American Bulldog Mixed Martial Arts

I had never been to a mixed martial arts fight, nor any professional fight for that matter, except for kickboxing many years ago in Denver. So when my friend, Gabe Lemley, of New London said he could get me a press pass into the fight at the Arts and Convention Center in Fairfield, I jumped at the chance.

Gabe is a mixed martial arts fighter and friend/trainer for five other fighters. He is recuperating from a knee injury, so on this night he relegated himself to the friend/trainer role.

Gabe used to have a gym in his home near Lowell, but has since moved the gym, American Bulldog Mixed Martial Arts, to downtown Mt. Pleasant. You can find the guys there most evenings, working out, training, and sparring. Without a doubt, Gabe is their unofficial/official trainer, mentor, friend, and spiritual adviser.

Mixed martial arts, or at least the brand that Gabe and his troop practice, might destroy any and all preconceptions or misconceptions you have about the sport of “extreme fighting,” a term they don’t like to use. These guys are not barroom brawlers. In fact, they might just be the most courteous, gentle, peace-loving, God-fearing men you will ever meet. If one of these guys was challenged or bullied on the street (a tactic I wouldn’t recommend), I suspect they might just wish you a blessed day and walk away — a true sign of strength.

The Arts and Convention Center in Fairfield is not your typical setting for mixed martial arts. There are no locker rooms, and the building is decorated with fine artwork and sculptures. What are normally used for conference rooms were converted to dressing rooms — in eerie contrast to the fine art.

Of the five fighters in Gabe’s contingent from American Bulldog, four won. Impressive. I was privileged to observe the pre-fight preparations, including taping of hands, sparring and group prayer. Yes, these guys pray. They pray for strength, respect for their opponent and glory for God. In the audience of friends, fans and well-wishers was at least one pastor of one of the fighters.

Eighteen-year-old Pedro Numez from Columbus Junction travels to Mt. Pleasant to work out at Gabe’s gym. This was his first fight. Gabe spent quite a bit of time with the young fighter, sparring and building his confidence. From ringside, I watched my first fight and watched the first-time fighter, Pedro Numez, go the full three rounds of three minutes each to win by decision.

Nineteen-year-old Brady Milder from Fredonia (The Fredonia Assassin), is best of friends with Pedro. This was Brady’s third fight. Brady wailed on his opponent and won in 34 seconds by technical knockout.

At the beginning of each fight, the fighters touch gloves. At the end of each fight, they congratulate each other. Professional football and hockey are more violent sports.

One hundred and twenty-five pound Coley Deese is 23 years old. This was his first fight, also. His opponent put him in a choke hold and Coley “tapped out” after 49 seconds. After the fight, Gabe’s team from American Bulldog surrounded Coley. There is no difference in the support they give for a win or loss.

Tyler (Haywire) McGuire from Mt. Pleasant is 23, a school teacher in New London and is getting married in June. He has fought three fights and is 3 – 0. Contrary to his ring name, Tyler is perhaps one of the most polite, mellow and well-educated people you will ever meet. Tyler explains that participating in mixed martial arts is a great outlet for daily frustrations. “Let it go in the ring, not in public.” Tyler quickly dispatched his opponent in the second round. The ringmaster brought Tyler up after the fight and asked what he owed his success and strength to. Without hesitation, Tyler gave all glory to Jesus Christ.

And then the main event: Mt. Pleasant’s Parnell (The Rebirth) Davis, weighing in at 255 pounds. Parnell’s record is 5 – 3. He quickly put away his opponent, a former current Extreme Challenge Champion, in the first round by technical knockout. If Parnell wins his next fight in August in Burlington, he will be the Extreme Challenge Champion and turn pro.

Good luck, Parnell. I will be there.

Have a good story? Call Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at (319) 217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

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