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Real Fighters
Louisville, KY

Eric Haycraft, the driving force behind Real Fighters Gym in Kentucky, began his martial arts career as a teenager in Kung Fu. When he hit the American Kickboxing schools, however, he was in for a rude awakening: “I got my butt kicked,” he frankly admits. So Eric switched to Full Contact Kickboxing and had two fights. After that, he was hooked, collecting fight videos. He was enthralled by fighters such as Dekkers, with whom he got into contact in 1994. He loved the Dutch style of training, feeling that it was better suited to the Western lifestyles, where fighters have only their evenings free, with days being dedicated to school or work.

There was a surge in the early 1990s, and Eric became a WKA State Representative in order to make the WKA grow. He also connected with Duke Roufus and fought on his cards. During the lull in the mid ‘90s, Haycraft took the next step: coaching. About midway through his own fight career, around 2000, Eric began coaching other fighters, planting the seeds of what is today the highly successful Team Haycraft.

Quite the multitasker, Eric also picked up journalism, or, as he tells it, journalism picked him. Kickboxing Ring Depot, a contact sports magazine, needed a European connection, and Eric had it to offer. From then on, fighting journalism boomed for him, with many other international magazines and websites contacting him to write for them. Always humble, Eric says of his journalism, “They didn’t pick me because I’m a good writer—they picked me because I know the sport.”

Haycraft notes that the tournaments he used to cover were now being won by his fighters. His fighters are known for traveling everywhere to fight. Louisville (Kentucky in general) didn’t prove the most fertile fighting ground for Team Haycraft, so his fighters travel as far as Amsterdam, Spain and Surinam to compete. At Worlds, we got a glance at Eric’s and his fighter Lindsay Scheer’s passports, littered with stamps. Members of Team Haycraft were the only ones who didn’t bother changing Euros for dollars, as they’d be heading out again in a few weeks.

Currently, Team Haycraft has about twenty fighters. Though there are too many to cover fully, most notably there is Lindsay Scheer, current WKA World Champion in K-1 at -60 kg, with a record of 14-5. She was also the IKF silver medalist in 2009, the 2007 WKA North American Champion, the 2007 USKA Champion, and the 2007 Southeastern Shido Muay Thai Champion. Scott Sawade is another of Team Haycraft’s stars. Though only just turned nineteen, Scott has an impressive record of 10-5 and holds titles such as WKA North American Champion for 2009, WKA USA National Team Member and bronze medal winner in 2009, 2008 and 2007 TBA Champion, and 2007 WKA North American Champion. Representing Team Haycraft in professional MMA is Brent Weedman, who fights at 170 and has a record of 20-5-1. He holds a number of titles—“almost every regional title there is,” says coach Haycraft—and has fought UFC veterans. He also runs the MMA side of Team Haycraft and teaches submission grappling, takedowns, takedown defense, and has been with Haycraft since 2006.

Eric himself holds an amateur WKA Regional title and a professional ISKA Regional title, has trained in Thailand and Holland (yearly since 1994), and currently trains world champions and professional fighters. In addition, he is a journalist and a Muay Thai book consultant. He has been training Muay Thai for seventeen years and had his fighting career from 1993 to 2003. He brings Dutch fighters over to help improve his fight team and has been under Kru Sakasem for three years.

Haycraft describes the training of his fighters as comprehensive. In a typical week, Team Haycraft fighters have two technical days of Dutch-style partner drills, two sparring and clinchwork days, two padwork days, and lots of running. Cardio consists of three miles of running, five three-minute rounds of ropework, and then class, followed by calisthenics. On Sundays, Team Haycraft really has fun, with two hours of 100 yard sprints with parachutes. “My team has awesome cardio,” Eric states, and Scheer and Sawade’s performance at Worlds this year certainly showed the truth in this.

Real Fighters are known for a number of things. The first is the heavy Dutch influence on their Muay Thai, due to Eric’s Dutch training and his invitation to Dutch fighters into his gym. The second is their well-roundedness. If a fighter wants to compete in MMA, he or she must first do a couple of Thai fights and grappling tournaments to become strong in each of MMA’s components before stepping into the cage. Finally, Haycraft says of his team: “Our fighters may not win every time, but they never get beat up, and they never get tired.”


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