Austin Czenkus said he was never really one for sports in high school, but he has since found his niche among some of the best amateur MMA fighters in the Midwest.
The 23-year-old Croswell native is training out of the Proving Grounds Jiu-Jitsu gym in Shelby Township, and after defeating Logan Chavez by technical knockout in October, he’ll be fighting for the Midwest Region Amateur Lightweight title in April.
“I did fine. [Chavez] came out really strong and swinging really hard. The whole point of that fight was to decide who gets a shot at the belt in April,” Czenkus said. “It was one of the featured fights of the evening. He came in undefeated, I came in with a record of 3-1, and I beat him in the first round in like a minute and 30 seconds.”
It was one minute and 12 seconds, to be exact, improving Czenkus’ record to 4-1. He’ll spend the next several months preparing for the championship fight against the 27-year-old Christopher Arreola, who currently stands 2-0 on the year.
“I’ve definitely fought a lot tougher opponents and [Arreola] is a lot shorter than me and I tend to do well against people who are shorter than me, so I’m not trying to be cocky, but I’m not too worried about him,” Czenkus said.
Czenkus said he typically fights three to four times a year, not only giving himself ample time to train, but to also cut weight for each fight.
“I walk around at about 185 pounds, and I fight at 155, so it usually takes me about six weeks to cut that kind of weight,” Czenkus said.
He trains under Nick Bismack, an experienced coach and athlete with 27 professional fights under his belt. Bismack was also the striking coach for Dan “The Beast” Severn, who is now in the UFC Hall of Fame. Prior to coaching at Proving Grounds, Bismack owned Pride FC Gym in Dubai for 10 years.
“When I got out of the Army, I moved back here last year. I heard about a coach named Nick,” Czenkus said. “He’s a really high-level coach, world-class. I drive about 45 minutes every day to train with specifically him. The coaching staff and training partners there are some of the best in the state.”
When he’s not nearing a fight, Czenkus said he trains for two to three hours a day three days a week, but closer to a match, he’s in the gym five days a week. He said he mainly focuses on technique and endurance – and a lot of burpees.
And his training seems to be paying off. Czenkus is currently ranked No. 3 in the state and No. 64 out of 693 lightweight fighters in the Midwest region, earning the nickname Austin "Danger" Czenkus. But he’d tell you it’s about more than rankings and winning.
“I wasn’t ever really good at high school sports and I used to get bullied a lot, so I just needed something to fill a hole in my life,” Czenkus said. “I started training just to do it, then I came up with the idea of competing, and once I competed and I was doing well, I kept competing and it’s been like that ever since.
“After you win, it’s crazy because you spend months training for it…It’s a rush of crazy emotions and it’s literally the best feeling in the world. You just want to go crazy and you’re really happy all of a sudden. Even when you lose, I have one loss from 2017 to a guy in Lansing, even after that fight there was a rush of relief. There’s a lot of stress that goes into getting ready for a fight and afterward all the stress is gone and you feel relieved.”
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