After life of martial arts training, JC resident ready for first fight in the cage

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Christian Hernandez, a 23-year-old Jersey City resident who has been practicing martial arts since he was nine years old, will step into the cage for his first amateur mixed martial arts fight at the “Battle in the Ballroom” tomorrow night. Christian Hernandez

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Hernandez, who turned 23 yesterday, didn’t get to celebrate with a hearty dinner, birthday cake or a a drink or two since he has to make the super cruiserweight limit of 197 pounds tomorrow – no easy feat considering he walks around at about 220 pounds.

Given that a significant portion of his life has been dedicated to martial arts, Hernandez knows that making weight is an inevitable part of the fight game.

“I trained Tae Kwon Do from the time I was 9 years old until I was 17, then I stopped because I thought I hit a wall,” Hernandez told Hudson County View over the phone.

At that point, he began training in another striking discipline: Jeet Kune Do, a style made popular by the legendary Bruce Lee that is the recognized as one of the first martial arts to blend striking and grappling.

“From there, I started training MMA, around the time I was 18 or 19, and at the time I had no interest in competing. But recently, I felt like something was missing,” Hernandez said about deciding to test his skills in the cage.

Although his strength is his striking, calling his style “a freestyle mixture between Jeet Kune Do, Tae Kwon Do and Muay Thai,” Hernandez tested his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills in a no-gi grappling competition in October.

End Game

Although he lost the bout, which was one seven-minute round contested inside a cage, via decision, he felt the experience helped him understand which techniques needed the most improvement.

To prep for Saturday night, Hernandez endured a roughly two-month fight camp that typically included an hour-long cardio circuit in the morning and a two-hour MMA session at night to hone his wrestling, jiu-jitsu and striking skills.

The nightly sessions involved hitting pads, drilling and plenty of full contact sparring.

When asked why he enjoyed the intense, one-on-one nature of martial arts training, Hernandez said it’s in his blood and he just never found the appeal of team sports.

“I got into martial arts because my grandfather trained, and even as a kid, I was a fan of things like The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” Hernandez explained.

“I was never a team sports kind of guy: I never got into basketball or baseball, I always liked working on my own. With MMA, I work on my own, yet still get to be part of a team.”

“The idea of pitting myself against someone else to see whose the best, and become the best … that’s what motivates me.”

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Hernandez also offered strong praise for his coach, Osvaldo “Ozzie” Rodriguez, whom he met while he was  a sophomore at James J. Ferris High School in Jersey City.

“We’ve really become close, we’ve developed a bond: he’s like a second father to me,” Hernandez said about his current head MMA instructor, noting that he has helped him deal with depression and other family crises in the past.

Hernandez noted that Rodriguez, his then-gym teacher, “got me into the weight room” and they soon began to chat about their mutual love of martial arts. The rest is history.

Hernandez and his teammates have previously trained at the Global Boxing Gym and North Bergen, as well as Teterboro’s Team Endgame, but are currently training out of Rodriguez’s garage – which has been converted into a mini MMA gym – in Secaucus.

According to Hernandez, the team has “four or five” athletes that regularly train, with another handful of guys who are in and out.

Hernandez sparring

As far as Saturday night’s bout goes, Hernandez says he was so focused on getting his “body and mind ready, preparing for anything that could possibly come my way,” he hasn’t had time to worry about what his opponent is doing.

As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even know his opponent’s name as of this writing (it’s Ivan Taylor).

”I don’t know anything other than he is five-foot eleven (inches tall) and is another freestyle fighter … I’m going to take the first round to feel my opponent out, then I’m going to overwhelm him,” Hernandez said.

A lifeguard and personal trainer, Hernandez says he still has UFC aspirations, looking to compete at middleweight in the future (185 pounds), but realizes that’s a lofty goal. Therefore, he has a backup plan in mind.

“Realistically, I want to start teaching students the knowledge I’ve gained, passing it on to the next generation,” he said.

The Battle in the Ballroom is hosted by the Fight Club Champion promotion at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. The doors open at 6 p.m. and the first fight is scheduled to commence at 7 p.m.

Battle in the Ballroom

7 COMMENTS

  1. Best fighters in the world are MMA. There is no one style of fighting. You need a few different disciplines to succeed and this dude has them. I wish him the best. He’s a success story already regardless of the outcome.

  2. Absolutely a great feeling to see one of our home grown Jersey City Warriors using his athletic ability to become a positive role model for the boys & girls who are at the age now that Christian was when he started this journey. Myself being a coach, than a referee and a league administrator for youth programs in Jersey City for almost (50) years knows that there are too many sad stories of our youth. Youngsters who we lose to the streets, to crime, to drugs or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know this young man’s family for almost the same (50) years I eluded to earlier. They are all outstanding individuals and hard working folks from the City we all grew up in and love Jersey City. It is an honor and a privilege to see this young man setting an example for the youth to follow. It matters not whether he wins or loses this match. What matters most that he is already a winner and a success story. A story that shows if you work hard and stay focused good things will happen. Best of Luck my friend and may the Good Lord watch over you and keep you free from injury.

  3. Frankie Frascino
    Who has been engaged in the sport of boxing and who has been a supporter of Christian both as an athlete and person wish him the best of luck in his bout tonight whether he wins or loses he is still a success story of a hard working young individual.

  4. Congratulations to Christian on winning his first official amature fight in cage! First round 40 seconds in…..WIN BY TKO!

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