MMA warrior says family, sport help him find balance
JANESVILLE After five hours of sleep, Theron Neisius woke at 7 a.m. to get his 2-year-old daughter, Madison, ready for the day.
After playtime, he dropped Madison at the babysitter and then stepped into the gym. Within minutes, he was being punched in the face—one, two, three, four, eight times—before the fight was broken up.
It's not unusual for Neisius, a mixed martial arts fighter who trains at a Janesville gym.
MMA fighters combine a variety of martial arts, from boxing, kickboxing and karate, to submission sports such as wrestling, judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. They train for fitness, fun or pursuit of fights in the growing sport.
Bleeding from the nose, Neisius went to fight again before cleaning up to work third shift at the Simmons Bedding plant in Janesville.
"He's a born fighter," said Patrick Delgado, owner of Fearless MMA, the gym where Neisius trains.
Delgado, too, is a father.
For many of the fighters who train at Fearless MMA or gyms like it around the country, life is a balance of family, work and fighting.
Neisius said it's not the violence or even the act of fighting that appeals to him.
"In my training, I focus on being a better person," he said. "It's helped me be a better person. I was a troubled kid, but then I found the gym," he said.
"It's been a good four years. It could have been a bad four years."
In those four years of fighting, Neisius met his girlfriend, Erika Bue, and they had a daughter. He is balancing life, but Neisius' said fatherhood and fighting have helped him redefine himself and find harmony.
"First, I'm a father. Second, I'm a fighter. She defines me, my daughter," he said.
Fighters in the upper echelons of the Ultimate Fighting Championship benefit from full-time employment in a billion-dollar industry.
Neisius isn't at that level. Training to be a winning fighter competes with other parts of his life.
"They got the money, they got the trainers, they got everything they need, even if they have kids," Neisius said. "I don't got the money to help me with my child right now, so obviously I still need a day job."
After cleaning the blood from his face, his hands and the gym mat, Neisius went home to shower and get ready for his job sewing mattresses. The next day would be the same: family, fight, work, sleep.
After losing a fight in late August, he said he's even more motivated to improve. He doesn't envision that changing for a while.
"Of course I want to make my family happy, but they like seeing me do this. I'm good at it," he said.
"So, I'm going to keep doing it until my body can't take it anymore, no matter where the sport takes me."