Anchorage man prepares for second UFC fight

Mike Nesper
Josh Hedges

Andy Enz, a 2010 Service High graduate, started wrestling at age 4. At 14, he began jiu-jitsu. When he was 17, he won four straight boxing matches at Thursday Night at the Fights.

Six months before he turned 18, Enz had found a way to use all of those combat sports -- he made his mixed martial arts debut with the Alaska Fighting Championship as a high school senior.

"It was destiny," said Enz, who signed a four-fight deal last year with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's largest MMA promotion.

Enz, 22, will step into a UFC octagon for the second time June 28 against Marcelo Guimaraes in San Antonio, Texas.

Enz, 8-1, lost his UFC debut to Clint Hester on Feb. 1. At the time, he stressed about the outcome of a fight. Now, he has a new mindset.

"I'm only looking at this as, 'I'm going to win,'" he said. "I will leave with my hand raised."

Enz credited his coach, John Crouch, with instilling a "primal" approach to his fights. Crouch is the head coach at the MMA LAB in Arizona, where Enz has been living and training since February. There, he trains alongside UFC veterans.

"It's great to see how all these guys train and how they carry themselves," he said. "I know what I have to do to be champion one day."

His regiment includes vigorous training six days a week, two to three times a day. Train. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

It's the best job in the world despite constant soreness and a perpetual black eye, Enz said.

"I get to live my dream," he said.

Enz started his athletic career as a youngster with the Cook Inlet Grizzlies Wrestling Club. He took fourth place at the Class 4A state high school wrestling tournament at 215 pounds in his senior year.

Enz learned to box from his dad, Russ, who served as a training partner for Anchorage boxers like Abel Perry, who fought professionally in the Lower 48.

"He was really good about not pressuring me into it," Enz said. "He taught me to love the sport."

Enz won the AFC middleweight title at 19, and in 2012, he was one of 32 fighters selected for The Ultimate Fighter reality show on FX. He was eliminated after losing his first fight to Uriah Hall -- the show's runner-up who now fights in the UFC -- but he earned respect in the MMA world for his performance in that fight, especially after it was learned Enz continued to fight despite breaking his arm early in the bout.

Once a fighter steps into the cage, it's a one-on-one battle, and Enz said he thrives under that type of pressure.

"It's a big check of heart and work ethic," he said. "I don't think there's a more competitive sport out there."

Crouch said Enz, his youngest pro fighter, has improved since his last fight and is expecting a better result next Saturday.

"He's hungry to get better," Crouch said. "I love that quality in any fighter, and Andy has that."

At 6-foot-3, Enz has two inches on his opponent. Both men weigh 185 pounds. Guimaraes, of Brazil, has a black belt in jiu-jitsu and a record of 8-1-1. Enz is eight years younger than his 30-year-old opponent -- which is nothing new for him.

"I've always had to fight grown men," he said.

The Enz-Guimaraes bout is one of four preliminary fights on the card, which is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. ADT and will air nationally on FOX Sports 1 (GCI cable channel 41). Featherweights Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens will square off in a five-round fight in the main event.

Enz has two more UFC fights on his contract, but his coach suspects he will have plenty more after that.

"To be this young and have this much upside is pretty exciting," Crouch said.

Bob Grunder, owner of Gracie Barra Alaska, where Enz learned jiu-jitsu, described Enz the same way his current coach does: a hard worker.

"He's humble and lovable," Grunder said. "And tough as nails."

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335.

 


By MIKE NESPER
mnesper@adn.com