Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hawes Not Afraid to Enter the Cage

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hawes Not Afraid to Enter the Cage

Article excerpt

The wait lasted more than 600 days.

There were injuries. There were contract issues. For nearly two years, they kept Phil Hawes from fighting his next professional MMA bout.

That wait finally ended June 17, when the Little Ferry resident made his debut with the World Series of Fighting.

The match did not last even three minutes.

Hawes was declared the winner via TKO over Joshua Key after hammering his opponent with a series of elbows. The victory, showcased on NBCSN, improved his record to 4-0. But the walk back to the locker room was an unpleasant one for the middleweight.

"He was mad, actually," said Harry St. Leger, Hawes' trainer at Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, N.M., who was in his corner that night. "He was hoping to stay in there longer."

Hawes won't have to wait long for his next bout. He will fight Saturday against Louis Taylor in another WSOF event in Everett, Wash., 43 days after his last match.

Hawes, 27, was as an All-Bergen County wrestler at Ridgefield Park and a junior college national champion at Iowa Central Community College. He then traded in his wrestling singlet in 2013 for a pair of combat gloves and has made his mark in mixed martial arts.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Hawes is being billed as the next big thing by some in combat sports.

"He's a freak of an athlete," said Michael Lyubimov, general manager at Jackson Wink MMA.

Hawes traveled to Albuquerque - which he calls the "mecca of MMA" - after his time in Iowa, which he calls the "mecca of wrestling."

"I knew those were the places to go if I wanted to compete with the best," he said.

At Iowa Central in 2009, Hawes won a national championship and earned first-team All-America honors in the NJCAA at 197 pounds despite not starting at the beginning of the season.

He then transferred to Iowa State, wrestling against Division I competition in the Big 12.

"After college, there was no professional level to go to in wrestling," Hawes said. "[MMA] was the easiest transition for me. …

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