Teacher’s MMA career inspires students


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When he is not teaching math, Mr. Craig Fruth dedicates himself to his career as an MMA fighter.

Tamia Ware, Staff Writer

When he’s not teaching a math class or coaching the wrestling team, Mr. Craig Fruth is busy with his own training for his mixed martial arts matches.

“One of the best backgrounds you can have joining or getting into MMA is to build a wrestling background,” Mr. Fruth said.

Mr. Fruth became interested in wrestling when he was in middle school after making the switch from basketball.

“I definitely wasn’t the tallest person,” he said. “I was athletic and one of my middle school science teachers actually recommended the switch to wrestling and since then it’s been history. I fell in love with the sport and it carried me through where I am today.”

Mr. Fruth decided to get involved with mixed martial arts in college while he was studying to be a teacher.

“When I was in college, I knew that I was going for teaching,” he said. “At the same time, I knew I was going to be coaching wrestling and things like that and I still had an itch to compete, so I got involved with mixed martial arts.”

Balancing his training and teaching can be a challenge at times, but he finds a way to get it done.

“Sometimes it’s difficult,” Mr. Fruth said. “It definitely wears on me, but you’ve got to get it done. I always have to stay prepared for class and have my work done here. That way I get out of school and I can focus on my training and spend my time getting in shape and practicing fighting.”

Mr. Fruth prepares for his matches by continuing to stay in shape throughout the year and getting on the mat with the middle school and high school wrestlers he coaches. 

“I do all my training in the afternoon and night so I’m always able to get to work, do my practices, and still make my training at night,” he said. “Then [I do] my own training in between and always stay prepared for a fight . . . Those are long days. It is a lot of work, but if I stick to it and I’m consistent, that’s what helps prepare me to win these fights.”

Mr. Fruth aims to have around three matches a year. He works with his coach Steve Colón to choose dates that work best for him.

“We’ll talk about good dates and I work around the wrestling season during this time of year,” he said. “During winter sports, I usually won’t fight but I like to try to fight during late winter or early spring, another one maybe during late spring or early summer in May or June, and another one in the fall around October or November.”

Students are often surprised when they find out about his MMA career.

“ A lot of times students don’t realize that you can balance things like that in your life,” he said. “Then there’s the cool factor of it. They think it’s really cool that I do that.”

Students also have questions for Mr. Fruth after they find out about his MMA career.

“The question is why am I still teaching and I tell them teaching is my career and MMA is my side pursuit,” he said. “A lot of times kids want to know how much I get paid but I don’t tell them that. Other than that they’d like to know how I got started in it and how they can get started in it.”

He gives them advice based on his experiences.

“I encourage kids to join the wrestling team and develop that skill set if they’re interested in fighting,” Mr. Fruth said. “Then later on they can develop boxing, kickboxing, and jiu jitsu. That’s the path that I took.”

While he does not incorporate his experiences as an MMA fighter directly into his math lessons, he does use his career to teach and encourage his students in other ways.

“Teaching students how to be responsible and the idea of working hard for a long term goal as opposed to instant gratification,” Mr, Fruth said. “For a fight I prepare for six to eight weeks for one night where I fight for 15 minutes. I try to tell kids, ‘You have to work hard throughout a grading period or both grading periods to prepare yourself to be able to pass final exams, to pass your test, and to earn the grade that you want.’ ”

Mr. Fruth also encourages his students to challenge themselves to “find [their] weaknesses and work harder at those weaknesses.”

“Another thing I always talk about is if you’re not strong at something, like if math is your weakness, you have to work harder at that as opposed to trying to push aside and have their excuses of ‘math is not my strong suit,’ ” he said. “Whereas MMA, if striking is not your strong suit, you work harder at it. If wrestling is not your strong suit, you have to work harder at it.”