Valdosta Daily Times

January 17, 2013

Stepping into the ring

44-year-old pastor to fight in Winter Heat

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Most 44-year-olds would shy away from fighting someone 18 years younger. Kelly Barcol, though, isn’t shying away from the challenge. In fact, it was kind of his idea.

Barcol, the pastor at House of Joy that works out daily at Crossfit Valdosta, will make his amateur mixed martial arts fighting debut next weekend at Bud Light Winter Heat at Mathis City Auditorium.

His opponent will be 26-year-old Bryant Meacham.

“The age thing, being in here, there are a lot of young guys and I’m usually in the top three to five in time,” Barcol said, standing inside the Crossfit Valdosta facility. “I’m kind of competing against those young guys in here, so that gives me confidence.”

A wrestler in high school that went on to compete in the 1988 World Sambo Championships in Montreal, Barcol agreed to fight in this year’s Winter Heat after organizer James Corbett agreed to donate all of the event’s proceeds to the House of Joy.

Barcol admitted, though, it was an easy decision to make since fighting in an MMA event has been on his bucket list for the past three or four years.

“I’ve been saying it for a few years: ‘Man, I’d like to do that just one time,’” said Barcol, who will fight next Saturday in the 140-pound weight class. “I know I’m getting old, but I’d like to do it one time. James Corbett, he is so generous. He doesn’t even go to our church but he knows the vision that we have. I kind of just went out and asked him and said, ‘I’ll fight if it all goes to the church.’ And he was like, ‘Let’s do it.’”

As a Sambo fighter, which is a Russian style of martial arts and combat training without weapons, Barcol competed in the 1988 championships, where he set the tournament record by winning by armbar in 18 seconds. He finished sixth in the world.

“Sambo you’ll hear every once and a while in (the Ultimate Fighting Championship),” Barcol said. “That is my biggest experience for the fight. Sambo is a lot like Brazilian jiu jitsu; a little MMA and judo combined.”

Barcol’s appearance in the 1988 World Championships followed up his appearance on the 1987 USA National Team, where he competed for a World Cup in Morocco.

“I was 18 and it was a senior event, meaning 21 and up,” Barcol said. “So I was the youngest person to win a match at the World Cup.”

Following his sixth place finish in the ’88 World Championships, Barcol never competed again. He got married, had children and, as he put it, gained some weight.

“I went years without even walking around the block,” Barcol said. “I turned 40 and I just noticed that the simple things would wear me out. I’d start breathing heavy and I said, ‘I’ve got to do something.’”

So, unsatisfied with his physical appearance and his well-being, Barcol joined Crossfit, an elite fitness center located in the ValNorth Complex. He is nearing his fourth year of membership.

Barcol says he works out for at least an hour a day, five days a week, and that he is in some of the best shape of his life.

Immediately upon beginning his workouts at Crossfit, Barcol dropped 35 pounds in the first three months, thanks largely because of his new fitness regimen and his new healthy eating habits, which he says he still stays true to these days.

He kept with the workouts and his training at Crossfit, eventually taking over as the leader of occasional morning workouts.

“I’m a very competitive person,” Barcol said. “I love to compete and that is one of the reasons why I thrive in here. But the competitiveness is, I think, what has helped me to stay consistent in my training.”

Since making the decision to participate in Winter Heat, Barcol has been working out with a private MMA fighter in Valdosta, along with training at Crossfit.

“I’ve been practicing privately with a guy, Kamrin Naville,” Barcol said. “He has fought in all these local fights. He has like 50 fights under his belt. So when I decided to do it, I just thought of who was the best person around, and I just took him out to lunch and asked him for some help.”

With Naville’s assistance along with his Sambo experience, Barcol said that he feels confident in next Saturday’s fight against Meacham.

But as for his plan inside the ring?

“I don’t have a lot of experience standing up and fighting, but I’d like to,” Barcol said. “I’m real confident in wrestling and scrambling, so I feel like if I have to take him down I can. I feel like I can take down anyone in my weight and it would be hard to take me down.”

While Barcol wants to leave his bout victorious, the ultimate reason for next Saturday is the money that will help benefit his church.

With the money that is raised through Bud Light Winter Heat, which is set for a 6 p.m. start on Jan. 26, Barcol said the House of Joy will be able to build a community center.

“It is awesome because I know (James) gets what we are doing,” Barcol said. “He knows our heart is to reach un-church people, and I think he wants to see us succeed.”

Through the community center, House of Joy, which currently meets Sundays at 11 a.m. at Valwood School, will have a permanent residence in Valdosta, which will allow more opportunity to help benefit community members.

“When we moved here 10 years ago, we moved here just to start the church,” Barcol said. “We’ve been in temporary facilities for the last four to six years. We have property and at the end of last year we just went through a big building campaign, and we have some property on Park Avenue next to JL Newbern Middle School. All this (Bud Light Winter Heat) is going towards the building.

“We don’t want to just build a church. Inside our church, we call it a community center. This is a building that all kinds of groups will be able to use. We want this to be something that the whole community can be in.”

Along with serving as the pastor at House of Joy, Barcol has also assisted in competitive cheerleading at the YMCA and Lowndes — he was a cheerleader in college at Morehead State — and he now coaches varsity wrestling at Valwood.