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Community Sports

Geneva man chasing MMA ambitions

Up-and-coming mixed martial artist Matt Paul grew up on Chicago’s south side but has lived in Geneva for about the past year.

As you might expect, he contrasts those experiences as “polar opposite.”

“I mean, I grew up pretty far south,” Paul said. “I’m not saying like the movies I was getting mugged every day, but usually when somebody starts something, something happens. There’s not a lot of trash-talking back and forth.”

Several years and relocations have passed since Paul’s scrappy upbringing, which ultimately have lent a different motive for helping others learn his name. Paul, 24, continues the fight for notoriety. He had hoped to score some important points on Friday until his first professional bout was canceled.

No replacement opponents materialized for Paul’s X-Treme Fighting Organization match at the UIC Pavilion after his original foe withdrew.

The news, naturally, irked Paul, nicknamed “Monster,” after some impressive feats of strength during an adolescent job at an iron yard. He assures it’s just a moniker.

Paul lives with his girlfriend – who is from St. Charles – and her child. He said he trains Angela Vitiritti, a St. Charles middle-schooler who has been active in the St. Charles East Wrestling Club.

Paul’s own wrestling career spurred his MMA interest, as his former Marian Catholic coaches also were involved in the sport. After wrestling at 189 pounds in high school, he began his fighting career at 205 pounds and currently competes at 185.

Plans to wrestle at Harper College fizzled when Paul struggled to find a concentrated area of study that interested him. The singular approach resonated on the fighting circuit far more.

“I don’t have anyone to blame myself if I lose. It comes down to no one else but me,” Paul said.

A 15-1 amateur record showed Paul could depend on himself, a nagging injury history notwithstanding. With this weekend’s cancellation, he returns to a drawing board that keeps him busy.

Paul said he balances training at the Downers Grove-based CounterStrike MMA Academy with work for one of his sponsors – House of Music and Entertainment in Arlington Heights – as well as Supreme Promotions in Joliet.

His ultimate goal mixes fame and something deeper. By seeking to take fighting as far as he can, Paul also aspires to “show everybody I’m worthwhile and be a champion.” He would look to open his own gym after that.

“I’ve found myself to be kind of an adrenaline junkie. I’m looking for something to do all the time,” Paul said. “This is a nice outlet, and it keeps me pretty level-headed.”

Take note, neighbors. Should you see Paul around, he’s looking to start a dialogue, not end one.

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