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'Full circle moment': Missoula's Hudson Kettenring ready to shine in first MMA title shot

Hudson Kettenring win.jpg
Posted at 8:03 PM, Jun 12, 2023

MISSOULA — It's been a whirlwind year for Hudson Kettenring in the mixed martial world.

Less than a year ago last July, Kettenring was making his MMA debut in Missoula at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field where he dominated by first-round finish.

This coming Saturday, the 21-year-old will get a chance to win his first title in the sport in front of the same crowd he debuted.

"Seems like a full circle moment to me which is, I don't know, I hope I can wrap it up because it'll be exactly 11 months and two days from the day I debuted there on the day of (June 17) so a little under a year I can go from my debut to obtaining the amateur title," Kettenring said. "That'd be a big stamp on my start."

Regional MMA promotion Fusion Fight League returns to Missoula on Saturday with Kettenring and a number of other local fighters getting a chance to perform at Fights Under the Lights 2 at Ogren Park.

Kettenring will fight for the promotion's amateur 135-pound (bantamweight) title, and since that debut, Kettenring's improvement in MMA has been stark.

"I've grown 10-fold," Kettenring said. "I'm firing on all cylinders physically from the first time I stepped in the cage to now, there's a tremendous difference. I feel a lot more dangerous, I would smoke the guy I was a year ago in a round easily."

Kettenring's time in Missoula has also come full circle in a way.

He was born in Missoula before moving around a lot in his life, and he eventually made his way back to Montana in late 2020 where he attended UM, but he opted to pursue fighting full-time.

"Missoula has a very special place in my heart and so does Montana," Kettenring said. "I feel like it really is like a stars-aligning kind of moment for me that I got to debut there, now I'm getting to fight there for my first title fight ever. To represent Missoula, we have to go out and rep. I'm excited, my family is going to be there, I've got friends that are going to be there and I've got to represent Dogpound. I've got to represent my coach, my teammates, my family, and I'm ready for it."

A member of Missoula's Dogpound Fight Team, it's been a source of community for him, and it's only gone up from there in the cage.

"It's been a grind like no other," Kettenring said. "This is my first combat sport ever, I was a baseball player my whole life. And then I did a little bit of jiu-jitsu after I finished baseball and then I didn't know what to do, and then I started training with these guys and I've been literally all in since then. I feel like this moment or the moment that I'm going to create on the 17th is going to be the payoff for the last year.

"Before I ever started martial arts, I wrote on a check list when I moved to Montana, get one amateur fight and a few other goals and I did the amateur fight and that was my whole start, I was like I just have to get one then I'll know if I want to do it or not, and I did one and I was like alright that went good, let's keep it rolling and it was always in the back of my head because I've got teammates who have gotten the belt, I've seen some amateur title fights and even some pro title fights and I always thought I can obtain that."

Dogpound Fight Team head coach Matt Powers said Kettenring has fully committed himself since the minute he walked in the door, from training everyday with the team locally to working out with higher-level teams and competition in Spokane, Washington, including some fighters in larger promotions like the UFC.

Now, it's time for the work to show itself.

"He really is almost philosophical with the way that he approaches the fighting," Powers said. "And I think because he doesn't have that overly aggressive demeanor about him, he's able to take everything in and absorb it a lot easier, but in less than a year, he's training with UFC champions, he's got five fights, he's fighting for a title, he's looking at going pro within the next year, he's just done everything right."

Along with technical elements to his fighting style, Powers wants to see Kettenring grow more in the use of his body. A tall, lanky athlete, Kettenring has a height advantage over most competitors in his weight class, so finding a way to utilize that advantage and keep his rhythm, flow and more is an area he continues to grow.

"This newest group of fighters, watching them come in without the most confidence in the world, and then get a win or two and just the change in their demeanor and their confidence, and they're still nice, great people, but they believe a little more in themselves, as a coach that makes me feel incredible," Powers said. "I'd much rather have that, if that's all they ever got out of fighting, perfect I'm happy with it. His personal growth as a person and his confidence I think that's the biggest things that I've seen improvement in.

"I honestly would like to take him professional in the next year. I think that he's very, very close right now. He trains like a professional and he does get to train with UFC fighters and he holds his own, so I do believe that he's ready for that step. It's just getting him there mentally and making him realize that he's ready for that step."

Currently 3-1 as an amateur, a win for Kettenring could mean he turns pro in the not-so-distant future. Saturday's fight will be his fifth in less than a year as he competes at a breakneck speed to start his career, and all of three of his victories have been first-round finishes.

But it's all eyes on Saturday night as he looks to put on a show and get that belt wrapped around his waist.

"To me, it foreshadows my future in the sport," Kettenring said. "If I can do this amount, five fights in under a year, capture the (amateur) title, I feel like that'll put me mentally and confidence-wise on paper I'm a serious guy now, you know? I'm not just a hobbyist.

"It's been a beautiful grind. It's been a great introduction into the sport of mixed martial arts and it's just given me a lot of confidence continuing and it's made me feel like I've made some right choices. Like, it was hard making the call to be like I'm going to stop going to school, I'm going to stop working full time and it's a crazy thing to tell your mom and extended family and stuff but I think they see how far I've come and they're starting to understand too, there might be something here."