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MMA coming to Shaw

COLUMBIA - Mix martial arts heavyweight Adrian Henderson (left), a native of Columbia, S.C. practices mix martial arts with U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra, a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - Mix martial arts heavyweight Adrian Henderson (left), a native of Columbia, S.C. practices mix martial arts with U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra, a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra (bottom right), a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. performs stretches alongside his mix martial arts peers while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra (bottom right), a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. performs stretches alongside his mix martial arts peers while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra, a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. wraps his wrist before practicing mix martial arts (MMA) strategies while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra, a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. wraps his wrist before practicing mix martial arts (MMA) strategies while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra (right), a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. jumps rope for conditioning alongside his mix martial arts peers while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra (right), a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. jumps rope for conditioning alongside his mix martial arts peers while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra, a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. practices knee kicks while training at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra, a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. practices knee kicks while training at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from his gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra (left), a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. listens to Nick Rodriguez about mix martial arts strategies while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from the gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

COLUMBIA - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra (left), a maintenance training instructor assigned to the 20th Medical Operations Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. listens to Nick Rodriguez about mix martial arts strategies while at the Sor Sumrit Muay Thai Gym in Columbia, S.C. on March 13, 2012. Acerra, along with two others from the gym will compete in matches at Shaw AFB's first ever MMA event on March 30, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Competitive mix martial arts has swept the nation in a craze of blood, sweat and steel. Combatants are pitted against one another in a battle of strength, skill, endurance and mental fortitude.

Shaw Air Force Base is no exception to this phenomenon and Capt. Anthony Genochio, 20th Fighter Wing manpower and personnel flight commander, knows this to be true and is the driving force behind Shaw's upcoming endeavor.

Shaw is slated to host its first-ever live MMA event at the fitness center March 30 featuring its very own Staff Sgt. Ferdinando Acerra, 20th Maintenance Operations Squadron maintenance training instructor. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets for admission are $20.

Acerra, weighing in at 205 pounds is the current light-heavy weight champion of Fight Labs Promotions; a North Carolina based promotion company.

Twenty fighters will be in attendance for the event and paired together for 10 fights, four of which are title matches.

At 11 a.m. in the Carolina Skies' ballroom fighters will weigh in prior to their bouts. The weigh-in is free of charge and will afford anyone who desires an opportunity to see the fighters as they prepare.

"Each fighter will be paired with a squadron after the weigh in on Friday," Genochio explained. "After that the fighters will take part in base tours with their host squadron."

The fighters will then return to their lodgings on base and prepare for their fight.

"There will be close to 1,000 people in attendance and concessions," Genochio said. "I would encourage people to get there early (because of) the crowds."

The first 500 patrons through the doors will receive a custom-made commemorative coin to recognize this special event.

After the fights an after party sponsored by Hooters is scheduled to be held at Carolina Skies Club. Admission is $5 for non-club members and free for those who are members.

During the after party fans may meet and greet the fighters while enjoying refreshments and musical entertainment.

"I'm really looking forward to the fights," Genochio explained. "Every fighter is legit and takes this sport serious."

"MMA is my life; I have dedicated all of my spare time to become a fighter," Acerra added.
 
The final fight will be between Acerra and Joe Pacheco. Pacheco, who stands 5 feet 9 inches, and weighs 209 pounds with a heavily skilled background in wrestling and is currently 4-1 .
I'm ready for anything Joe brings into the cage, the results of my training will prove that, Acerra explained.

"I am really excited about this fight," Acerra said. "To be the best you have to train better than everyone else"

Acerra spends 3- to 4- hour training sessions in the gym, two to three times a day, nearly every day. He's a two-stripe, blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, trained boxer and kick boxer, trained by Chris Bono, an Olympic-level wrestling coach.

"A lot of fighters are extremely skilled in one area," Acerra explained. "I feel I have an advantage being skilled in all areas; I can grapple, strike, and wrestle."

But more important than training, practice, dedication and determination is the reason why you step into the ring and what keeps you going when you feel like giving up, Acerra explained.

"For me that answer is easy," Acerra said. "This fight is not for my belt, this fight is for my family."

On Dec. 18, 2011 Gary Bruschi, Acerra's uncle passed away from pancreatic cancer.

"When I won the belt Dec. 4, 2011 I fought alongside my uncle as he battled cancer because no one fights alone!" Acerra exclaimed. "On March 30 when I step into the cage; he will be fighting with me."

"My Aunt Elizabeth Bruschi will be in attendance March 30," Acerra said. "My aunt is one of the strongest women I know and being able to fight for her is an absolute honor."

"This makes me the most dangerous person they can lock Joseph Pacheco in a cage with," Acerra concluded.

Tickets are selling fast, Genochio concluded.