TRAVERSE CITY —
The Wolves are about to be caged.
Six members of the semi-pro Traverse City Wolves football team are slated to take part in Saturday's Caged Aggression 36 mixed martial arts event at Streeters.
Traverse City MMA veteran Christos Piliafas — who also plays for the Wolves as a defensive lineman — is the event's promoter.
"I think that's kind of how it started," said Nick Rademaker, a Traverse City native and Wolves offensive lineman. "Christos joined the team and kind of dragged a few of us into it."
Doors open at 7 p.m., with the first fight slated for 8:10 p.m. Veteran Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters Houston Alexander and James Lee are slated to be guest referees.
The Wolves will be well-represented at the fights. In addition to Rademaker, Matt Ohlert, Maurice Gilmar, Justin Fortune, Davonn Cooper and Jesse Kethman are scheduled for bouts.
The lineup is littered with other local fighters, including former Traverse City West wrestler Zach Bragdon.
"There's a lot on the fence," Ohlert said when asked if more Wolves players were considering MMA. "The whole thing about stepping in the cage — it takes a lot just to get in there."
Ohlert will be entering the cage for the third time, while Rademaker is making his MMA debut.
Ohlert is 2-0 and won his first bout by unanimous decision and then pounded out a KO in 20 seconds on Oct. 20. His opponent in Saturday's 210-pound class — Traverse City's Chris White — was also in that event, posting a win in his first bout.
"I was pretty nervous," Ohlert said of his first fight, earlier this year. "But just like any sport, you get in that zone and all the butterflies go away."
Rademaker started training two months ago, and was Ohlert's corner man for both his fights.
"I decided, well, I might as well give it a shot," Rademaker said. "I had a lot of friends tell me I'd do a good job at it. So I'll give it a shot on (Saturday) and see how it goes."
Both describe their style as "ground and pound," meaning they aim to get their opponent off his feet and win by strikes on the mat.
Rademaker was a state qualifier in wrestling as a senior in 2006, and then played offensive line for two years at Central Michigan University at 283 pounds. He's making his MMA debut, taking on Grayling's David Ellingford (3-1).
Ohlert was a standout linebacker for TC Central and both he and Rademaker were Great Midwest Football League all-stars last season. Ohlert wrestled in seventh through ninth grades, but then chose to concentrate on football and baseball.
"I'm one of those guys that I'll try anything once," Ohlert said. "So I started working on my cardio. Ninety percent of MMA is cardio. If you can outlast the other guy, then you've got an edge."
Alexander has posted a 13-9 MMA record and was the co-headlining fight along with Piliafas at KSW 20 in Poland. Alexander lost of Jan Blachowicz in a unanimous decision, while Piliafas was stopped by five-time World's Strongest Man champion Mariusz Pudzianowski.
A Detroit native, Lee has a 14-3 MMA record, although he hasn't fought since 2008. None of Lee's fights have gone the distance, as he's won 10 times by submission and four by knockout.
Fans can receive $5 off admission by bringing a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys For Tots.
Earlier Saturday, Alexander and Lee will host an hour-long, hands-on MMA seminar at Sueng Ni Fit Club from noon to 1 p.m. for $10. All proceeds from the seminar benefit Toys For Tots.
Caged Aggression 36 takes place on Saturday night
TRAVERSE CITY —
The Wolves are about to be caged.
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