‘The Major’ stalks the ringBy Spc. Landis Andrews, 444MPAD; Photo courtesy Asylum Fight League
Maj. Jonathan Lapidow lives and breathes the warrior ethos. And that’s before he even puts on his uniform.
The 36-year-old New Jersey Army National Guard officer is a budding mixed martial arts competitor, versed in jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing and Muay Thai martial arts.
Up until three years ago, Lapidow never considered getting in the ring. Then he served a tour in Iraq. When he returned, a friend asked him if he wanted to train.
“I figured, hell, I just spent a year in a combat zone and survived that. How bad could it be to train to fight?” said Lapidow, a helicopter pilot who serves full-time in Recruiting and Retention Command.
He competed in his first match on March 14 and for his ring moniker, they called him “The Major.”
They also called him the winner.
He won his bout in a lightning-fast 24 seconds, forcing his opponent, Kyle Malone, to submit.
Lapidow caught Malone in a guillotine, a headlock style chokehold, and Malone tapped the mat to indicate he’d had enough.
Despite the strong start to Lapidow’s career, he sees the sport as more than an outlet for his competitive instincts. He also sees a golden opportunity to interest young people in the National Guard.
To that end, he’s begun the process of creating the New Jersey National Guard MMA Combatives Team. It will afford any National Guard Soldier the opportunity to receive training in mixed martial arts disciplines.
“If you want to get training like this as a civilian, it’s going to cost you at least $150 per month, and that’s only for one or two disciplines.With the combatives team the training will be provided for you during times when you would normally report for duty. So, essentially, we are paying you to train,” said Lapidow.
Lt. Col. John Sheard, the recruiting and retention commander, believes offering the opportunity for that kind of training will attract worthy candidates to the New Jersey Guard.
After all, the Jersey Guard has already established a relationship with the Asylum Fight League, the organization that gave Lapidow his first match.
“I’ve been marketing with Asylum for quite a while now. Right now, the National Guard logo is in the center of the ring. But when Jon started working in this office it all came together,” Sheard said. “I sat down with the president of the league and he was more than willing to give us a shot.”
Lapidow – and his corner crew and fans – serve as a veritable billboard for National Guard recruiting.
“When I’m out there fighting, I’m representing the Guard. My whole team is wearing 1-800-GO-GUARD T-shirts, ring girls are throwing Go Guard shirts into the crowd, the logo is draped behind me and we have trucks in the parking lot,” said Lapidow. “We want kids to know that they can take part in MMA if they just join the National Guard.”
The National Guard brand is no stranger to marketing in the sports arena. The logo appears on the car of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., at Rutgers football games and in the stadium of multiple minor league baseball teams to include the Somerset Patriots and the Trenton Thunder.
This combatives team will work as a pipeline for worthy contenders to get sanctioned fights through the partnership between the National Guard and the Asylum Fight League, which is the number one rated MMA association in New Jersey. However, competition is not the only goal of this team.
“Qualities that you need to be successful in the mixed martial arts arena are perfect for all Soldiers,” Lapidow said. “Being physically fit, being mentally focused and having this kind of drive is the cornerstone of military personnel. Being a part of this team, even without the competition, will drastically improve you as a Soldier, as an athlete and as a person.”
Lapidow imagines getting enough National Guard troops to field a full-fledged team, similar to the MMA All-Stars from Fort Drum, N.Y. This collection of Marines, Sailors and Soldiers will be traveling from upstate New York to Fort Dix to take on contenders in the Asylum Fight League.
Realizing that his opponents will be from other services heightens his sense of urgency.
“Now, not only will I be fighting for myself and the National Guard, I will be a representing the strength of the Army,” said Lapidow.
|(c) 2009 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs|