Jeremy Luchau never really intended to be a writer and he surely never planned to be a fighter.
“Not only have I never been in a combat sport before, I’ve never even been in fist fight before,’’ the Hanford Sentinel sports reporter said.
But Luchau will certainly be in a fight on Thursday night, when he faces Michael Satumbaga in a three-round mixed martial arts matchup at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino. Luchau, a sports journalist for eight years, has been training to become an MMA fighter for 17 months, and recounting his experiences in a bi-weekly column known as “The Project.”
That “Project” will come to a climax when Luchau and Satumbaga tangle in a bout with a catch-weight limit of 165 pounds at the Palace Fighting Championship’s “Project Complete”.
Luchau’s journalism career began unexpectedly in Taft.
“My mom worked at the newspaper there, and I got a job in the press room. The sports reporter there quit, and the sports editor knew I played football [at Taft High], and asked if I could take stats at a game,’’ Luchau said. “I moved up from there.’’
The seeds for his MMA venture began in May of 2006, when he was doing a feature story on Hanford fighter Kenny Ento at the Valley Fight Club in Hanford.
“[Fight Club owner] D. Womack made a suggestion that I train for a week and write about it,’’ Luchau said. “And then I came back, and we talked about it some more, and than we talked about it with [Palace entertainment director] Christian Printup.’’
Eventually, the discussions evolved into placing Luchau in an actual fight, and the idea took off at that point.
“They wanted to make sure I had proper training,’’ Luchau said. “They didn’t just want to just send me out there and get my head bashed in.’’
So Luchau’s been training ever since — in Brazilian jiu jitsu, wrestling, boxing, Krav Maga and Muay Thai. “Jeremy’s done a good job,’’ said Luchau’s trainer, Jacob Jeff of Team Ochoa. “He’s come a long way from when he first started.’’
Printup has seen the progress.
“On a personal level, I’m very proud of Jeremy,’’ Printup said. “He’s taken this very seriously and worked very hard.’’
Since Luchau had never been in a fist fight before, one of the more difficult aspects of his training was learning how to take a punch.
“I do not like getting hit in face. I was extremely ... I would just say scared,’’ Luchau said.
Now he’s feeling more comfortable fighting in a stand-up style. But that doesn’t mean he wants to do it too long with Satumbaga. Luchau’s game is grapping while Satumbaga specializes in Muay Thai. The fighters are in the same boat in one respect. They’re both making their pro debuts.
Satumbaga is a late replacement for Fresno’s Shahob Nasrabadi (0-2), who pulled out of the bout. The 23-year-old from Lemoore, Satumbaga is an engineering student at Fresno State.
“This is more like a hobby for me,’’ he said.
But it’s one he enjoys quite a bit. He’s been training for a year and has competed in amateur MMA events.
The strategies for the bout will be clear for both fighters.
“If Jeremy takes [the fight to the ground], he’ll end the fight,’’ Jeff said.
Satumbaga, the striking specialist, will try to prevent that from happening.
“Everybody’s telling me that since I took the fight on short notice, there’s not much I can do to [to change my style],’’ he said. “I’ll keep on doing what I’ve been doing and keep the gas tank full.’’