Scott Baker and Cory Miller are working their butts off, and all their training will be tested for the first time Saturday night in a small cage, in front of several hundred people.
The two former Hood River Valley High School athletes will compete in the Rumble at the Roseland 58 in Portland. The amateur mixed martial arts event pairs Baker, at 170 pounds, and Miller, at heavyweight, with opponents of the same weight in a caged-octagon for full-contact competition.
Fight night will feature more than a dozen contests, all under the umbrella of the Full Contact Fighting Federation. Fights are three 3-minute rounds, unless ended earlier by referee-stoppage, knockout or submission. Fighters wear padded gloves similar in thickness to a heavy ski glove and combine tactics from a variety of disciplines to defeat opponents on their feet or on the mat.
For Miller, a 2008 state champion wrestler out of HRVHS, the mat experience will be a huge asset to his bout. Baker, who wrestled for one year in high school, has been training hard on grappling with his brother Sean, who was also a state champion wrestler out of Hood River.
"My experience is a lot of backyard boxing," Baker said this week. "As my first fight, I've just been training as hard as I can and getting in as good of shape as I can.
"A lot of people don't realize how much conditioning is a part of MMA. I feel confident with my conditioning, which means I will be able to go out there and set the pace instead of letting my opponent work from his pace."
With a solid grappling background, Miller has been focusing his training on standup and striking techniques. As a state champion, he knows what it's like to step into a battle in front of a large crowd. Still, the thrill and nerves of combat are in his mind.
"It's really exciting," Miller said. "I'm sure I'll be nervous, but once the cage door closes and it's fight time, that will go away. I've been working really hard for this, and I'm excited to see what will happen."
In addition to daily conditioning and weight training, the two train regularly at night with a small group in the HRVHS wrestling room. With guidance from a couple coaches who have fights under their belts, Miller and Baker are hoping to step into Portland's increasingly popular MMA scene.
"There's a lot going on in Portland, and if a fighter wins some matches, wins a title fight and enters into the pro-division, there is money to be made," Miller said. "I hate losing, so I'm going to train as hard as I can and see where it will take me."