Red Neck Militia: The Stats, The Consistency, The Passion, The Struggle.September 6th, 2012 by Joshua Scott Beranis
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Rate database for 2008, Pendleton, Oregon, has a violent crime rate of 582 incidents per 100,000 people per year by statistics drawn in 2008(Homesurfer.com, crime report for Pendleton). The town is in the 82% rank Nationally for Violent Crime. In the middle of this gem is Keith Hutchison’s Red Neck Militia. This MMA Gym is devoted to making the most out of whatever materials they can get their hands on.
Red Neck Militia brought Justin Milani to brawl against A.J. Webber in replacement of Kip Ramos on August 30th, for a Cage Warrior Combat promotion here in Kitsap. The bout was among the three which featured Red Neck Militia fighters that evening. Other Red Neck Militia fighters included that evening were Jason Lambert, 28 years old, who won his pro debut for a record of 1-0, and Chris Ensley, who was taken down by Kitsap’s Dustin Praxedes, Pro fighter out of Rough House MMA.
Keith Hutchison has consistently trekked the distance between Oregon and Kitsap to bring his top competitors to face off against Kitsap’s very own. He faces many struggles and triumphs, attempting to bring Red Neck Militia to Champion status in an unfriendly, often unforgiving climate.
Interview was conducted at 4:30 P.M 9/6/12 …
Rougheart: Keith, your from out of Pendleton, Oregon. Tell me a little bit about your gym, and the people you work with there.
Hutchison: Well, I moved to Pendleton at about the end of 2007. I opened up my third gym. I rented a 4500 square foot building. I had a lot of people coming in. I opened up some ladies classes, kids classes, cardio classes. Then also our fighter’s programs.
I had a lot of troubled kids coming in. I was trying to help some of those kids with anger problems. Even some of those kids with alcohol problems. So every single kid that came in there, I’d give them a chance.
I just put down some basic rules. Like, no fighting outside of the gym, no illegal drugs… stuff like that. A lot of those kids would try to make that change. Others, it was hard to pull them out of it. The ones that made that change, many of them are still around.
A huge struggle was, a lot of those guys didn’t have the jobs, you know. The economy hasn’t been good for a while. One of the things that we try to do with our program is we try to get people jobs. The goal is to get them off the streets.
A handful of these guys I’ve actually brought in off the streets. We get them going, get them a place to live, find them work. Some of those guys once they get going, getting back on their feet, the money is rolling in… they turn right back to the dark side of the world.
The ones that make the difference for us in the gym, and in my own life also… those are the ones that count.
I actually downsized the gym in 2010, and moved to a 2500 square foot building. I was still able to keep most of my ladies classes and stuff like that running. This was due to people not being able to pay their gym dues for a number of reasons. There were some problems being able to keep rent on some of the facilities. A few of our guys ended up going to jail, stuff like that.
Its hard to keep those kind of guys out of trouble. Its not like you can babysit them twenty-four hours a day. Some people actually need that kind of guidance. So anyways, I had to start downsizing again. That was to our Walla Walla facility.
That was a decent sized gym. It was probably close to about 2500 square feet, but the commute was 40 miles, one direction. You’d basically have to leave an hour earlier, everybody was getting home an hour later at night. For some of the fighters with families, it became a struggle just to get over there. They just couldn’t afford it.
Rougheart: Give me an idea of what Pendleton is like. Is this a rough place to live?
Keith: I remember a time when I was wearing an MMA shirt, which a lot of people wear. This guy behind me says “hey, nice shirt.” I turned around and said thank you, and next thing I know I’m being approached by three guys. They were being insulting, aggressive. I had to protect my kids. I had to get my family down the block and to a safer place, get ourselves in the car and just drive off.
I had never been approached like that before, even in larger cities. When you go out in town to dances and stuff like that, you see it all the time. There are a lot of drugs, and there is a lot of violence in this town. Its almost everywhere you look.
A lot of these guys that I do train, they seem to pull away from that. They aren’t doing the street-fights anymore. They aren’t even bragging about them. I hear a lot more talk among them about whats sanctioned and whats not. They know the difference, and the street-fighting isn’t even a part of their life anymore.
I don’t even go to a lot of the out in town stuff anymore. A lot of these people do know my name now, or fighters from my gym. They don’t care about what we’re about. They don’t care about humbleness or anything, they just want to prove how tough they are.
Rougheart: So have you been able to find any support in Pendleton, for what you’re trying to do out of your gym, Red Neck Militia?
Keith: In some ways I do and some ways I don’t. We’ve had trouble finding sponsors because people are afraid of what a business person might think of them.
We’ve had other supports though. We eat at a restaurant out here called Joe’s La Fiesta, a Mexican place. They help us out a lot. Not all the time, but quite a bit. That’s being able to advertise them back. If we have events within an hour away, or we win fights, we give them a shout out. They’re able to do that. If we start getting a distance away, people don’t really want to sponsor us anymore because they don’t see a lot back from that. We’ve put stuff on our shirts before, and given thanks out to them if we talk to a radio personality or something like that. Sometimes, thats not even enough.
We’ve had a tremendous amount of success with support from the ladies classes. Particularly a lady named Nicole Stewart. She works with some troubled kids, and we’ve been able to provide some classes for these kids. Not to teach them how to fight necessarily, but to get them going on cardio and fitness related things. I helped her break her old highschool record for long distance running, and she’s given us a huge shout out. She’s helped us out a lot so that we don’t have to worry so much about mats and equipment. It never really came together one hundred percent, but it shows that there are people willing to help.
The people that aren’t willing to help very often are people who don’t have a good understanding of the sport.
Rougheart: Is there anything you think we can do in the local media, or that Pendleton could do to properly portray the sport, and the (dare we say it) positive influences it could have on the community?
Getting people to understand what this sport is about.
You’re not going to take a kid in high-school basketball and throw him into professional basketball. You’re not going to take a guy off the streets and put him into a professional boxing match. He won’t have the footwork, or movement, so he’s going to get hurt.
People don’t see that, and don’t understand that. For example, some people will say they’re willing to sponsor boxing, but they’re not willing to sponsor MMA.
An MMA match, with five minute rounds, people are going to get hit in the head more in one three minute round of a boxing match then they will in several five minute rounds of an MMA match. Plus, the fighter has other options. If you get hit, you have the option of immediately taking your opponent down. Then it becomes a grappling match.
The same as high-school wrestling. People are willing to sponsor a high-school wrestling team, but not an MMA team. There’s more broken necks in one year of high-school wrestling alone then there is in the entire world of MMA. When people don’t support it for reasons of safety, its because people aren’t looking at the facts.
I think some of those things could be approached in a paper, or even in a seminar. With a seminar, you could find a lot of people willing to attend that might not have read the paper.
It’s good to explain what the referee in MMA is there for, and what responsibilities the fighter has. There is a lot of uneducated criticism of the sport.
Rougheart: Real quick, just tell me about the boys you brought to August 30th’s Cage Warrior Combat Event at The Point Casino to compete against Kitsap’s very own.
Keith: Jason Lambert has trained under me for about three years. He was supposed to go pro a little over a year ago. He had to have that knee surgery though, and we had to get him conditioned, and do it right. I got him a couple amateur fights to knock off a little ring rust, got him some good training.
He went up there, and he got a first round knock-out for his professional debut, which is good, because we’ve had a bit of a struggle.
We also brought up a good friend. He’s got a good heart, but not necessarily the most skilled fighter. He doesn’t give up. He lets me manage him. I had gotten him a win up in Montana. I think he did pretty good against A.J. (A.J. Webber), I mean he definitely made a few mistakes. A.J.’s a tough guy. Going into it, we didn’t have really more than just a couple days to prepare for it.
I feel pretty good with those guys coming up there. I feel like we’ve learned a lot there. I hope to get some more guys on the next card, because I know we’ve been to a lot of Kitsap shows. The next time I hope its more on a weekend, so we can get some more of our guys up that way.
Rougheart: Well, Keith, its always a pleasure talking with you. Always a pleasure to see you when you bring the boys to fight out here in Kitsap County. I appreciate the interview. I know you’re a busy man. Let me know when you guys are headed out here, and let me know anything I can do to raise awareness of Red Neck Militia.
Keith: Thanks a lot. I appreciate the support.
Stats for Red Neck Militia
Jason Lambert 1-0 Pro
Steven Wing 6-5 Amateur
Mike Savage 3-1 Amateur
John Sandoval 7-6 Amateur
Stephan Saramiento 4-2 Amateur
Smokin Joe Allen 4-1 Amateur