Gym “smokers” are intermediary steps young combat sports students take before their first fight. Common in the early days of boxing, a “smoker” would be an informal gathering of various clubs or gyms for friendly sparring. Training in a gym for some time can produce a lot of skill, but you’re only as good as the ones you train against. Competition is where the truth comes out and it may not be for everyone, but when starting out how do you know if competition is for you?
The term “smoker” originated in the early to mid-1900s according to Boxing Rec. Usually done in areas that prohibited prizefighting to give boxers a chance to compete. Now, it’s a good way for gyms to set up friendly sparring matches to give young fighters a taste of what to expect if they are going to pursue the fighting life professionally. My MMANews had a chance to speak with two young Muay Thai practitioners that already have a few “smokers” under their belt and like the cycle of preparing for a fight.
Jay Fountain found Muay Thai through Karate and views it as a hobby, but hobbyists don’t prioritize their hobbies; Fountain does his training. When scheduling the interview, he insisted on a day and time that did not conflict with his training. When asked about what is drawing him to compete, he said “Honestly, I think it’s just the influence of the environment sharing. I don’t know how I even got into kickboxing in the first place. I started off as karate and that’s what I was originally doing. And I wanted to become a black belt because I thought once I became a black belt, I would just be like a badass. Then you had friends signing up for kickboxing and it was at the same spot and I’m just like, ‘All right, I’ll sign up for kickboxing too.”
He said it’s a hobby for him. But not many hobbyists test the waters more than once or twice. Perhaps he’s still testing himself but he added that in competing, “There’s a lesson to be learned to like, keep on fighting. Because in life, people are going to beat you up and try to take you down but you gotta keep on fighting, and I love that analogy.”
Not all competitors see their passion as a hobby. Some already know they want to make it a career.
Logan Camp, who trains under the same instructor as Fountain will be doing a smoker for the third time. He’s already decided that the fighting life is for him.
When asked if this is something he plans on making a career out of it, he said, “Yeah. As of right now, my body’s looking decent. I definitely see a long-term future in fighting in general.” He added, “ I may see myself as a kickboxing champion or maybe like a Muay Thai champion, and then we’ll definitely migrate over to the MMA realm. Just because I feel like that’s the biggest moneymaker right now.”
In the current landscape in MMA, that’s debatable but when you’re young and focused like Camp is, the sky’s the limit. Camp added, “When I start building up my backgrounds [sic], I’m definitely going to check out MMA big time.”
Both Fountain and Camp represent the new, future generation of combat sports athletes, and their passion for training and competing has already made them make the move that the average person watching combat sports at home likely will never do. They’re both executing on the thought they had when they thought, “What if…” when looking at combat sports.
There are steps to anything you want to pursue in life, but you have to execute at some point and there are levels to levels as martial artists evolve and the competition only gets better for every generation. Gym Smokers can help stoke the fire in a (generally)safe way for the likes of youngsters like Fountain and Camp. As combat sports continue to grow, who knows where these guys will end up?
Just remember MyMMANews talked to them first. For more information on when and where they will be competing, check out their full interviews in the links above.
Edward holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Bachelor’s degree in Communications. Along with over 20 years martial arts experience, he co-hosts The Coast-2-Coast Combat Hour, and also writes for Sherdog while maintaining his own site, The Blogboard Jungle. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel