This week sees Middleton man Tom ‘The Viking’ Crosby, 28, out in Las Vegas in the USA competing at the amateur world championships for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) – commonly known as cage fighting. South Leeds Life caught up with him before he left, to find out what it’s all about.
Tom grew up in Beeston and Middleton, and by 2013 found himself playing semi-pro rugby league. He was looking for extra fitness opportunities, joined a local MMA class, and “fell in love with the sport”. He promptly retired from rugby, took up mixed martial arts (a sport made up of multiple disciplines including kickboxing, jiu jitsu, ‘grappling’, ‘grapple and strike’, and more) – and has never looked back.
It’s been an eventful few years. In only his first year, Tom won the UK’s MMA open competition – and has since won a score of national and world titles and medals, at events including the World Martial Arts Games.
“You can get mashed up, but there are rules, and it’s not all-out brutal like people perceive it to be. It’s not a team sport, so you’re not reliant on others: you’re locked up in there, and it’s just up to you. I love it, but it’s nerve-wracking.”
Indeed, it’s not been all plain sailing, with – perhaps inevitably – injuries taking their toll over the years. As well as the bumps and niggles (“you get them all the time”), we was out for 6 months with a knee injury, 2 months with one of his wrists, and 4 months with a broken eye socket. His job outside fighting is as a child-minder – but he says the parents don’t even bat an eyelid anymore when he turns up at work covered in bruises!
An injury forced him to miss the European MMA championships last autumn, but he’s back on form now, and was proud to be selected for the 13-strong UK team out in Vegas this month. Over the fortnight, the competitors will battle it out for a series of titles, in front of thousands of spectators. There’s no cash with the prizes, but they are – Tom insists – “the biggest accolades you can achieve as an amateur”.
Looking ahead, Tom hopes to go professional – maybe in the coming year: “That’s the ambition, but there’s no rush. I’m waiting on my coach to tell me when I’m ready, and I’ve goals to achieve before then. But goals aside, I just love the sport. We’ve a phrase in the sport that we often say: you win, or you learn. That sums it up for me.”
For more info, including opportunities to sponsor Tom and his team-mates, click here. To get involved in MMA yourself, visit the AVT gym in Birstall, where Tom trains and where there are classes and sessions for all ages.