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BY ERIC MANN
They call him "The Matrix," but he's still known in Decatur as Evan DeLong, a graduate of Bellmont High School in 2007.
DeLong, 24, now of Fort Wayne, is in his fourth year as a professional fighter in mixed martial arts (MMA), with a pro record of 9-6 and a brief amateur record of 10-3.
The son of Dan DeLong of Decatur and Isabel Lehrman of rural Decatur will be the featured fighter this Friday, November 25, at Spiece Fieldhouse in Fort Wayne on a card that includes 12 other MMA bouts.
More than 1,000 fans are expected to view the Friday night fights in the first MMA events at the popular Spiece site, 5310 Merchandise Dr.
Combat will commence at 8 p.m. and DeLong and his opponent, Keith Jasmantas, 25, of Kokomo, Indiana, should take to the ring about 11 p.m. There are five professional fights, four title bouts, and four top contender matches scheduled, says Bill Kilgore, a promoter of the event and a former MMA battler who fought under the nickname of "Hollywood."
Kilgore, a native of Columbia City who began his MMA years at age 36 after 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps (including tours of duty in Iraq and Somalia), calls MMA "a combat sport," but notes that it is safer than boxing because "it gives you options" to either strike with arms or legs or else to avoid such sharp contact by engaging in wrestling. Boxing, he says, is "more traumatic" because the only weapons a boxer has are his or her gloved fists.
At present, DeLong has a fulltime job in the construction industry at Fort Wayne.