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MMA training proves good outlet for Umlands

Connie and Jeremy Umland of Verndale will both have nationally-televised Mixed Martial Arts fights in August. Connie fights Saturday at Northern Lights Casino in Walker. Jeremy competes Aug. 18 in Mesquite, Nev. Photo by Brian Hansel

Jeremy and Connie Umland have three very important ties found in happy marriages - they have a family, they spend time together and they share a hobby.

The couple will be representing Wadena this month in two different nationally-televised Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events. MMA combines the fighting arts of wrestling, boxing, kickboxing and ju-jitsu.

Well-prepared family suppers and peaceful evenings in front of the television might be fine but the Umlands have been known to throw a good kick in the ribs or slap on a choke hold. For them, it is not violence born from anger but training.

"We're both very competitive," Connie smiled as she worked out with her 310-pound husband Tuesday evening at STOMP Gym and Fitness in Wadena.

Connie has her first MMA bout Saturday at Northern Lights Casino in Walker. The "King of the Cage" competition will pit Umland against Michigan fighter Staicee Karppin in the 150-pound weight class.

Connie's fight will be televised on HD Net and Pay-Per-View.

Connie has been studying kickboxing and jiu jitsu, and her coaches and fellow MMA fighters have learned to respect her.

"She can kick and she can hit like a ton of bricks," STOMP Gym Owner Joe Jasicki said.

Jeremy is quick to agree with Jasicki.

"Pound for pound she's one of the hardest-hitting strikers in the gym," he said.

Connie's quick progress as a MMA fighter has been helped by impromptu practice sessions with her husband at home.

"She's very tenacious," Jeremy said. "She used to be extremely shy. Since she started doing this she has come out of her shell. She's so much happier."

Connie sees MMA training as a way of bringing another part of her to the surface.

"Moms never seem to have a way out," Connie said. "This is something I can do for just me."

The Umlands both have high stress jobs. Connie works with developmentally disabled people. Jeremy helps teenagers fight addiction problems. Training in the gym is a good way for the Umlands to leave the cares of work behind.

Jeremy has wrestled Greco-Roman in college, boxed Golden Gloves and trained in kick boxing. He used to assist Wadena Golden Gloves Boxing Coach Bob Tubandt with his fighters but now assists Jasicki in coaching coaches a team of MMA fighters.

The Aug. 18 fight Jeremy is training for is with undefeated Charles Williams, a 6-6, 360-pound super heavyweight. Jeremy's amateur championship fight with Williams in Mesquite, Nev. will be part of a competition called "Tuff-n-Uff" and will be seen from Mesquite, Nev. on HD Net, Pay-Per-View and the Internet.

"He's a big guy who can move," Jasicki said of Umland. "You don't find 310-pound guys who can move, that is a rarity."

Jeremy is 2-0 as an MMA fighter but because of his size finding opponents has been difficult. He enjoys working with younger people so helping Jasicki train has been good for Jeremy.

"He's strong and he always gives 110 percent in his training," Connie said of her husband. "He's always putting himself last."

Jasicki believes an MMA fighter has to be in much better shape than a pro football player.

"In MMA there are no breaks," Jasicki said. "We've got to go 5, 10, 15 minutes at a time without break, Jasicki said. "Basically, it's a triathlon in some ways."