Beautiful destruction. That’s what Cameron Chism calls MMA fighting.
Mixed martial arts has grown to become one of the most popular fighting sports in the United States and incorporates striking, grappling and ground fighting. It’s not a sport to be taken lightly and for Chism, who became a pro fighter one year ago, it’s given him a family.
“At any given moment in a fight, something can go wrong … and that is a scary thought. For me, I need those thoughts because it adds to the purpose of fighting,” Chism said.
Chism is a Williamsport native who moved to the Poconos while he was still a minor. After taking up MMA fighting as an amateur, he decided it was time to go pro.
The up-and-coming fighter needed a place to train and he chose one of the smallest boroughs in Lycoming County.
It may surprise most North Central, Pa., locals to find out there is an MMA training gym in the small borough of Montgomery. It’s an unassuming location on Route 54, about a half mile from Route 15.
Drive by and you will probably miss it the first, or second, time. A plywood sign reads “Shark’s Cage” rests on a telephone pole by the road, and the gym is hidden inside a renovated barn down a dirt driveway.
But for the small crew who show up nightly to train, the one-room gym with unfinished walls, a few punching bags and a fighting cage is enough to build friendships and mold fighters.
“It feels like home. You walk in here and you just feel like you below,” he said.
For Chism, MMA is an art. He says he took the old-school approach to the sport, churning out years’ worth of amateur fights before going pro. He used this time to develop his craft and hone his skills.
The practice paid off. In August, Chism won his first pro fight in Arizona. He didn’t take too long to revel in his victory, though. It’s off to the next thing, he said.
The young fighter doesn’t expect to be the best fighter in the world, but he does want to be a fighter that people remember, one who entertains the crowd.
Like many, Chism has struggled with depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder and many other mental health issues, which often lead him to self-harm.
For years, he hid his struggle, ashamed of what others would think. But when he heard another MMA fighter talking about his own struggles with depression, Chism realized that even strong fighters could be open about their inner pain.
Chism chose to use MMA to battle his mental health struggles.
“Find something. Find an outlet…. For me, it’s here. I come here and I train with my friends and that’s how I cope with it,” Chism said.
Above all, he said, people shouldn’t be slaves to their inner struggles.
“You’re stronger than that.” he said. “I want to see everyone live their best possible life as they see fit.”