The persona a student athlete is known for in high school often doesn’t carry over into his adult career choice.
Such is the case with Heath Bebout who during his high school year, which culminated with his graduation from PHS in 1999, participated in track and field and cross country rather than any of the so-called contact sports.
Today, however, long distance running has taken a back seat to mixed martial arts or cage fighting.
Currently Bebout is a promoter and owner of All Powers Combat, a Valley firm that promotes MMA bouts around the state.
In scheduling events, Bebout has taken a special interest in his hometown of Payson and has on the All Powers fighting agenda a bout slated for Saturday, Nov. 17 in the Tonto Apache Gymnasium on the reservation south of Payson.
Doors open at 4 p.m. and fighting begins an hour later.
Bebout says the competition will feature at least 30 total fights, most of which will be three rounds of three minutes each.
Bebout is confident the fights will be a hit, “This is really good stuff.”
He also anticipates the event will draw a full house, mostly because of past successes of local MMA fights.
General admission tickets are $30 and cage-side seating ducats are $50.
Among the fighters on the upcoming event card, are Payson’s Randy Steinke and Waylon Quotskuyva.
Steinke, owner of the Triangle Academy in Payson, turned pro in 2008 after signing a contract with the California firm of Fight Legion, Inc.
The same year he became a professional, Steinke won the Rage in the Cage lightweight (155 pounds) championship at a competition in Prescott.
In the Payson event, Steinke will be paired against Imani Jackson.
Quotskuyva, who has lost only once in his career, will take on Doug Jackson in a light-heavyweight title fight.
During Bebout’s years promoting MMA events in Payson, he managed to convince several other PHS graduates to compete including Nolan Blaylock, Larry Wilbanks, Junior Tennin, Rodney Burba, Josh Quotskuyva and R.C. LaHaye. Former Rim Country Middle School and PHS student Taylor Walden also once competed.
In founding All Powers Combat about six years ago, Bebout teamed with Wyatt Shepherd, now a Queen Creek resident.
Shepherd once owned and operated the Pankration Martial Arts School in Payson.
While in Payson, Shepherd earned a black belt in Pankration — a sport he defines as “a discipline in which jujitsu and judo form the core of the program.”
It is also a hybrid martial arts system that uses techniques from various arts including Muay Thai kickboxing, grappling, karate, taekwondo and kung fu.
Bebout, also a student of Pankration who specializes in jujitsu, expects some of the fighters entered in the Payson competition to use Pankration skills, tactics, strategies and techniques.
Bebout says he was motivated to host an MMA tournament in Payson because there have been shows held locally that were not up to snuff.
“They just weren’t good ones, which drove me to do this,” he said. “We are going to have a very good event with some good fighters, some professionals, and others on the cusp of turning pro.”
Mixed martial arts has its roots in contests that took place in the early 1900s in Japan and Europe.
The combat sport became a rage in the United States in about 1993 after being introduced by the Gracie family.
The sport was then called Vale Tudo and was developed in Brazil in the 1920s.
Using Brazilian jujitsu, Royce Gracie won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, whipping a trio of opponents in five minutes.
That win ignited the popularity of martial arts in the United States.
Originally, there were minimal rules, but later promoters adopted standards aimed at increasing fighters’ safety and generating public acceptance of a full contact sport that can turn brutal prompting some to cry for banishment.
In 2008, a law went into effect that affected the way MMA competitions could be conducted. For the first time in the state, it allowed mixed martial arts fighters to elbow their opponents, knee them in the head or punch them in the face while they are on the ground.
Then-governor, Janet Napolitano signed House Bill 2834 into law after lawmakers passed it by an overwhelming margin.
Then Republican Rep. Jonathan Paton, the bill’s sponsor, argued that the legislation would allow Arizona to host mixed martial arts contests like those seen on pay television.
The new law means that Arizona’s MMA rules are now similar to those used in New Jersey, Nevada and other states.
Ken Shamrock, a martial arts legend and hall of famer, threw his support behind passage of the bill.