LOCAL: Jasinski celebrates 18th birthday with MMA win
BEDFORD PARK — Thomas Jasinski got a card he will never forget for his 18th birthday last Friday.
No, it wasn’t a Hallmark card filled with cash and happy birthday wishes. It was the fight card for his first career amateur cage fight.
The Bourbonnais teen made his highly anticipated mixed martial arts debut against fellow MMA first-timer Vladimir Curcic in a 155-pound bout promoted by Total Fight Challenge in Bedford Park.
It was the first day Jasinski was eligible to fight in MMA, and his birthday took the backseat to his first experience in the cage.
“It was written in the stars,” Jasinski said. “Everything played out where they had [fight] cards on my birthday. It was the perfect birthday present. The birthday felt second to the fight. When people reminded me it was my birthday, I had to remember I belonged in the locker room with grown men.”
The fight came with some butterflies, even though Jasinski has competed in many grappling competitions and was runner-up in the 155-pound teen division at Chicago Golden Gloves last summer.
Though he specializes in grappling, Jasinski stepped out of his comfort zone and relied on his fists.
“The plan was to feel it out standing up and wait for something to happen,” Jasinski said. “I was waiting to take him down, but it never came to that. I stepped forward, and he stepped back. That’s when I knew I was the one who would dictate the fight. So, I started swinging.
Jasinski dazzled, knocking Curcic out a minute and 20 seconds into the second round with a lead hook-cross combo. Curcic’s corner threw in the towel as he hit the ground, ending the fight.
“It was very different. It was super stressful. I did the grappling. I did the boxing. But this felt like a fight instead of a competition. It felt extra risky with the little gloves and all the unknowns.”
Jasinski impressed his coach Doug Keast, who owns Genesis Martial Arts and Fitness in Bradley. Keast eagerly awaited his student’s first cage fight.
“Thomas went in and actually dominated his opponent at his weak point,” Keast said. “Striking isn’t Thomas’ strong suit. Everyone thought he was a striker because of Gold Gloves, but he’s a grappler. Still, he knocked the guy out and did very well.”
Keast said Jasinski could fight again in February at Total Fight Challenge. However, he is open to having Jasinski fighting sooner if the right opportunity presents itself.
Jasinski, a home-schooler who plans on studying physical therapy at Kankakee Community College this fall, is on board with that idea. He enjoyed his birthday cake the day after his first fight.
“We’ll see where it goes,” he said. “We don’t want to rush anything, but we don’t want to miss something that’s going to work. But, that was the best way to celebrate a birthday.”