LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Staff Sgt. Keli Manglona, 56th Maintenance Group weapons quality assurance inspector, used motivation and dedication to rise from amateur to professional fighting.
Manglona got into fights as a child, he said. In the 10th grade, he met a teacher who forever changed his life.
“I was about to get in a fight right outside the school and my social studies teacher stopped us and told us if we were going to fight, we needed to come to his gym and do it right,” Manglona said. “I went to the gym that night but the other guy never showed.”
Manglona started practicing mixed martial arts that day, and the potential schoolyard fight turned into something great for him.
Since then, his determination and love for the sport led him to train with multiple high-level gyms in various states and countries.
“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 4-year-old daughter, Anella, and his 2-year-old son, Manasseh. Manglona’s work ethic in MMA has also positively affected his work performance.
“Martial arts transfers directly into our military lifestyle,” he said. “At Luke, we train like we fight, and it’s the same way in the gym. I always have to make sure I’m doing my job exactly right.”
The next big step for Manglona is to earn his brown belt in Jiu Jitsu, a form of martial arts.
“There are white, blue, purple, brown and black belts,” he said. “A white belt is like a high school diploma, a blue belt is an associates and a purple belt is a bachelors. I’m working on getting my masters and hopefully someday I’ll have a doctorate or a black belt in jiu jitsu.”
To do this, Manglona continues to train daily and eat right to stay in shape. His healthy lifestyle keeps him ready at all times, whether he’s called to war from the Air Force or called to step into the ring. Either way he works hard toward his goals and appreciates every day.
“I am so grateful to do what I love by being in the Air Force and training martial arts,” he said.