"Area fighter set for first big step"

By Nate Foreman

Everyone has reasons for doing things.

Some have a passion, a knack for a skill or hobby. Others have motivation - goals, aspirations. Maybe it's a chance to give back.

All of these apply to Muay Thai and Jiu-jitsu specialist Frank 'The Manimal' Armstrong in the world of mixed martial arts, and it started as soon as he walked through the door of his gym at Damage Inc. four years ago.

"I went in one day and have been a lifer ever since," Armstrong said. "I've been there every day. I think in four years, I might have missed a week of practice. It's just one of those things. I can't explain it. I just feel it. I feel I was born to [fight]. I'm going to do it until my body tells me I can't do it no more."

But something pokes at the softer side of Armstrong, an obligation he feels he owes to his mother, Lorri Ellis.

"My mom is kinda the main reason why I'm doing [MMA]," Armstrong said. "She took care of me. She was a single parent. I figure it's my turn to give back to her. I'm gonna try to make as much money as I can to help her out.

"My mom is one of those people that she never promised me anything, but if she said she was going to do something for me, she always did it."

Armstrong's first opportunity to make some money and start fulfilling that obligation takes center stage tonight when he faces Michael Oldson in his professional debut. It doesn't hurt any that he'll be fighting in front of a hometown crowd as part of a fight card that features five pro and 10 amateur bouts in the Broad Avenue Brawlers event presented by Squared Circle Promotions and the Valley Fight League at the Jaffa Shrine.

"That's the best thing I could have asked for in my first pro fight. Being at home," the 2001 Central Cambria High School graduate said. "It's going to be nice fighting in front of a hometown crowd. I'm going to have all of my friends, my family. It will make a big difference. I think I'll be able to feed off of the crowd's energy and do what I gotta do. I wouldn't have it any other way starting my pro career this way."

"I think you feel more confident [fighting at home]. I think that just having the support there is tremendous," Armstrong's coach Blaine Balicki said. "For Frank, his family will finally get to see him, and that's a first."

Just a little more than one year ago, Armstrong was in his first amateur fight. Since then, he has posted a record of 4-2 - 5-2 including a walk-thru win - and captured the VFL Northatlantic Heavyweight Amateur title on May 9.

Going pro was just the next step.

"It's been a dream of mine. I've been wanting this for so many years. I finally got into it," Armstrong said. "Now I'm at a pro level - a lot of people can't say they're a professional athlete. That's one thing I can say. I'm so happy about it. I feel like I've accomplished most of my goals now."

Most - he's still hungry for more.

"The only other goal I have is to win a pro belt, or drop this weight and get in the UFC. That's what I'm looking at within the next year or two, fighting in the UFC or fighting overseas - somewhere where I can make a lot of money and get my name out there so everyone knows who I am."

Considering the fast track he took going from amateur to pro, his goals may not be as lofty as they seem.

"I gotta give props to my coach, Blaine Balicki," Armstrong said. "He's the one that taught me pretty much everything I know. I definitely have to give props to him, all of my coaches and everyone I train with because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am right now."

But whatever the reason is for him being the cage tonight, expect some early fireworks.

"When I first got into [MMA], I really wasn't looking to make a career out of it. I just got into it to counter my aggression," Armstrong said, admitting he was a violent person in his younger years. "Since I've been doing it, I've been a more mellow person. I've just kinda let things go until fight night. That's when 'The Manimal' comes out."

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