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Fists and feet of fury

Ben Egli's only goal is a MMA world championship


VERN UYETAKE - Portrait of a fighter. Ben Eglis steely gaze reflects his all-consuming desire to be a world champion.When Ben Egli cuts loose on a punching bag, you feel sorry for the punching bag.

His dark eyes glaring like laser beams, Egli takes one shot after another – Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang!

Then out of nowhere he makes a vicious kick – WHOP! – into the lower part of the bag.

Egli stops for a moment and with a smile says, “Never get hit by one of those.”

Good advice. Otherwise, don’t plan on walking soon. You see, Egli specializes in giving out severe beatings.

Once a frustrated wrestler at Lake Oswego High School, Egli is now rising rapidly in the ranks of mixed martial artists. Not only is he unbeaten at 6-0 but all of his matches have yet to go beyond the first round. On Saturday night he left his opponent unconscious just 56 seconds into the first round in the MMA King of the Cage spectacular. Egli’s fast work was appreciated by a roaring crowd at Chinook Winds Casino and a cable TV audience in 50 million homes. In this case, his opponent didn’t even have time to give up.

“It was my first knock out,” he said.

Egli’s matches have everything but suspense. He is so well conditioned from his training at Phil Menagh’s CrossFit Tigard P.A.W. that his opponents would have better luck against a buzzsaw. Egli’s well-honed physique is more than equal to his determination to be nothing less than the best in the world.

“My only goal is to be a world MMA champion,” Egli said. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Egli started out on this goal at the age of 5, which seems a little early to enter the roughhouse side of sports. But Egli can see his parents’ point of view.

“I had a lot of energy,” he said. “It needed to be channeled in a healthy way.”

Starting with Taekwondo, Little Ben proved to be precocious in the martial arts. But since kids weren’t being funneled into cage fighting in those days, Egli became hooked on wrestling. His desire for the sport was enormous, but his body remained tiny for a long, long time.

“I wrestled at 103 pounds when I was a freshman at Lake Oswego High School,” Egli said. “It was hard to see me walking down the hall.”

Fortunately, Egli began to grow, reaching 150 pounds by the time he graduated in 2006. He also became an outstanding wrestling. As a junior he became the first Laker wrestler in four years to make the state tournament. Growing in size and confidence, Egli planned for a really big senior year. But in one moment his expectations took a nose dive.

“I was in the match that would determine who would go to state,” Egli said. “It got down to the last 5 seconds. I was really trying to take him down, but he got a reversal on me and won the match.”

Egli’s hopes for a college wrestling career collapsed. His greatest hope was to compete for the powerhouse Oregon State University team but it was not to be.

“It crushed my spirit,” Egli admitted. “I really missed the competition.”

He needed to find something to do. After about a year in the non-wrestling wilderness, Egli’s spirits recovered and he discovered mixed martial arts and a man who would train him. After three months of training, the trainer told him, “You’re good enough for a fight.”

“I believed him,” Egli said.

He entered an amateur tournament and won his first two matches handily. But in the third match of the tournament he lost to a West Linn fighter named Jeff Bartlett.

Afterward, three things happened to Egli. One was “I started training really hard.” Soon, he met his wife-to-be Kathy. She has never seen her husband lost a match. Third, he encountered Phil Menagh, an old friend from his Lake Oswego days whose life seemed to be running parallel right with that of Egli. When Egli got a load of Menagh’s gym “I realized there was no better training system. Phil made me a physical force.”

Before Menagh came along, Egli was seen as a finesse fighter. Now people say, “Ben, you are really, really strong.”

When he is not thrashing people in cages, Egli is a well-spoken young husband and father and a trainer at P.A.W. He fights only every three months so he will be in absolutely prime shape, because as everybody knows mixed martial arts can be a rough business.

He said, “I’ve had a fractured nose, I’ve hurt my knees and shoulder, I have a cauliflower ear.”

But injuries do not cause Egli even a quiver of worry.

“I’m prepared for every aspect my opponent can bring to me,” Egli said. “I do my hard work. The fights are the fun part.”

So true. Fighting is where Ben Egli gets his kicks.

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