete to train,” Godbold said.

To train with Team Knockout or just to stop by and watch go to Abundant Life Church after 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The team is also accepting sponsors and donations for equipment. For more information visit Team Knockout on