As Mixed Martial Arts continues to grow so does the Minot Air Force Base's imprint on the North Dakota fight scene.
Three active Airmen and one retired Airman will enter the cage in professional action at Magic City Mayhem 3 at 7 p.m. tonight at Maysa Arena.
Each fighter had different reasons for joining the combat sport, but the Air Force connection is a strong one that can be seen nearly every night of the week at Calavera Martial Arts and Boxing Club.
"I think it attracts a lot of people who are very active people, really seeking something," said Airman Stephen Berg, 26. "People who are a little more, you know, physically empowered, looking for something. That's what Calavera's does. It kind of gives us that edge that we're looking for."
Berg (1-1) is fighting for the third time in his career and will meet Williston's Adam Walkemeyer (1-0) at 170 pounds. Tonight's fight will be his last on American soil for a while because he will soon be stationed in the Netherlands. Working out away from the base has helped him connect with other Airmen and share experiences outside of the daily work grind.
"It's great because people I run into on base I see at the gym all the time," Berg said. "People I know at the gym, who I don't know from base, now we do know each other, so a lot of networking."
Retired Airman Jessica Doerner will fight for the seventh time in her career. Doerner, 32, is coming off a first-round knockout by knees in a July win in Belcourt. She is 4-2 and will face debut fighter LeAnn Amundson, 25, of Sidney, Mont., in the main event at 125 pounds.
Doerner welcomes the increasing presence of military at Calavera's because personnel stationed all over the world are learning different local styles within the various martial arts.
"Somebody may be a judo black belt, somebody else might be a taekwondo black belt, so you're gonna get a mix of skills and styles that you can kind of learn from," Doerner said.
Airmen Cathleen Biala, 26, and Ryan Stiles, 24, are also fighting tonight. Biala is making her debut against Mary Charbonneau, 27, of Belcourt, at 170 pounds. Stiles (1-0) faces Jarred Melicher, 27, of Grand Forks in the visiting fighter's debut at 135 pounds.
Stiles, originally from Appleton, Wis., sees martial arts as a natural fit for many in the military and sees the gym getting stronger as new Airmen learn of the opportunity.
"As soon as the base knows there's a martial arts gym downtown that's something that they'll brief to new individuals coming in," Stiles said. "They'll be like, 'What is there to do in Minot?' So they're always constantly sending new training partners and workout partners to our gym."
Biala noted more obvious reasons for people to take up the sport.
"I think it's a way for everyone to get out their aggression, probably their stresses of work," she said. "I kind of just want to get my feet wet. I kind of want people to point out, tell me what I need to work on just to get better as a fighter."
Other fighters on the card out of Calavera's include Justin Likness, Ashleigh Heustis and Howard Lamere. Also fighting out of Belcourt is Heustis' opponent Harleigh Davis. Former Minot fighter Jayson Fuentes (5-2), of Fort Worth, Texas, makes his return to the Magic City to fight Doug Jenkins (9-5), of Brookings, S.D.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.