This is the first in a series of stories focusing on the next generation of MMA talent here on the North Coast, as Humboldt Sports takes a closer look at some of the rising local stars in the sport.
By Ray Hamill — Yet another former Hoopa High wrestler appears to be on the verge of making some serious noise in the sport of MMA.
Following in the footsteps of UFC pros Orion and Louis Cosce, 22-year-old Jacob Hodge is getting ready to embark on his own pro career.
And according to his trainer Brian Wilson of the Lost Boys gym in Arcata, it could be a very bright future for the former Hoopa Warrior.
“He’s one of those guys, similar to Louis and Orion, who I think could take it to the highest level if he makes the right decisions,” Wilson said.
So far so good for Hodge, who fights at 155 pounds and is 5-2.
He debuted in the sport shortly after high school, taking his first fight at three weeks notice, just days after turning 18.
Hodge admits it was a struggle of sorts, but he persevered and won the fight in the second round.
Since then he has continued to grow as a fighter and has shown a lot of promise, taking advantage of his high school wrestling background.
“He has a ton of potential,” Wilson said. “He’s a strong wrestler, he has very explosive hands and he’s a very athletic guy. And he has a very good work ethic.”
Hodge has been competing in organized full-on fights since he was 16, taking on other members of the Friday Night Fight Club at the stick field in Hoopa Valley.
“I never lost a fight there,” he said.
He got into the sport of MMA after his brother told him about Wilson’s gym in Arcata, adding that his father, Robert Hodge, Jr., has been one of his biggest supporters at every step and continues to play an influential role in his son’s career.
“He’s always pushing me,” Jacob said. “He’s constantly sending me videos and trying to help me out.”
It appears to be working, and the younger Hodge made a big decision about his career a few months ago, deciding to commit himself to the sport and see just how far he can go.
“About four or five months ago I talked to Brian (Wilson) about making a career out of it,” he said. “Even in the fights I lost, I never got beaten up, I just got gassed. So I’ve been working on my conditioning.”
To Hodge, the sport is almost addictive.
“I like the art of fighting,” he said. “The one-on-one kind of thing. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you come from, it’s all about the work you put in.”
Hodge has only gone the distance in one of his last four fights — with a record of 2-2 in that time as he continues to learn — and is hoping to get in one more full fight before he turns pro.
He says he would likely have turned pro this year had it not been for COVID-19, which forced the cancelation of two of his fights, including a scheduled trip to Minnesota this month to compete for a Warriors Game belt.
“I just need to get some more ring time and exposure,” he said.
Hodge says he has kept busy during the pandemic, training daily before and after work, beginning his day with a 5 a.m. morning run.
He moved to the coast in order to be closer to the gym and trains regularly with teammate and roommate Alex Jojin, another up-and-coming local fighter.
“The Lost Boys have been huge for me,” he said. “Everyone pushes each other and wants the same thing.”