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Medic builds mental toughness with MMA

Airman 1st Class Armando Gonzalez, 81st Medical Operations Squadron,  demonstrates his mixed martial arts form Feb 21, 2012, at the Triangle Fitness Center Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Gonzalez has been practicing MMA for three years and balances daily practice with duty and education.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Pivnick)

Airman 1st Class Armando Gonzalez, 81st Medical Operations Squadron, demonstrates his mixed martial arts form Feb 21, 2012, at the Triangle Fitness Center Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Gonzalez has been practicing MMA for three years and balances daily practice with duty and education. (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Pivnick)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Airman 1st Class Armando Gonzalez, 81st Medical Operations Squadron, has been fighting since he was a child. Then, about three years ago, he become involved in mixed martial arts and boxing.

The 20-year-old Airman, originally from Orlando, Fla., views the two sports as good forms of competition, quite different from the street fighting in which he previously had been involved.

He began with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu while living in Pensacola, Fla., then started boxing training at the Bienville Boxing Club while continuing his training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at The Academy, both in Ocean Springs.

"Competing in MMA and boxing is a lifestyle for me," he explained. "It's some of the most intense training you can do and has helped me build my mental toughness to get through everyday problems. Going one more round with all the intensity you have is a basic principle I use daily. I've been fighting all my life, both literally and figuratively, and it seemed a natural fit to compete in the sports.

"Amateur MMA consists of all fighting disciplines. A fighter should know at least one striking discipline and at least one grappling discipline. A well-rounded fighter knows as many as three disciplines both on the ground and standing. I train in boxing for striking techniques and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for grappling. I fight because it's a form of expression, like an artist who paints on canvas. It requires a great amount of technique to perform and the quantity of focus you must have involves quite a bit of intelligence. Most people will never know the feeling of walking into that cage, but I do. I've been skydiving and there is no comparison."

Gonzalez maintains a hectic training regimen.

"I wake up at 7 a.m. for work. When I get off at 5 p.m., I head straight to the gym and train from 5:30-8:30 pm. I also am taking college classes, so it's a challenge to balance work, school and training. I believe you have to be mentally tough to make it in this sport. In a perfect world, I'd be the world champ one day, but I do this as a form of expression. I love the sport for itself, the fine details in every move and the slightest mistake that causes you to lose a bout. This is what I live for!"