COLUMBIA — Whiskey Wild Saloon on Paris Road was packed with spectators and competitors as Scott O’Donnell approached the seven-sided ring, surrounded by chain-link fencing.
He bounced, from foot to foot, anxiously in the red corner of the ring opposite his opponent, John Darbe, 30. The crowd whistled and hollered loudly.
The foghorn blared, signaling the beginning of the first of three possible rounds. Within the first seven seconds, O’Donnell threw Darbe to the ground, gaining the upper hand over his opponent.
O'Donnell and Darbe were locked in a tight bear hug. O'Donnell threw knees and punches at his opponent. Before Darbe was able to rise to his feet he tapped out, ending one of the quickest fights of the night.
One minute and 37 seconds into the fight, O’Donnell had won his second amateur mixed martial arts fight.
O’Donnell, 22, has always had a competitive fire within him. Like many children, he participated in various sports at a young age, but found his niche when his father, Tom O’Donnell, took him to a wrestling practice at the age of six.
“I liked to roll around on the mat. I thought it looked like a lot of fun,” Scott O’Donnell said.
“Scott was good from the very onset. I mean he wasn’t the best, but within a few years he got to be the best within wrestling,” Tom O’Donnell said.
As soon as Scott O’Donnell gained success as a wrestler, he developed an addiction — an addiction to win.
Wrestling took priority throughout his childhood, high school years, and three years of college. But after his junior year of college, O'Donnell felt his love for wrestling slipping away.
Although there are rumors that O’Donnell was released from the MU wrestling team, he denied them.
“I kinda got burned out on it. It wasn’t as exciting for me anymore,” O’Donnell said.
But it wasn’t long before he was craving something new.
O’Donnell dived into mixed martial arts fighting six months ago, and hasn’t looked back since. He has made a full-time job of training, working out five days a week at Hulett House MMA in Columbia and at K2L Grind House in Lee’s Summit.
O’Donnell doesn’t take practice lightly. After strapping on black-and-blue shin guards and gloves for protection, O’Donnell approached his first practice partner of the night, Brock Lowe.
“Remember, he throws a lot of hooks…” said Robert Hulett, owner of Hulett House MMA.
The two danced around the mat and seemed to forget about the four walls holding the room together. Bodies were thrown in every direction. The two crashed against the floor and walls with thwacks and thumps.
Within minutes, the two were glistening with sweat. O’Donnell breathed hard with every kick and punch he threw at Lowe. Unlike practice partners he faced throughout the evening, O’Donnell never uttered a word of complaint. This is, after all, his passion.
“Originally when I stopped wrestling I didn’t plan on fighting. I always liked it … I kinda got restless not working out for wrestling all the time,” O’Donnell said.
Although he is new to the world of MMA, his wrestling background has given him a leg up on his training.
“I think the biggest thing for me is learning the striking, boxing, jujitsu. I already know the wrestling part of it,” O’Donnell said.
“He’s getting there … he’s getting there real fast,” Hulett said. “Normally I wouldn’t let anybody start fighting this early.”
The age window for MMA fighters is small because of the toll it takes on one’s body. But in O’Donnell’s eyes, time is not ticking away.
“I think I’ll stick with it for as long as my body lets me,” he said.
With two amateur victories under his belt, O’Donnell wants to fight at least eight more times to learn as much as he can. He wants to eventually fight professionally.
Tom O’Donnell appears to share the same feelings as his son.
“The time is right, he’s strong and young … so they say that the window of participating is pretty short,” he said.
Scott O’Donnell has strong support from his parents as well as other family members and friends.
“My mom supports me, but she always tells me that she doesn’t want me to get hit in the face ... she worries a lot,” he said.