Old Forge has a long tradition of producing great fighters dating back several generations and today as the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) grows Old Forge is producing some of the top amateur fighters in the area.
Four Triboro-area fighters will compete in PA Cage Fight 15 on Friday, Feb. 15, at The Woodlands Inn in Wilkes-Barre at 7 p.m. Sean Oliveri, Bill Bidwell, Brandon Dolan and Matt Erfman are fighting in the cage and all four fighters train at Balanced Combat in Old Forge.
"We are from Old Forge, the gym is in Old Forge, the fighters are from Old Forge and all of the trainers are from Old Forge," said Joe Anastasi owner and chief trainer at Balanced Combat. "When you think of where all the fighters are from, places like Allentown and Philadelphia, our club will be one of the most represented clubs on the card."
Having a training facility in Old Forge is unique. All of the trainers are considered experts in their skills and are either Old Forge natives or have made their homes there.
Johnny Roland, Sal Diaz, Al Cleary and Anastasi are all respected trainers who love the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and use their skills to teach young fighters how to be complete fighters. They combine to teach skills such as boxing, wrestling and various forms of martial arts.
The solid development of young fighters is shown in the work they have done with Oliveri, who is considered one of the top amateur fighters in the area. He has a record of 3-1 and is on his way to turning professional. He will take on Anthony McGlynn of Tri-State MMA.
"Sean is 3-1 and after this fight or the fight after he will turn professional," Anastasi said. "After these two fights it will be hard to match him up, because nobody wants to fight him. It is difficult to match up because the state athletic commission looks at records, they will only put someone against someone with a comparable record or they won't make the match."
Oliveri has stated his goal is to be a professional fighter. He is very dedicated to his craft and often trains at Balanced Combat following days of physical labor, in order to complete this goal.
"I feel really good about it and confident," Oliveri said of his training. "I have some improvements to make. I have to get down here a little longer during the day."
Bidwell is 1-1 so far in his young career and he is also a very hard working fighter, who continues to improve. Bidwell will square off with James LaJoie.
Dolan is 1-0 so far and Anastasi said he has no holes in his game and is expecting his reputation to grow. Dolan will enter the cage against an opponent yet to be determined.
Erfman is making his debut at this match. He is from Duryea and plans to join the Air Force. He wrestled at Pittston Area and the 19-year-old wants to have a fight under his belt before he goes off to basic training a few weeks later. Although this will be his first MMA fight, he will take on Sam Senuk, a person he wrestled against in high school.
"My basics came from wresting," Erfman said. "I love the sport and these guys have helped me a lot and showed me a different sport, a different mind set."
Balanced Combat plans to offer free lessons open to the public on Saturdays soon after the fight card ends. Lessons will be about topics like introduction to MMA and self defense.