BY Molly Congdon
During Darrin J. Hunsdon Jr.’s senior year at South Glens Falls High School, he and his fellow classmates were prompted to answer the typical yearbook question: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
His answer: “Fighting in the UFC.” Eight years later, that dream has become a reality.
By day he is the maintenance supervisor at MeadowView at Clifton Park Senior Living Apartments on Waite Road in Rexford, but as soon as the clock strikes 2:30 p.m., he transforms into his alter-ego — the mixed martial arts fighter.
Hunsdon heads to VENT fitness until 4 or 5 for weight training and cardio, jiu-jitsu class with Eddie Fyvie at Spa City Jiu-Jitsu in Malta until 6 or 7, and then he wrestles and continues to work out until 8 or 9 at night. To give his muscles some much-needed rest, he takes the weekends off.
A great deal of his free time is spent with his 3-year-old daughter, Bentley.
This is the area where he is planning to plant his roots; he’s been living in Clifton Park until recently moving in with his father while he finalizes the purchase of a farm house in Rexford. Eventually he wants to start his own business digging and running electrical service lines for homeowners.
At the height of his wrestling career at South Glens Falls High School, he reached fourth place in the state championships. After graduating in 2007 and going to work in the construction field, something was missing. “I tried skydiving, motorcycles, but nothing gave me the same thrill as wrestling,” Hunsdon said.
Soon he decided to head to SUNY Brockport and major in health sciences. He was able to resume life as a wrestler, but this time he was competing at the Division III level. “I ended up beating a guy from Army who was ranked 9th in Division I,” Hunsdon said. “And I was like, ‘Whoa!’ ”
Prior to completing his degree, he left school to help out his family. He moved out to Syracuse and assisted his mother by fixing up some of her properties. Hunsdon comes from a long line of men who know one end of a hammer from the other; his father, Darrin Hunsdon Sr., is an electrician and all of his uncles are carpenters and plumbers.
Away once more from the wrestling mat, he took up a different type of fighting: mixed martial arts.
His first MMA fight for promoter Kaged Kombat under trainer Chad Beatty occurred two years after his high school wrestling career came to a close, and he conquered his opponent in 15 seconds.
“I headlocked him and that guy had no idea how to wrestle; a real wrestler would hunch his back and wrap around you, but he didn’t do that so his head slipped out and all I had was his arm and when we hit the ground, his arm was pretty messed up,” Hunsdon remembered. “So, naturally I put my knee on his broken arm and started punching him in the face.”
He has a hunger for competition. “I’ve always wanted to fight the best guy in the room,” Hunsdon said. “It’s the only way you get better.”
His official New York state-sanctioned record is 8-0, but his record in unsanctioned bouts is 19-2. He is ranked number one in his weight class among 68 New York amateurs in the light heavyweight class and holds two of Kaged Kombat’s championship belts.
Before each fight, Hunsdon talks to himself to ensure mental preparation. As soon as he steps into the octagon-shaped caged ring and hears the lock click, he immediately is ready to establish his presence. He retains constant eye contact prior to engagement, almost without blinking. “I own the cage; I show dominance,” Hunsdon said. “It’s a mind-set thing, it’s all mental.”
“It’s a gentleman’s agreement, that’s what it is to me,” Hunsdon said. “I love the fact that there’s two guys who are willing to put it all out there and whoever is the best at the end gets their hand raised.”
Hunsdon still says that his greatest source of inspiration comes from his glory days wrestling at South Glens Falls High School.
“I never worked harder than preparing for sectionals,” Hunsdon said. “In every aspect of my life I think about how I constantly pushed my body to the breaking point.”
He’s been wrestling since his youth.
“My father put me into pee-wee wrestling and I don’t think I won a match in three years — I was a fat little meatball,” Hunsdon said. “At Moreau Elementary School, I was always the last kid to finish the mile run and it was embarrassing. And in fifth grade I said, ‘This isn’t happening anymore.’ ”
From that moment on, he started constantly working out, and by the time he got to seventh grade, he decided to give wrestling another shot.
Then, as he was going into his freshman year of high school, a new head coach took over at South Glens Falls, Jason Spector, who had been coaching college wrestling. “He was a maniac,” Hunsdon said with a laugh. “He beat the hell out of us in practice; every day I was bleeding from somewhere on my face.”
Now, he uses his wrestling technique to his advantage. “Wrestling is the best sport to get you into MMA,” Hunsdon said. “You will be a better fighter if you know how to wrestle than if you’re a boxer or jiu-jitsu guy because 99 percent of all fights close the distance, and what I mean by that is that two people come together and hit the ground — a wrestler is going to have an edge over anyone.”
THE BIG LEAGUES
Hunsdon is moving forward from amateur fights to the professional arena of Ultimate Fighting Championship, which began in 1993 as a professional MMA organization and is now the world’s leading promoter of the discipline.
This organization is the home of hybrid athletes who excel in various forms of martial arts such as karate, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, grappling, wrestling, sumo and other contact sports. UFC’s website explains: “These athletes are not born, they’re built.”
“I’m getting close to 30, which I don’t think that hinders me at all because Randy Couture was one of the best UFC fighters and he didn’t start until that age,” Hunsdon said. “I’m getting to the age where if I’m going to do it, I have to do it now.”
Soon he could be fighting in locations as varied as Las Vegas, Taiwan and Japan. It won’t be in New York, at least not right away — professional MMA bouts are illegal here, although efforts are underway to change that.
His first fight at the professional level will occur within the next six to eight weeks.
His goal is to ascend to the top, number one in the world in the 205-pound weight class. “I want to be a world champion, the best in the world at what I do,” Hunsdon said. “I don’t care if I’m it for 100 years or a minute, I just want to get there.”
Seven questions for
Darrin J. Hunsdon Jr.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Boondock Saints.”
Q: Favorite TV series?
Q: Essential pizza toppings?
A: Pineapple and ham
Q: Object you couldn’t live without?
A: Pocket knife. I use it for everything all the time.
Q: Dream car?
A: 1979 F-250 High boy; it has to be hunter green.
Q: Favorite holiday?
A: Halloween, you get to be someone else for a night.
Q: What was your best costume?
A: I was a bush, I made it myself.
Should professional MMA be made legal in New York?
Professional mixed martial arts became illegal in New York state in 1997. It is the only state to ban the sport at the professional level — only amateur events are allowed. Those in opposition to legalizing MMA say that it’s too violent. Others argue that it could bring economic development and that it’s just as rough as other sporting endeavors. Here’s what some local officials have to say:
“I think it should be legalized. It’s a professional sport and it’s regulated successfully in other areas of the country. Some people may think it’s a little more violent than boxing, and certainly it’s a different style of fighting, but I think it can be regulated successfully here in New York state like it is in other parts of the country.”
— Clifton Park town
Supervisor Phil Barrett
“Since the fall of 2012, when I was a candidate for state Senate, I publicly expressed my support for the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts and said that I would vote for it. As senator, I kept my promise and have voted in favor of legalizing MMA because it would generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue and economic activity for our state and local communities. Most important, legalizing MMA in New York state would make the sport even safer, as it would ensure that athletes and contests are well-regulated and carefully supervised. MMA is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world and it’s time New York state woke up from its slumber, recognized this fact and gave MMA a fighting chance.”
— State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, chair of the Senate’s Local Government Committee
“I confess I’ve never had the opportunity to study the issue very much, I’ve heard about it peripherally. My suggestion would be that the powers that be should carefully examine the facts and if this is something that we feel comfortable that we can have as an activity in our state then I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be legal.”
— Pete Bardunias, president/CEO of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County