Rage in the cage

By Gus Bode

There was a point in Natu Visinia’s life when he thought he was tougher than everyone.

But toughness doesn’t win fights – training does.

Visinia, a former lineman for the SIU football team, will participate Saturday at 8 p.m. in the first mixed martial arts event in Carbondale history. It will showcase 12 cage fights, where amateurs test their skills in the ring at the Sports Blast complex.


In 2005, Visinia was charged with battery after an altercation at a bar on Carbondale’s Strip. He said the fight started with a drunken argument between he and a friend, and was broken up before anyone got hurt.

“Coming in my freshman year, I brought in that street mentality,” said Visinia, who was raised in East Los Angeles. “I thought I was tougher than everybody.”

Visinia said the incident was not the reason he left the SIU football team the same year. He left because mixed martial arts was his calling.

Any aggression Visinia has, he uses in the ring.

“When you start getting too aggressive, you start losing your mind and losing your focus,” he said.

Former football teammate Darren Marquez said Visinia, who has a 7-1 record in his career, was made for the sport.

Marquez, the Salukis’ starting left tackle, said Visinia still is a good friend, and thinks mixed martial arts fits him perfectly.


“You have to be a crazy-psycho person to do that sport,” he said. “Natu fits it. That’s him.”

Marquez said when he met Visinia, he could tell he loved to fight. He said his friend has a fire in him that’s right for the sport.

That fire has helped immensely in his training.

In fact, Visinia said he has worked so hard to excel in the sport that he overtrained. He said he has lost more than 10 pounds in the past week because of a fever.

“I’m probably going to take a bottle of Tylenol, and hopefully that will kick it out,” he said.

Although he’s sick, he continues to train.

Tim Fickes, Visinia’s trainer and event coordinator, said a major part of Visinia’s training involves sparring with a variety of fighters. He said Visinia knows his own strength and when he practices with other fighters, he doesn’t hurt them.

“I have no hesitation letting Natu work with my wife or a child,” Fickes said. “He’s kind of like a big teddy bear.”

Visinia’s girlfriend Amanda Cunningham, who graduated from SIUC in May with a degree in fashion design, said he has a sweet side to him not seen by many. She said she has trouble watching Visinia fight.

“I believe in him,” she said. “He never gets too badly hurt, so I hope it stays that way.”

If Saturday’s fight ends like most of Visinia’s fights – in a knockout – his girlfriend won’t have anything to worry about.

But Visinia doesn’t have a perfect record.

He lost one fight in June to Brandon Reinbold in St. Louis. Reinbold, a 31-year-old doctoral student studying pharmacology at Kansas State University, won the fight.

He also took home a broken nose and a few broken ribs.

Reinbold said if Visinia wants to win Saturday’s match, he needs to use his powerful punches to free him from submissions.

“He’s got to fight through the tough times,” he said. “He’ll come out a winner every time as long as he keeps that mind.”

Visinia said he needs to stay focused, stay healthy and picture a victory in his head – but that’s the easy part.

“The toughest part of the fight, for me, is waiting for the fight,” he said. “The toughest part is now, just days away and you’re just anxious to get in there.”

Daily Egyptian writer Alejandro Gonzalez can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 273 or [email protected].