By Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson
Task Force Red Bulls
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (3/18/11) – On most late nights at Forward Operating Base Torkham Gate, Afghanistan, visitors will find a lone figure in the base gym, kicking a heavy bag over…and over…and over again.
That person is Army Pfc. Scott Suhr, a 23-year-old Iowa Army National Guard infantryman from with Company B, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st infantry Division.
Suhr, who compiled an 8-4 amateur fight record and fought for a welterweight title, is not giving up on his dream of being a professional mixed martial arts fighter – even if he is several thousand miles and many months away from having a chance to pursue that goal again.
"I like fighting more than anything else I've ever done in my life," Suhr said as he reflected on the thrill of cage-fighting for a packed arena. "I've always loved tae kwon do, I love the wrestling, I love the fighting aspect, but as a competition not a bar brawl. I won't fight someone just to fight them."
Mixed martial arts fighting is the latest in a string of athletic endeavors for Suhr, but he said it is the one sport he is now focused on.
To say Suhr was a well-rounded athlete growing up would be an understatement. He played baseball, basketball, football, ran track and wrestled during high school, and, by his own admission, was good at them all.
Suhr said he started wrestling in sixth grade for
. Aurelia Middle School
"I liked the individuality aspect of it. It's me and him; I can't make excuses for anything," he said.
"I didn't want to hurt somebody, I just liked the competition. No matter what I participate in, as long as it's competitive, I love it."
By his senior year, he placed third in the state of
in wrestling. Iowa
In college, Suhr said he was watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship on TV, when he decided he wanted to give it a try.
"I said to myself, 'These guys have to start off somewhere,'" Suhr recalled. "I noticed a lot of them were wrestlers, and I started looking up online where they were training."
Wrestling was the only aspect of mixed martial arts fighting Suhr had experience with so he hired a muy tai expert as his trainer.
"When I first started training, I could not believe the things he could do," Suhr said. "He was so fast and moved so fluidly. I learned so much from training with him."
After four months, he competed in his first amateur fight.
With several thousand people in the audience, Suhr said he was in awe as he walked to the cage.
"I had butterflies and jitters," he said. "There was a big crowd, loud music, and walking into the cage was almost worse than the state wrestling championships. They shut the cage, and I shook hands with my opponent and the ref was talking to us. The bell rang, and it hit me – this is real!"
Suhr lost that fight in the second round but said he was not discouraged.
"I was motivated, because I knew I could have beaten him," Suhr said. "I knew I could compete at that level."
Suhr said he was immediately in love with mixed martial arts fighting.
"It's so hard, it really does test your body," he said.
"In fighting, you've got three 5-minute periods, and you've never been that tired before in your life. The physicality of it is just so much more, the mental game is so much more. You're thinking of what he's going to do, what I'm going to do. You put it all together and it's the ultimate challenge for your body and mind."
He eventually began winning and earned the opportunity to compete for the Burlington Circuit Welterweight Title. Suhr lost the fight but is determined to not only win the next title, but also join the professional circuit when he returns home.