Fighting for a dream
Christian Kernozek isn’t in Plattsburgh just to study English. He is also a student of mixed martial
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 00:09
Many student athletes come to Plattsburgh State to hopefully play on for a high caliber varsity team.
Christian Kernozek came to PSUC for a sport not even associated with the school.
Sitting with his back against the cold cinderblock wall at the Plattsburgh Recreation Center, the sophmore was soaked in sweat Tuesday. He just finished an intense workout that the average Joe probably couldn’t finish. He was training with members of Plattsburgh Combat Sports, and he did it an ear-to-ear smile.
Kernozek was a diehard wrestler growing up. He posted 76-31 record and was scouted by Brockport to wrestle there.
But he wanted to take his talent to a level outside of wrestling.
He wanted a bigger challenge.
He found that challenge in Mixed Martial Arts.
“It’s something I wanted to do for a while,” Kernozek said. “I enjoyed wrestling, but the next natural step was MMA.”
Before coming to Plattsburgh, he trained at Tang Mui Tai in Latham, where he started honing his skills. He worked on his stand-up game so it would complement his wrestling background. Tang Mui Tai also gave him the chance to work on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as boxing and kickboxing.
“I’m trying to become a more well-rounded fighter,” he said. “Mui Tai really helped with my strikes, kicks and knees. It also helped raise my confidence fighting in close quarters and complimented my wrestling background.”
When the time came for him to decide on a college to go to, he had to research. He wanted to go to a reputable school for a good education to study English, but he also wanted to make sure he could continue his training.
In Plattsburgh he found Plattsburgh Combat Sports.
And in this group was a man named Frank Palumbo.
He had seen Palumbo fight and knew that he trained with PCS. There is a type of brotherhood associated with training groups like PCS. A brotherhood where each member wants the other to succeed. A brotherhood that prepares you. A brotherhood that pushes you. Kernozek wanted that type of brotherhood to help him progress in an ever evolving sport.
Kernozek trains six to seven days a week for a total of 12 to 21 hours total. And it’s not run-of-the-mill training.
It can consist of hitting a tractor trailer tire with a sledge hammer, working the arms swinging 80-pound ropes and doing pull ups while holding on to baseballs.
“Our training is designed to work different muscle groups at the same time,” Palumbo said. “It’s also meant to push us to the max for long periods of time. It’s kind of crazy actually.”
That type of training has paid off for Kernozek. He has compiled a 3-1 overall record, his only loss coming from a split decision.
“Christian is one of the hardest working kids I know,” Palumbo said. “He has great potential and will be very successful at the rate he is going. He is young and hasn’t developed many bad habits in the cage. He is learning a lot.”
The hard work does not stop when Kernozek leaves the gym. He sticks to a rigid diet of healthy proteins and large salads.
Training hard will only get him so far, eating accordingly will get him that much further, he said.
“The campus food is garbage,” Kernozek said. “There are really no healthy options, so I pretty much eat the same thing every day unless I go out to eat. It gets old after a while, but it’s what I need to do.”
Kernozek’s level of determination extends into the classroom as well. He maintains a 3.1 GPA despite all his MMA commitments. When he takes his determination and combines that with all the support he gets, he is setting himself up for success.
He has a huge support network at home in Guilderland with family and friends. They will travel to watch him fight or in some cases watch the fights streaming live on the Internet. His parents, Holly and Andrew Kernozek, are always a phone call away and have supported him from the start.
“I was concerned at first, and it’s a little scary,” Holly said. “I know he is a good fighter and trains with the best, so I’m starting to get used to it. Christian still doesn’t want me going to his fights though.”
Kernozek’s father does go to as many fights as possible. He has a martial arts background and has competed competitively — but not in MMA like his son.
“I was a little shocked when he told me he wanted to fight MMA,” Andrew said. “But he is well suited for it and it is a lot better than getting into fights in bars on the weekends.”
Although school is the top priority, his parents want him to make his own decisions. If a point comes when Kernozek has more MMA opportunities and needs a hiatus from PSUC to accomplish them, they will leave that decision up to him.
“I don’t want my son to have any regrets in life,” Andrew said. “He is a grown man and can make his own choices.”
Kernozek already has made the next big choice in his MMA career. He has signed up to fight Nov. 10 in Saratoga without even knowing who his opponent is.
Until now he has had to go to Vermont to fight.