It was early in the first round of their bout at Bellator 69 on May 18 when Lake Charles fighter Josh Quayhagen hit his opponent, Cliff Wright, Jr., square in the family jewels.
It wasn’t intentional, but there it was, a strike to the junk leaving Wright in what, from where I sat on press row, looked like a fair amount of pain.
Such things are not uncommon in mixed martial arts and, usually, the injured fighter is given a prescribed amount of time to recover from the illegal blow.
The pro-Quayhagen crowd in the L’Auberge Casino ballroom, however, having sat through several lengthy timeouts in earlier fights, felt no sympathy for Wright, booing him lustily as he recovered from the low blow.
But, then something strange happened. As Wright collected himself and the boos rained down, Quayhagen himself moved to quiet the masses. Looking at the crowd, he raised and lowered his hands to calm the fight fans and pointed to his chest as if to say, “It was my bad.”
It was a gesture of sportsmanship and responsibility one doesn’t often see in modern professional sports (indeed, in one of the earlier bouts, a timeout for a low blow saw the offending fighter pacing the ring and complaining about how long his opponent was taking to gather himself), but that’s what makes Josh Quayhagen different from most professional athletes.
Quayhagen, who by day teaches martial arts at his gym, Performance Evolution, ascribes to a “peaceful warrior” philosophy of self-defense, which he passes along to children through weekly demonstrations and motivational talks at Performance Evolution.
According to the Peaceful Warrior Program’s mission statement, its goal is to “empower the next generation to take a proactive responsibility to change their world for the better.” To do this, the program aims to “equip these young people with the knowledge to first make positive decisions themselves, then the power to make smart, nonviolent approaches to helping others overcome negative behavior or circumstances.”
In short, the program instills a “kill them with kindness” approach in kids when it comes to bullying and domestic violence.
With such a recent national focus on the effects of bullying on impressionable and vulnerable children, such a program is a noble and important effort.
It is also an interesting sort of juxtaposition for a mixed martial artist to be promoting such values as tolerance, non-violence, and responsibility. Too often in recent years, as mixed martial arts have become increasingly popular, it seems that anybody with enough space in the back of a warehouse thinks they can train fighters. This breed of fighter typically comes across as cocky, arrogant, and disrespectful. They slip on their too-small Tapout T-shirt, run their mouths and think they are fighters, completely disregarding the virtues of discipline and respect true mixed martial artists seek and embrace.
And this is what makes Quayhagen, a former star football player at Leesville High and McNeese State University, such a breath of fresh air in a world of MMA currently dominated by sneering punks like Nate Diaz and bloated egomaniacs like Tito Ortiz.
As Quayhagen said after a recent demonstration of the Peaceful Warrior Program, “Nobody can hurt you without your permission.” His Bellator 69 opponent, Cliff Wright, Jr., did not get such permission.
Quayhagen entered the ballroom to a huge ovation for the night’s final bout and he did not take long to start scoring points on Wright. And, while Wright took Quayhagen down in the middle of the first round, Quayhagen was able to reverse as the round came to a close, standing up and peppering Wright’s legs with heavy kicks as the bell rung.
Wright (6-3) once again took Quayhagen down in round two but could not do any real damage to Quayhagen while the hometown fighter connected with a big kick to Wright’s body and several nice punches. Round three saw Quayhagen score more points with his striking as Wright could do little to damage Quayhagen.
Wright did little to impress the judges either, as all three judges scored the bout in favor of Quayhagen, moving the local fighter to a perfect 4-0 record.
And in keeping with his character, Quayhagen made sure to shake not only Wright’s hand after the decision was handed down. He sought out every one of Wright’s corner men for a handshake and pleasantries as well.
It was the polar opposite of what was going on in the crowd at the same time. While Quayhagen was living up to his billing as a “peaceful warrior,” a decidedly not peaceful warrior, obviously intoxicated, started an amateur fight with some in the crowd.
Perhaps, instead of trying to emulate his favorite Bellator fighters’ butt-kicking abilities, the man should have tried to emulate Josh Quayhagen’s exhibitions of respect and sportsmanship.
It was surely a wonderful sight to see—and a proud moment for all Lake Area fight fans.
Brandon Shoumaker is a graduate of McNeese State University and has covered sports for more than a decade for various publications. Coaches or parents with story tips or comments may contact Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org or send him a message on Twitter (@bshoumaker).