MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Standing in the center of a 17 by 18 foot caged octagon ring, this five feet, 11 inches, 220 pound machine of pure muscle claimed victory at the “Knuckle Up” Mixed Martial Arts Competition Feb. 24.
Lance Cpl. George R. Lockhart, radio reconnaissance platoon, 2nd Radio Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, knocked out his opponent in round three to earn the light heavyweight championship.
Growing up in Williams, Ariz., Lockhart started taking martial arts lessons at the early age of eight and always knew he wanted to become a professional fighter. Attributing his feistiness to his Hispanic-American background, Lockhart has a 5-2 professional fighting record and several titles with matching belts.
“I started out taking jujitsu when I was younger and eventually evolved to doing all types of styles,” Lockhart said. “I wanted to break into the world of professional mixed martial arts fighting, so I had to be proficient with everything from kickboxing to ground fighting. I started fighting when I was 16 and I broke out into the professional circuit when I turned 18.”
After loosing his first fight at 18, Lockhart decided to join the Corps and use it as a stepping stone to help get him in top shape and for future life endeavors.
“The Marine Corps has helped keep me in shape not only physically but also mentally as well,” Lockhart said. “I have matured a lot since I first came in and I have learned a lot from my fellow Marines. My command has supported me with letting me go to different venues to fight as long as it doesn’t conflict with work or training. I know a lot of the life skills I have learned since I’ve been in will help me whenever I do decide to get out.”
For Lockhart, being prepared for a fight is a top priority and he’s even tried to get his shop involved.
“I train as much as possible to always be in shape for a fight. I ride my bike the eleven miles to work and then I lift weights and do a variety of other things to help me keep me fit. I try to get some of the guys from the shop to work out with me, but they don’t last more than a week,” he said, laughing. “I’m like a machine – if I’m not fighting then I’m training.”
When Lockhart is at work, he is busy encouraging other Marines and passing on his leadership traits, according to Gunnery Sgt. Garry M. Engle, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of his unit. “He’s secretly motivated; he just doesn’t want anyone else to know that.”
Balancing being a Marine and an ultimate fighter is a job he takes seriously, whether in garrison, out on a training exercise or in the fighting cage, and the effort is noticed by his senior leaders.
“The work ethic and drive that he has while training carries over to his job. His fighting hasn’t affected his job negatively and he’s great at everything he’s been doing,” explained Sgt. Michael S. Flanagan, team leader for the platoon. “Even when we were out in the field he was still training for fights. I would see him doing crunches or making a punching bag out of something to help keep his skills up. He does what he has to do no matter where we are at to stay on top of his game.”
The weekend of his championship fight was well worth the weeks of intense training and strict dieting Lockhart had to follow to claim his light heavyweight title.
“I had to weigh in the day before the match and I do a lot of meditating to stay relaxed,” Lockhart said. “The day of the event I eat a complex carbohydrate meal and try not to think about the fight. I go to the rules meeting prior to the fight starting and I either watch some of the other matches or get in a quick nap. I’ll get up about two fights before mine and start warming up.”
During warm ups, Lockhart goes over everything in his head and gets in the zone to give the best fight of his career every time he steps in the ring.
“When I walk up to the fight I don’t hear a thing, I just block everything out,” Lockhart explains with a fierce intensity in his eyes. “But the moment they raise your hand to announce you are the winner is the best feeling in the world. When you put the championship belt on is when you hear the crowd saying your name.”
Friends, family and Marines from Lockhart’s platoon were at the event to show their support of his future career, and for some this was the first time seeing him fight.
“I have never been so impressed by someone’s athleticism and endurance during a fight,” said Lance Cpl. Katy J. Casazza, Russian cryptologic linguist, operations control analyst platoon, 2nd Radio Battalion. “I’ve seen his fights on TV and he’s looks like a machine, but with his skills he made it look so easy.”
Claiming victory after a third round technical knock out, Lockhart is getting ready to train for another upcoming venue in Atlanta in late April.
“The process never ends and I’m always looking for a new challenge when I step into the fighting cage,” the warrior said. “My family has supported my career 100 percent but I believe all my strength comes from the man upstairs. He gave me the talent and I’m trying to train to be the best that I can.”