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MMA fighter trains with wife who packs a punch
The first time Chris Hogan met his wife, Katie, three years ago, she smacked him on the jaw.
The two were at a crowded party in Port Orchard when she accidentally bumped into him, spilling his drink, the 23-year-old Hogan said. The petite, innocent-looking young woman wouldn’t take any guff when Hogan teased her for the mistake.
“After she bumped into me,she started to apologize when I said something like, ‘It’s OK, you can’t hurt steel,’” Hogan re-called. “She said, ‘Oh yeah,’ and punched me in my mouth.”
The two have traded jabs ever since.
Hogan and his wife both train at Get ’Em Up MMA, a South Kitsap gym teaching mixed-martial arts fighting. There, the couple learn Kaju-Kimbo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other techniques a fighter must have to survive the brutal combat of an MMA cage.
But as Hogan prepares for his third amateur fight — Saturday night at Sk8town’s Liberation MMA event — the couple realize their shared passion for cage fighting might actually account for their surprisingly calm relationship outside of the gym.
“Every healthy couple has their thing,” said 22-year-old Katie Hogan. “MMA is our thing.”
Both raised in Port Orchard, Chris Hogan was an avid wrestler at South Kitsap High School. A league champion in 2005 and 2006, Hogan said he first learned the patience and control necessary to compete in MMA from Wolves’ wrestling coach Chad Nass. Nass not only taught him the proper physical technique, but also the process of mentally preparing for a one-on-one match.
“Since wrestling is all about you and your opponent, it’s important to center and focus,” Hogan said.
After graduating from South Kitsap and moving to Pullman to attend Washington State University, Hogan quickly realized how crucial the therapeutic outlet of the wrestling mat was to his psyche.
Having tried a few jiu jitsu classes while at school, one of the first things Hogan did when he returned to Port Orchard after graduation was Google MMA gyms in the area. MMA, he thought, incorporated a nice balance of wrestling and boxing. He quickly found Get ‘Em Up, which is set up in a converted garage. At Get ‘Em Up — affectionally called Goo-MA for short — he found the peace of mind and stress reliever he knew from the high school gym mats.
James Pagdilao-Duras, Hogan’s sensei at Get ‘Em Up and a decade-long fighter himself, said it didn’t take long before Hogan’s focus translated to true fighting skills.
“He had a contagious attitude,” Pagdilao-Duras said. “You could tell he respected and honored the sport early on.”
Of course not everyone respected and honored MMA from the start. Katie Hogan, a surgical assistant at a Port Orchard periodontist, had been married only a month before her husband began training for the cage. She wasn’t sure fighting was the right hobby for a newlywed. Especially a newlywed with 1-year-old son.
“I wasn’t exactly gung-ho about it at first,” Katie Hogan said.
After a couple of months, Hogan persuaded his wife to follow him to one of his training sessions. Hogan, who trains as many as five days a week, watched his wife fall in love with the sport.
“It didn’t take long,” he said. “Now she’s in here training with me all the time.”
Katie Hogan, who plans to fight in a local jiu-jitsu tournament in January, said outside of the hook she planted on her husband the first time they met, she’s never had much of a fighter’s aptitude. But like her husband, she finds peace in the aggressive cardio and one-on-one mentality of MMA.
All of the 18 or so fighters training at Get ‘Em Up treat her with equal respect, she said, making her feel at home. And since she and her husband try not to spar too often at the house for fear that their son will get riled up, a home-away-from-home is a good thing to have.
“I feel like a part of the family here,” she said.
Hogan works at a YMCA after-school program at Purdy Elementary School. He will continue training at Get ‘Em Up for a couple more months before shipping out to Army basic training in February. He plans to attend officer school and hopefully get a job in Army intelligence. If all goes well, he will still be able to fight, but he understands his priorities will have to change.
“First it’s family, then it’s my career,” Hogan said. “Then it’s MMA.”
For now though, he can still focus on the cage. His all-encompassing family — wife, son, coaches and fellow fighters — is helping him prepare for the upcoming bout. A winner in his first two fights, he believes Saturday night’s match might be his toughest yet. One of 32 fighters at the Liberation event, he’s going to have block out the expected crowd of 1,100 spectators and focus.
Of course, he’s never had trouble doing that in the past. Even with his fighter wife cheering loudly from the front row.