True Warrior: An Airman's fight

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The distant roar of hundreds hungry for action pulses through the compound, rumbling the stone walls of a dimly lit waiting room.

Shoulders hunched, a fighter walks down a hallway, with a grey hood draped over his perspiring head.

Mounted lights pass over his face in pale strips of sterilized trepidation with every step he takes down the corridor.

He remains silent. His hulking figure leads his team toward the stage entrance. Swirling lights of red, blue and purple bleed out onto the gray floor as they draw closer. A low bass beats louder as they close-in to a set of green double doors.

A grungy riff hails his entrance; the song's low and heavy rhythm rumbling like the guttural growl of a beast poised to pounce.

The fighter stands at the arena entrance, staring into its mouth like a silent giant, motionless and unblinking. He takes a deep breath, bares his mouth guard for an instant, and then steps through the threshold.

Roars of near-deafening caliber emanate through the room, consuming him in one awesome wave. The crowd screams down at him, cheering, waving; their eager shouts and motions fueled by nervous excitement.

He takes off his warmup gear down to nothing but his camouflage-pattern shorts and yellow gloves. As the referee's fingers massage lubricant on his scalp and ears, the fighter's eyes flash up toward the bright ring - towards his opponent. Their eyes lock.

Once more, he bears his fangs, eyes never leaving his one target: his fight.

With this determination at the forefront of his mind, he steps into the ring.

For U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Clinton Williams, 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron engine manager and mixed martial artist, situations, like the one described before his fight at the 12th Kwon Respect Fighting Championship April 11 in Wuppertal, Germany, are not foreign to a fighter such as himself.

Sporting a fighting record of 10-1, 5-0 as an amateur and 5-1 as a professional, including a recent victory in Liechtenstein March 14, Williams' confrontations are often riddled with pre-game anxiety and anticipation - a feeling he says that remains with him before every fight.

As a deployed member from the 388th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Williams' assignment to Spangdahlem served as an opportunity for him to advance in his professional career as an Airman as well as to train and for his passion - mixed martial arts fights.

Williams said he ties his victories in the ring to the training and discipline he received from the U.S. Air Force.

"Winning's the only thing I can think about," Williams said. "When you go to war in the Air Force, you don't think about what happens if we lose. I take that mindset into the fight as well - I prepare hard so when I get in the ring, regardless of what happens. I make that fight my fight."

Williams arrived at Spangdahlem to work as an engine manager for the 52nd CMS. He then engaged with a local Jiu Jitsu club and Muay Thai class on base to further his training in the hobby he holds close to his heart.

"I had a host of friends in Georgia who invited me to the sport, and I got good rather quickly," Williams said. "I just stuck with it, and the more I stuck with it, the more I got fascinated at wanting to get better with it."

The crowd cheered as the bell's ring signaled the beginning of their fight. Williams raised his fists to his face as he began to slowly step toward his opponent - Raymond Jarman, a mixed martial artist from the Netherlands.

Like two predators scanning the other for weaknesses, both fighters dance around the ring - striking, blocking, countering, and weaving. Their eyes never straying from the other's, constantly analyzing and appraising. Neither receives or lands an effective hit against the other - their stalemate pushing the tension to new heights.

The fight is slated for five rounds, with just three minutes each. The ruthless warriors tested their worth and mettle in this desolate ring of blood thirst and survival. Praise is the farthest thing from their minds.

They both were now seeking the same answer as the clashes of their bones and sinews rang dully throughout the wide coliseum: who would emerge the victor?

Williams' fight represented the 10th of 13 fights that night, allowing him plenty of time to warmup and train with his coach and manager, Tammosa Sukon, gym instructor at Kiboju Free Fight System in Mannheim, Germany, and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Foster, respectively.

"I've been training with Williams for six months," Foster said. "As a U.S. Air Force warrior, he's an outstanding ambassador - he's well-spoken and educated. He's a great person who's dedicated to his craft and a great armed forces member."

Sukon expressed confidence in Williams' ability to perform before the fight, as he personally worked Jiu Jitsu with him at the gym.

"I saw Clinton every week," Sukon said. "I feel very comfortable because he's trained very well and already has experience as a fighter. Our gym has a lot of fighters who are used to fighting in other countries like Sweden or the United States. Having a foreign fighter in our country is nothing new - we're always willing to welcome them, and we're more than happy to have anyone training with us, regardless of where they come from."

Williams swayed back, watching calmly as the tip of Jarman's toes screamed past the bridge of his nose. Thirty seconds had passed; Williams had yet to break a sweat. He calmly returned to position, arms raised near his face like he had always practiced - his ears no longer hearing the roars and cheers of the audience.

He delivered a quick and low Muay Thai kick to Jarman's left thigh with his right shin. His eyes still remained locked onto his opponent's face, which was now slightly scrunched in anguish. He'd been chipping away at Jarman, targeting his legs for a while now.

Fists met hardened muscle and bone as Williams' defense neutralized Jarman's attack. The onlookers continued to cheer in waves of euphoria and excitement.

It was at that moment that Williams saw something. It was small - almost invisible to the untrained eye and too tiny to be seen by someone who had not been taught to seek it - but it was there. Williams saw an opportunity as Jarman's left arm dipped slightly as it prepared to throw a jab.

In a classic case of brawn over brains - muscle reflex over conscious thought - Williams took a step forward, no longer concerned of Jarman's potential attack and threw a right cross with all his might.

That's all it took.

A second passed as bone contacted flesh and Jarman's eyes glazed over. He fell backwards, flailing arms failing to grasp the ropes behind him. He tumbled to the ground. Williams stood over his prey, ready to pounce for the finishing blow, but he stopped before the referee could reach him. He could see it on Jarman's face.

He stepped back toward the center of the ring as the referee waved both arms over his head frantically. The entire arena exploded in a giant maelstrom of elated effervescence.

The entire fight comprised of just 40 seconds during the first round of the fight.

"In any fighting sport, a knockout is like a homerun in baseball," Williams said. "It's one of the things we train for; when you see an opening, you go for it and land it the way you trained. That's the result that should happen - it's fortunate that it came in my favor."

With a decisive win and the championship belt around his waist, Williams ended that night with cheers from the audience and friends. Although the fight ended and the lights dimmed, life resumed a seemingly peaceful course for Williams.

He attributed everything he's been able to do up to this point in his life in part to his decision to enlist into the U.S. Air Force.

"Joining the military is the biggest factor in me fighting," Williams said. "My trainers, my coaches, the people I've met, the experiences I've had and being able to travel have all been thanks to my commitment to the Air Force. Without the Air Force, I wouldn't be here in Germany. I wouldn't have the experiences I've had in Korea. I wouldn't have met the people I've met in Hill Air Force Base, and I wouldn't have had the support I had in Georgia."

Williams said his gratitude for the opportunities to train as a mixed martial artist extends to other aspects of his life.

"The Air Force has allowed me to finish my education," Williams said. "I finished my bachelor's degree this year and my associates as well this year. I'm able to provide for my family, I have a team everywhere I go, and I've been to various leadership schools. Everything the Air Force has provided for me has been a direct influence on my success right now."

Williams says he plans to separate from the active duty force soon and hopes to join the Air Force Reserves to focus his attention on other aspects of his life. In hopes of training for more fights, further his education and follow his heart into the information technology industry, Williams said he looks forward to future moments he has with the Air Force.

"It's a never-ending story; once in the Air Force, you're always Air Force," Williams said. "I will continue to pursue my goals, to pursue my dreams and always keep my affiliation with the Air Force."