Switching from home runs to haymakers

Phoenix Stevenson, a former baseball player at UNK, tried his hands at MMA (KHGI)

KEARNEY - A Grand Island native has traded in his cleats and catcher's mask for a pair of boxing gloves.

Phoenix Stevenson left the UNK baseball team last year in search of something new. He found mixed martial arts.

"I'll admit, I didn't think I was going to fall in love with martial arts as fast as I did," said Stevenson.

His career in baseball had a lot of promise after being named Nebraska Class A all-state in 2014. After redshirting as a freshman, his second season was nearly lost entirely becauase of injuries.

Stevenson's path was diverted away from baseball, but he found similarities to his new sport of choice.

"I feel like there were a lot of things that carried over as far as hand–eye coordination and focus," Stevenson says. " It came naturally to me."

Training at the Kearney Combat gym preparing for fight number one, he suffered a torn MCL in January, forcing him to push back his inaugural bout. However, Stevenson says his determination and willingness to learn kept him focused. "I walked in here not even knowing how to throw a proper punch and here I am less than a year of training with my first fight."

Stevenson is fighting Mark Mantauge out of Scottsbluff at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, Aug. 19. Tickets for the card can be purchased at

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