ANCHORAGE - Moments before he was to climb into the octagon for his Alaska Fighting Championship bout, Michael Madrid was a pillar of steady concentration.
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He stared ahead, looking through whoever made eye contact. He stood still, except when he bounced on his toes. He spoke only when somebody said something to him.
It's a pattern Madrid repeats each time before he competes - whether fighting inside a steel cage or running for the UAA track and field team.
The 21-year-old Anchorage sprinter is one of the more unusual two-sport collegians in the country. Not many NCAA athletes moonlight as martial arts fighters.
But Madrid has chops in both sprinting and fighting.
The junior is the most successful sprinter in UAA history, setting school records in the 100 (11.03 seconds) and 200 meters (22.26) and earning multiple all-conference honors.
He has won two national karate championships in the junior demonstrative team division, getting him air time on ESPN two straight years.
And he prepares for each AFC fight by plopping on his couch and watching episodes of the TV show "Friends."
Madrid admits it's a silly ritual, but he enjoys the sitcom because it makes him laugh and keeps his mind off fighting.
"I have the whole collection at home. I break it out," he said. "I like to be relaxed and not have too much nervous tension that gets into my muscles."
Then again, not even Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox can completely take his mind off fighting. In fact, Madrid prefers feeling some butterflies before entering the octagon. Fear keeps him sharp.
"I'm nervous when I'm not nervous," Madrid said. "That's your body preparing yourself to escape the dinosaur."
The anxiety he feels prior to a fight is similar to but much stronger than what he feels before a race. If anything, being a fighter makes Madrid more relaxed on the starting line.
Madrid has participated in five career AFC fights, winning three. On Wednesday, he earned a three-round unanimous decision over Seattle first-timer Timothy Triplet in his third fight of the summer.
Madrid, who forfeits all prize money so he won't jeopardize his college eligibility, said it was his last fight of the summer because UAA classes begin today and he wants to focus on school and track.
Not to mention he doesn't want to bump heads with UAA track coach Michael Friess, who doesn't like the idea of his best sprinter fighting.
Friess declined Madrid's request to fight at the end of last school year, both said, but they hadn't talked about it since. In fact, Friess only recently learned that Madrid had fought three times this summer.
"I'm glad to hear he's done for the year," Friess said. "I don't know a whole lot about it, but I do know he's the kind of guy you'd want by your side when there's a tussle going on.
"Still, my biggest concern is that he's gonna get hurt."
Madrid didn't ask permission to fight this summer, but Friess said Madrid doesn't need to clear it with him. Sure, he'd rather Madrid not fight; at the same time, he can't control his athletes' lives.
Other UAA runners compete in mountain runs, including the treacherous Mount Marathon, and Friess doesn't stop them.
"You can't say no to everything," Friess said. "They're not robots."
In addition to Madrid's safety, Friess is worried about the perception of a UAA athlete participating in something as violent as the AFC. When most people think of ultimate fighting, Friess said, they think of the "thugs" and "bloodfest" they see on TV.
But Madrid is capable of defending himself. Not only does he own a black belt in karate, Madrid is a muscular 6-foot, 170-pounder with solid punching skills and overwhelming kicks.
Still, he is willing to put his fighting career on hold to focus on his 3.58 grade-point average and budding track career. Plus, he wants to make Friess happy.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Madrid said. "He's done a lot for me. He's a good coach. He's made it easier for me to attend school by giving me a scholarship.
"Maybe after school I will get a little more serious (about fighting). Once classes start, though, I will rearrange my priorities - school first, track second."
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