Passion, competition on display at Caged at the Coast

Doug Steinbach doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype of a cage fighter. He’s not some savage alpha-male who’s raging for blood, operating solely on his animal instincts.

Doug Steinbach doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype of a cage fighter. He’s not some savage alpha-male who’s raging for blood, operating solely on his animal instincts.

In fact, Steinbach comes across as quite a gentle, polite and kind individual. He’s articulate and thoughtful, and surprisingly soft-spoken for someone who wants to fight for a living.

“It’s the competition that really appeals to me,” said 32-year-old Steinbach.

Steinbach trains at Next Level MMA in Tigard six days per week, and hopes to become a full-time professional fighter soon. However, according to the rules set by the Oregon State Athletic Commission, Steinbach fights at amateur status and not for pay in events like Full Contact Fighting Federation’s Caged at the Coast 3, hosted at Chinook Winds Casino.

Steinbach also works part-time as an electrician and is a father with a growing family to support; his second child is on the way. The fact that Steinbach is competing for the FCFF Middleweight Championship in the main event of the fight card makes no difference, either.

“It’s like any other sport. You have to pay your dues and work your way up before you become a pro,” Kevin Keeney, promoter and co-founder of the FCFF said. “The [Ultimate Fighting Championship] doesn’t just want anybody off the streets coming in and considering themselves a pro fighter.”

The FCFF is the premiere amateur mixed-martial arts promotion in the Northwest and has hosted over 75 shows throughout Oregon. Fighters compete with dreams of becoming a UFC star or simply making a stable income from mixed-martial arts. Keeney and his partner, UFC top contender and long-time friend Chael Sonnen, provide experience and exposure for the local up-and-coming talent. Operating now for nearly a decade, the FCFF has helped to make local MMA one of the hottest events in the Northwest today.

“Get your tickets early, because they don’t last long,” Sonnen advised.

Events like Caged provide a fun and enthusiastic atmosphere in which fans applaud the passion and determination that the competitors show. And the athletes almost always hug, smile and shake hands after each fight—a strange interaction after seeing them throwing punches at each other just moments before.

“There’s nothing like it,” Keeney said loudly over the music and cheers in the background. “It’s simply a great atmosphere.”

The 15-match Caged at the Coast 3 event kicked off with a bang with a 170-pound welterweight competition that was an example of the sudden emotional rush an MMA event can create. Beaverton-based fighter Craig Jordan landed a knee-strike to the head of Murray Couture, sending him to the ground. Jordan wasted little time securing top position, landing a few devastating shots to his opponent’s head before the referee stopped the fight at 1:31 in the first round. Jordan jumped to his feet and screamed in celebration with the crowd screaming back in approval.

Some fights provided the more unexpected. Emily Whitmire is an attractive woman, sweet and approachable, but she also happens to enjoy a good cage fight now and then. Whitmire is out to prove that women should be taken seriously in the sport of MMA.

“A [lot of people] think this should be a male-dominated sport, but the women are just as competitive as the men.”

Whitmire took on Sarah Mcleod in the only female competition of the night. Mcleod landed a couple shots as the two women exchanged on their feet early, but Whitmire quickly resorted to her wrestling advantage, taking the fight to the ground, and securing a rear-naked choke for the first-round victory.

“She can definitely hit really hard,” Whitmire said after the fight.

In the co-main event, heavyweight champion Paul Hasslen faced off against No. 1 contender Damion Martindale, but the fight ended quickly in the first round, as Hasslen suddenly tapped out after an injury. Although he expects a rematch down the road, Martindale was proud to be the new champion as he held up the belt for the fans.

“We’re up here for the entertainment of the people,” Martindale said. “It feels great; there’s not a better feeling in the world.”  

Steinbach waited patiently in the locker room while the other fights went on, but finally it was his time. With his friends and family supporting him in the crowd, Steinbach made his walk to the cage for the last fight of the evening.

In the middleweight championship, Steinbach faced a younger fighter he had known from high school, the undefeated Chris Kidby. In a physical and grueling contest, Kidby dominated the first round, taking Steinbach down twice. However, Steinbach was able to stuff many of Kidby’s takedown attempts and work his way back to his feet.

“I knew he was going to go for the takedown,” Steinbach said. “So I just wanted to make him work for it as much as possible.”

“I thought I was going to have the strength advantage, but he was a lot stronger than I thought he was going to be,” Steinbach admitted. “He was also really quick and explosive, so in the first round I was basically defending his [takedown] shots.”

After losing the first round, Steinbach said he knew he had to somehow steal the second.

As the next round began, Kidby took Steinbach down again. But Steinbach was able to work his way to the side of Kidby’s body into half-guard, slipping around and suddenly climbing Kidby’s back. Kidby was flat on his stomach, head down, arms defending his face, as Steinbach wrapped himself around his opponent’s waist like a python, sitting atop his lower back.

“Mainly, I was thinking about staying on his back and not losing my position.” Steinbach recalled. “I didn’t want to hit him in the back of the head and lose the position from the ref, so I started throwing punches underneath his arm to try get his chin, then he picked his head up slightly and it let me slip my arm under to get the choke.”

The larger and younger Kidby tapped out, losing to submission from a rear-naked choke for the first loss of his career.

“It sucks; I’ve lost in other sports also and it doesn’t get any easier,” Kidby said. “I’ll get back in the gym and I [should] have another fight around January.”  

After the fight, Steinbach celebrated his first championship belt with his friends, family and many of his fellow fighters. Steinbach not only showed guts and heart in his comeback win, but also fought through a crack ribbed attained at some point during the match. He is an example of the competitive spirit of the sport, a gentleman who helps to break the mistaken stereotype that fighters are simply violent brutes.

Cage fighting isn’t for everyone, but if you’re opened-minded and looking for an exciting atmosphere, attending local mixed-martial arts shows might pack the right punch.

“It is violence, and if you’re against any violence, then don’t come,” Sonned said. “The truth is, we’ll sell out with or without you.” ?