Purchase photos

Fighter mixing it up





Cody Sherwood took his first fight on two days notice in 2009 when he was a student at Butler Community College in El Dorado. This led to many more fights over the next few years --  some of which were not exactly kosher according to the Kansas Department of Commerce, which oversees Mixed Martial Arts events in the state.

The 23-year-old Sherwood, a Valley Center native and Fort Hays State University graduate, now has 28 amateur MMA fights on his resume with an 18-10 record. Not to mention all the other fights that will never make that list.

"I had a lot of underground amateur fights ... there were fights in like a shed with 150 to 250 people," Sherwood said. "I've fought everywhere from a barn to a 15,000-seat arena like Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita. I've been at both ends of the spectrum and I've pretty much seen it all."

Sherwood, who works as a brewer at Gella's Diner and as a clerk at 8th Street Liquor in Hays, is one of the most experienced amateur fighters in the state. Known for his somewhat wild social life, Sherwood is all business when it comes to being a fighter.

And on Saturday he is going to take his MMA career to another level when he makes his first appearance as a professional fighter at Battle at the Fort 9, operated by Black Gold Promotions of Hays.

The fight is at the Ramada Convention Center in Hays on Saturday. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with fights starting at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Doerflers Harley Davidson and Leroy's Shamrock in Hays.

Weigh-ins take place tonight at 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

"It's a good, entertaining atmosphere and I sell it that way," said Hays native Kevin Gottschalk, who helped create Black Gold Promotions in 2008. "I always say it's like a good New Year's Eve party. People are all there, having some type of camaraderie. They are having a good time and they are watching fights."

This will be the eighth time Sherwood has fought in a Battle at the Fort promotion and enters with a 6-0 record in the event, with one no contest.

The largest MMA event in northwest Kansas draws fighters from all over the Midwest and will feature 15 bouts on Saturday, the first with Sherwood labeled as a professional.

As far as the added pressure of being a professional fighter in front of what is now his hometown crowd, Sherwood isn't too concerned.

"I've done this too many times to feel nervous," Sherwood said. "It's just another fight to me, but it's more exciting because I'm in Hays. I got hundreds of people I know coming. ... It makes me hungrier to get a victory."

Sherwood, who walks around at 195 pounds and usually fights at 185 pounds, will fight Wichita's Nelson Reinhardt, who also has FHSU connections, at 170 pounds. It is one of six professional fights scheduled.

Since he was 4, Sherwood has been a wrestler and still considers it to be his bread and butter in the cage. When he first started out in MMA, he would try and take down his opponents without much thought to tactics or standup. Now, with help from Gottschalk, who also operates Karate Fitness in Hays and is an experienced kickboxer, Sherwood is a more rounded fighter.

While going professional certainly has its perks -- like a bigger paycheck --  it comes with its downsides, such as tougher competition. Too many amateur fighters turn professional too soon, which doesn't take much more than applying for a license through the state, and don't last long on the professional circuit.

But with 28 amateur fights under his belt, Sherwood's experience sets him apart from many first-time professional fighters.

"It's hard to get rich on the deal ... he didn't do it for the last five, six years for the money, because if he did, he's a fool. He did it for the love of it," Gottschalk said of Sherwood. "Cody's turned around. He's a good student. He's always been responsible when it comes to fighting ... he wants to be a professional now and he has an opportunity to make a little bit of money."

While the paychecks at this level of professional MMA fighting are hardly enough to live on, Sherwood sees it as a way to supplement his income and help pay off student loans by doing something he loves.

And there aren't many 23-year-olds that take fighting as seriously as Sherwood.

"You got to act like a professional to be a professional and be on weight and in shape," Sherwood said. "I've always been on time, on weight, in shape, ready to go. So I think I was ready to make the next step up to being a professional after fighting pretty much every 185-pounder in the Midwest.

"You do all the right things and you want to see it pay off ... no one wants to see someone who's not ready."