There are few who are prepared for battle, not the type of battle fought overseas, but those fought stateside in the ring.
Mixed Martial Arts fighters are warriors who train daily to prepare for a war about honor.
Staff Sgt. Keli Manglona, 56th Maintenance Group aircraft armament specialist, is a professional MMA fighter who began his career six years ago with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training.
“Currently I am a double striped purple belt in BJJ,” Manglona said. “BJJ’s lifestyle helped me become more resilient, determined and balanced.”
Everyone has a story to tell about where it all began for them. Manglona’s began when he was a sophomore in high school. His social studies teacher was a supporter of MMA and liked to resolve disputes between angered teenagers by fighting, said Manglona. In a “training session,” students who disliked each other would face off in a sparring match of martial skill.
Manglona just happened to be in the right classroom at the right time and it transitioned into something great for him.
Since the days of fighting in extracurricular activities after school, Manglona’s determination and love for the sport led him to train with multiple high-level gyms in various states and countries. He is now under the guidance of John Crouch, MMA Lab head coach and BJJ black belt under Royce Gracie, a founding father of BJJ.
Manglona isn’t the type of person to let success go to his head. He stays humble, accepts knowledge and understanding from his mentors, and continues to strive for improvement.
“Every day I learn something new, so every day I train is always a rewarding day,” he said. “One of my old professors would always say there’s nothing that a good day of rolling can’t cure, and I believe that completely.”
But when he isn’t rolling with partners on the mats, he’s serving at Luke Air Force Base and supporting his wife Kaila, his 20-month-old daughter, Anella, and his 7-month-old son, Manasseh. Manglona’s work ethic in BJJ has also positively impacted his work performance in his job, and it shows, according to his boss.
“Sergeant Manglona sometimes comes into the shop with a few bangs and bruises, but he is a highly motivated Airman I can count on to get the job done,” said Tech. Sgt. Ruben Ligon, 56th MXG lead quality assurance inspector. “He is on-point and is definitely one of the sharpest Airmen in the weapons QA section.”
Manglona said the effects his MMA training has had on his work play a big role in how he analyzes situations at work while keeping a clear, calm and level head, and keeping him focused on assigned tasks.
“I actually plan on competing at a town event called ‘King of the Cage’ as long as everything lines up,” Manglona said, who has big plans for the future. “I hope to receive a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and open my own MMA and Jiu-Jitsu school after the military.”