It was almost luck that brought together Kyle Gibbons and Steve St. Pierre, but now the duo are working together on some serious goals.
Gibbons, a 185-pound professional mixed martial arts champion now trains with St. Pierre at his All-American Karate Academy here in Greencastle. Gibbons has been preparing for a match tonight in Indianapolis at the 8 Seconds Saloon. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the Legends of Fighting event.
In Gibbons' training, St. Pierre has offered his expertise in kickboxing. In Team Cyclone's training, Gibbons has is helping with jujitsu, which is a Japanese martial art focused more on grappling. They have found the arrangement mutually beneficial.
"He's really modest about how good he is on the ground," St. Pierre said of Gibbons. "I've worked with a lot of jujitsu guys who have a higher belt, and they talk more than they can do. But he doesn't talk so much, he just does."
Their meeting was by chance, though.
A Michigan native, Gibbons relocated to Indianapolis when he joined a professional MMA team in Indianapolis. The constant training began to wear on him, though, and he found a friend in Putnam County resident Erin Ray.
"I met Erin Ray, and talked to her, consistently, every day for probably a month straight," Gibbons said. "I had just lost my mom and my best friend. She was just like a breath of fresh air. We talked, I got my car, and I said, 'I'm moving down there to Greencastle.'"
After this, Gibbons began to hear about St. Pierre, but the two still did not meet.
"I'd hear old myths about how there was this short guy here in town, this Master Splinter-type guy who could jump and kick your head off," Gibbons said.
The two Greencastle residents finally met in Muncie, of all places. They were both in town at a training detail and were put together as roommates. They began discussing martial arts and fighting and it grew from there.
"In a week, he straightened my punches up. He told me about things he could do; I told him about things I could offer."
Shortly thereafter, Gibbons needed a corner man for a fight in Mississippi. St. Pierre agreed to go along, although it was the weekend of his own wedding anniversary.
Having shared hotel rooms for essentially a week-and-a-half, the two felt very close.
"We feel a strong relationship there," Gibbons said.
Sharing stories about the Mississippi trip, the pair laugh and show their relationship has grown strong. They recall eating with the opponent whose arm Gibbons would later break. There was also a fan who followed them after catching Gibbons' bloody towel.
St. Pierre's wife, Nikki, couldn't even be mad about Steve missing their anniversary after getting a card from Gibbons.
In less than a year, Gibbons has compiled a 12-2 record, with seven knockouts and five submissions. Tonight's fight will be for the 185-pound title.
He emphasizes that the fighting is just a competition. He is not out to hurt anyone. Before each fight, he touches gloves with his opponent, and afterward he gives him a hug.
And now St. Pierre and Gibbons are trying to pass their skills and that respect on to the Team Cyclone amateurs they train.
Saturday's event will feature St. Pierre trainees Jeremy Butler, Chris Hanley and Denys Shaleav. With the help of Gibbons and his growing notoriety, St. Pierre hopes the other fighters will use it as a springboard.
"He makes me look good," St. Pierre said.
One fact not to be lost about Gibbons is he has his priorities in order. He recently had an offer to be on the Ultimate Fighter television show, but turned it down because of family responsibilities.
"My wife is pregnant and she has a seven-year-old at home and right now she's not working," he said. "Right now it wasn't economically feasible."
In spite of Erin urging him to go, he chose to stay at home and be a husband and father.
To learn more about mixed martial arts in Indiana, visit elitecagefighting.com.