By MCC(SCW/SW/AW) Ryan G. Wilber, NCBC Public Affairs
110629-N-AW868-003 BILOXI, Miss. (June 29, 2013) Utilitiesman 1st Class Michael DeAngelo, Utilities Phase Head for Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2, Contingency Construction Crew Training (CCCT), defeats his opponent using a guillotine choke during a mixed martial arts fight, June 29. DeAngelo has been studying martial arts for more than six years and fighting for the past two. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ryan G. Wilber/Released)
Military men and women are known to pursue a number of off-duty sporting activities; some join the command softball league, while others race in triathlons, and many compete at a high level. In addition to his day job as a Utilities Phase Head for Contingency Construction Crew Training (CCCT), Utilitiesman 1st Class Michael DeAngelo competes in “the octagon” as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter.
DeAngelo, a 12-year Seabee, has been studying martial arts for more than six years and has been awarded a black belt in Muay Thai, a combat sport from Thailand that uses punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art, combat sport and self-defense system that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. He said he started training in martial arts as a way to do something worthwhile with his evenings.
“For a while I wasn’t doing anything really productive aside from the Navy, and I had been enjoying old UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) after watching Bruce Lee and other martial arts movies as a kid. I decided that I wanted to give it a try while I was young enough, and didn’t want to regret never giving it a shot,” said DeAngelo.
Although he has been studying his art for a number of years, he has only been in the ring fighting for two years. After moving to Mississippi from Virginia and completing a few more years of training he felt that he could compete safely.
“It’s a fight and anything can happen, but I have the training now behind me to where as safely as can be expected to be done I can go in there and compete at a high level and not have to worry about not knowing what to do in a certain situation and end up getting myself hurt,” said DeAngelo.
DeAngelo said he gets in the ring for the experience, not to be a career MMA fighter. He compared the knowledge he gains in the ring to his designation as a Military Training Specialist (MTS), stating that he can’t be a good MTS without being a subject matter expert, and at the same time he doesn’t feel he can be a good MMA coach without having been a MMA fighter.
“I need the experience, the ring experience, because I want to be able to coach and help other fighters and you can’t do that without ring experience. I’ve been getting the experience of it all from the weight cutting to the training to everything. That way I can be involved in it as opposed to seeing it from the outside, I get to see it from the inside,” said DeAngelo.
Leadership and being a positive ambassador for the Navy are two things that DeAngelo said are advantages of being a martial arts teacher.
“It [teaching Muay Thai] gives me a chance to be more towards my job in the Navy as an instructor. It helps me be in front of more people, and gets me out in the community and work with teenagers and adults and do events, which stems from working there at the gym,” said DeAngelo. “People know I’m active duty military, so I think it’s good for community relations.”
To train at a MMA gym a person could spend between $50 and $200 per month, which DeAngelo says is likely less than what many young Seabees spend on things that are worth much less than the discipline and skill they could learn through martial arts.
“These guys that are in the barracks, these young troops, young guys and girls, they’re getting in trouble doing all kinds of stuff. If they were to get into martial arts they probably wouldn’t want to party as much, maybe not buy that carton of cigarettes. They would get in better shape and throw the cigarettes away, now they can afford to go to the gym. You have to look at what you’re going to spend your money on.
Although she is always a little worried when he is in the ring, Calisha DeAngelo said she is always supportive of her husband of 10 years.
“I’m okay with it [him fighting]. I mean I definitely get nervous. It weighs on me a little bit, but for the most part I’m okay. I’ll always support him in whatever he does. For the most part I just want him to be happy with his performance and feel like he did his best. Regardless of the end results I’m always proud of him.”
DeAngelo said he would like to see the Navy develop a hand-to-hand combat type of program, and would just as much like to be part of its development.
“If the Navy could implement their own program, I would love to be involved in whatever that program is. Just like the Army and Marine Corps have their own program, I think the Navy should as well.”