Another opportunity for Hunter
Cjay Hunter was in the right place, at the right time, and did the right thing.
Earlier this fall, Hunter was leaving practice like he had done hundreds of times before.
As he was driving on Highway 367, nearing Parker Road, he spotted something out of the ordinary.
"I could see a guy sobbing, on the wrong side of the road, standing near the overpass," Hunter said.
Hunter pulled his car to the side around the same time a couple had spotted the distraught man and did the same thing. Upon approaching the scene, Hunter soon found out the situation was worse than he thought.
"Once we started talking to him, we found out he was only 20-years-old," Hunter said. "He was talking about jumping and how his family deserved better and that his kid deserved better and I explained to him that nothing will get better if he jumped and that his family and his kid would only feel worse."
After a few moments, Hunter and the couple were able to coax the man away from the overpass. They were able to get the man's phone from him and after a quick call, the man's mother and sister arrived on the scene and drove him back home safe and sound.
"All three of us gave him our phone numbers," Hunter said. "We told him if he's ever feeling down to call. I have talked to him a couple of times since and he's doing much better. He's no longer suicidal. That's the important thing."
Hunter has another opportunity to do something important on Saturday as part of the all-professional Gladiator MMA at the Family Arena. There, Hunter (3-1) faces Zach Feers (3-1) in a lightweight matchup.
After starting his pro career with an unanimous decision loss to Andrew Tyson (5-0), Hunter has rattled off three-straight wins, including two stoppages. He last fought this March when he earned a split decision win over Malcolm Smith.
"I had a bumpy start against a tough guy who knew how to neutralize my game and stay on top," Hunter said. "That loss hit me hard and I made sure I got better everywhere. I'm a much more agile striker now."
Hunter, 24, was always an athlete growing up and took to wrestling as a sophomore in high school. He was still at Pattonville High when he took his first amateur fight in 2010.
"It was great," Hunter said. "It was really exciting and it got me hooked. For some reason it felt natural and I was clam the whole time I was in there."
Hunter made the segue from wrestling to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and set up shop at the now defunct 10th Planet St. Louis. Jiu-jitsu came naturally to the wiry, long-limbed Hunter and with his new arsenal he set about getting as many amateur fights as he could.
His amateur fight docket reads like a who's-who of the region's top fighters in the lightweight and featherweight divisions; Alex White, Kirk Huff, Travis Draper, Bernard Thomas, Buddy McGinnis, Scott Ettling, and Montuelle Prater are all among the near-30 amateur fights that he had.
"I knew from early on that this is what I wanted to do," he said. "But I didn't want to rush into it. I wanted to be 100-percent ready before I turned pro. I wasn't getting hurt so I kept taking fights, sometimes two-to-three a month. I didn't get in this business not to fight. When a name would come up, I went after it."
When 10th Planet closed its doors, Hunter bounced around from gym to gym, training at all of the major points of interest at one point or another. He found his home at Modern Combat Systems just before his last amateur fight. In its early days MCS was a rag-tag collection of fighters but over a brief window of time, Jared Daniels-Block has helped turned the gym into a consistent force on the St. Louis MMA scene on both the professional and amateur levels.
"I love the guys that I work with," Hunter said. "It's a family mentality. We're a little different. We're pretty much the only majority black team and that comes with its own trials and hardships but it has made us stronger when you go through those experiences together."
Hunter earned his nickname "the Groundshark" through his slick ground game where he's earned double-digits victories through submissions. His striking is an aspect most sleep on. He recalled before his fight with Prater, many thought he wouldn't stand a chance if he kept things on his feet.
"I was catching a whole bunch of stuff from my teammates and people I know," he said. "I've never been KO'd before. I don't go down. I went out and TKO'd him and shut up a lot of people."
Against Fears (3-1), Hunter will face a well-rounded opponent who is capable of stopping the fight with his fists, feet, or via submission.
"The key will be good movement and stay in the places I'm strong," Hunter said. "I feel like they will count me out again as far as the striking goes."
Doors open at 5:30pm at the Family Arena for Gladiator MMA with prelims slated to start at 7pm. Tickets are $5 for reserved bowl and $10 for reserved floor seats.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Gladiator MMA ticket line at 636-294-9662 between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm Monday - Friday, at The Family Arena box office between the hours of 12 pm and 6 pm Monday - Friday, by calling MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or 24 hours a day online at www.metrotix.com.
The event is headlined by Thiago Silva against Marcus Sursa along with several of the famed Blackzilians on the card.
Thiago Silva vs Marcus Sursa
Victor Moreno vs Valdir Araujo
Shane Crenshaw vs Carrington Banks
Andrews Nakahara vs Scott Futrell
Lucas Lopes vs Sal Woods
Doug Jenkins vs Yuri Villefort
Chris Manuel vs Lucas Gwaltney
Zach Fears vs Cjay Hunter
David Waters vs Josh Epps
Chris Beal vs Ryan Sutton
Matt Murphy vs Gary Becker
Gladiator: Sursa vs Silva
Saturday, October 10
Family Arena, St. Charles, MO
Photo courtesy of Jimmy Range Photography