Mike Farrow needed something to challenge his mind.
The 28-year-old had been a rodeo bull rider, a competitive body builder, an emergency rescue team member and even a club bouncer.
Extreme force has been a major part of his livelihood.
But about a year ago, the 5-foot-10, 219-pound Augusta native found something that challenged his mind as well as his body. Farrow fell in love with martial arts.
After competing in an amateur match at Fort Gordon last year, he made up his mind that it was something he wanted to take seriously.
"It's about 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical, though," Farrow said. "Out of everything I've done, it's the most challenging. A lot of guys out there think that this is all about being big and strong, or having a tough-guy attitude. But all that will do is get you in the ring."
Farrow will be one of 36 fighters to get in the ring today for Winter Wars 2001 at 7 p.m. in Gym 1 of The Sports Arena at Fort Gordon.
Fans will be treated to both kickboxing and mixed martial arts. The 11 kickboxing bouts will allow only above-the-waist kicks, while the seven mixed martial arts battles will contain striking, grappling and submission techniques.
Farrow will compete against Harlem's Joshua Hancock in the 200-220 pound division in the 12th mixed martial arts bout of the evening.
It's Farrow's fourth bout since starting with the Augusta Martial Arts Academy, but his first since Aug. 26, when he fought before a pay-per-view audience at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center in a World Extreme Fighting extravaganza.
After leading for much of his match, Farrow eventually was forced into submission by John Horning of Tampa, Fla. It was his first loss after winning his first three matches.
The Bridgestone/Firestone employee who possesses just 8 percent body fat was sidelined for weeks with a strained back he incurred from body slamming Horning. The loss and injury fueled Farrow to spend more hours in the gym.
"Even though that was a loss, I learned a great deal," he said. "I basically got careless, and you can't do that if you want to win. But I've been working out a lot with the instructors and students here that aren't scheduled to fight. This is like my family. We make each other better."
Farrow said he hopes to fight for a world title some day. Augusta Martial Arts Academy founder Mike Carlson says Farrow has what it takes to achieve almost anything in the sport.
He also understands that victories and appearances in more events like this weekend's are needed to help propel the jujitsu trainee to the next level. To receive a shot at a world title, Farrow has to impress promoters of larger events, a chance he will get today. Some of the sport's top figures are expected to attend.
"Mike has the ability to go a long way," said Carlson, who opened the Academy in 1995. "It's never a guarantee that you'll get a title shot, but it helps to get exposure at events like this one where scouts flock to. We've found that more and more competitors want to come to Augusta and test themselves on our cards. A great showing definitely wouldn't hurt Mike's chances."
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 648-1395.