Family fun with MMA
By By Matthew Nascone
Ken Shamrock, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz are well-known names in the mixed martial arts circles around the world, but there is a group of Atmore citizens who don't care about the glory or the fame. Team Titan MMA, or Craig Helton, Jim Jernigan, Britton Ikner, Kevin Emmons and Shapard Marks, just want to bring MMA to Atmore.
"It is a very interesting sport and most people think of a street fighting crowd when they think of MMA, but we want to let everyone in Atmore know that there are respectable people that do this sport as well," Helton said.
Family is a big part of each of these guys' lives.
"We are all family guys and we just want to let the community know that respectable people can participate in this sport," Ikner said.
But Helton wants to let anyone interested in joining know that there will be no bad attitudes on Team Titan.
"If you want to be a part of our team, you have to represent the team in a good way," he said.
A helpful tool in recruiting is having a good product, and Team Titan has that. Since they fought together in their first MMA event in September of 2007, the team is a combined 8-0. Emmons is 3-0, Ikner is 2-0 and Jernigan, Helton and Marks are each 1-0.
Most recently the team fought together at UCF II in Brewton last weekend.
Each of the members of Team Titan fight under a freestyle fighting style because they want to make sure they are open to new ideas.
"We all fight and train in a form that combines boxing and Brazilian jujitsu," Helton said. "You have to know everything when you jump in that ring."
All five fighters associated with Team Titan live in the Atmore area and work in the surrounding area. Jernigan, 30, works at Masland Carpets; Helton, 27, works at Brantley's Tires; Ikner, 24, is an employee at CSX Transportation; Emmons, 22, works for Exxon Mobile and Marks, 28, is an employee at Swift Lumber.
"The main thing we would like to do is to thank all the people who came to support us last weekend from Atmore," Jernigan said. "We hope to see more people at our upcoming events."
The team is taking a little breather because of injuries and other conflicts, but Helton said they hope to go to Atlanta for the NAGA Tournament in May.
The group also wants to try and promote the sport to get an event in the Atmore area.
"We want to get the real aspect of what the sport is all about so that we can maybe bring an event here," Jernigan said.
The rise of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is what spurned all five of these men to jump in the ring and put their athleticism and strength to the test.
"We have all watched this stuff since the first UFC events in the 1990s," Helton said. "The popularity of the sport has made it so much easier to find a place to train. Back in the '90s you would have to travel a long way to train, but now there are more places available to us."
The training is nothing like any athlete will find in any other sport.
"The training is real grueling," Ikner said. "It takes a toll on your body and your mind. You have so much you must learn in such a short time."
The popularity of the sport has also allowed for progress.
"On any given weekend you can find an event within 100 miles of here," Helton said. "There are probably about a dozen respectable places that will hold an event close to Atmore."
Competing in the ring is one thing, but all these guys know that without the support of their significant others, none of this would be possible.
"We want to thank our wives because we owe a lot to them," Helton said. "We would not be able to do this if they did not support us."
Jernigan has the support of his wife, Charlotte, and their 3-year-old son Jaden. Helton has the support of his wife, Ellen, and their three children, 8-year-old Justin, 6-year-old Jay and 1-year-old Joshlynn. Ikner has the support of his wife, Cheyenne; one child, 2-year-old Mayson and three stepchildren, 13-year-old Kit Leachman, 11-year-old Jake Leachman and 9-year-old Hailey Leachman.
So the next time you watch a UFC fight on the Spike Channel or on Pay-Per-View, just remember there are some MMA fighters right here in Atmore, and they work a 9-to-5 just like you.