locker room

January 20th, 2011 |


By Matt Miller


Coming home


MMA fighter Paul Bird returns this month to 7 Flags Events Center where he made his professional debut in 2002


Nine years ago seems like forever for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Paul Bird. It was in 2002 when the then 19-year-old made his professional debut and delivered a knockout blow to seasoned-veteran Jeff Carstens in the third round at 7 Flags Event Center. The win cemented Bird’s place on the MMA scene and helped jumpstart his career that continues to churn at a rapid pace. Bird will once again put his years of hard work on the line at the upcoming World War Fighting Championships.

“I got into mixed martial arts because I wanted to see what it would be like,” Bird said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could overcome my fears. When I beat Carstens, I experienced a feeling that I never have before. From then on, I kind of got addicted to it, and it gave me the confidence to keep with it.”

Pushing forward in a sport that beats you down and builds you up is exactly what Bird has done. He currently has an 8-3 record heading into the Jan. 22 bout against Scott Kinzenbach. Originally, Bird was supposed to fight Mike Lindquist in the Lightweight Superfight, but a last-minute scratch changed the card.

“Mike got scared and didn’t want to face me,” Bird said. “Scott is a lot better anyway, and I give him a lot of respect for stepping in at the last second. It’s going to be a great fight.”

Bird’s attraction to MMA fighting began about 10 years ago when he started boxing. The more time he spent in the ring, the more his passion for professionall MMA fighting took shape. Soon after, he spent a month in Thailand learning Muay Thai. Bird then returned to the United States wanting to learn as much about MMA as he could. Today, he teaches boxing and mixed martial arts at RoundKick Gym in Urbandale.

“It’s been an absolute joy working with the classes,” said Bird, who trains five days a week. “When I started training, no one took me under their wing to make sure I was doing it correctly. I want to be that role model who can teach future generations about the sport, especially the ones who want to one day be in MMA.”

The one individual Bird does look up to in the MMA world is former fighter Igor Yaroslavovich Vovchanchyn. Known as “Ice Cold,” the retired Ukrainian won six MMA tournaments, including 32 fights in a row. Bird says he models his fighting style after Vovchanchyn, despite their height and weight differences. Vovchanchyn stood 5’8” and weighed 235 lbs. Bird stands 5’9” and weighs 155 lbs.

“Igor had really heavy hands, and he was fun to watch,” Bird said. “He also had a strong kickboxing background, which I try to emulate. I’m a smaller guy without as much knockout power, but I still think I have heavy hands.”

Heavy hands or not, Bird says he’s ready for his next bout.

“It’s a unique feeling when you’re face-to-face with another guy trying to beat you down,” Bird said. “You find out who you are — you can’t hide from yourself.”

Locker Room note: The World War Fighting Championships will take place on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at the 7 Flags Event Center, 2100 N.W. 100th St. in Clive. Doors open at 6 p.m., and fights begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 - $50, or $350 for a VIP table. Tickets are available at the 7 Flags box office, Des Moines Mixed Martial Arts Academy, Roundkick Gym and Max Muscle.

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Caption: Mixed Martial Arts fighter Paul Bird enters the World War Fighting Championships on Jan. 22 with an 8-3 record. Photo courtesy of Paul Bird