MMA: Fighter Auctions LeBron James Ball to Raise Money for Brazil Training Trip

Jeff D GormanSenior Writer INovember 10, 2011

John Cook (center) and crew at the Evolve MMA fundraiser
John Cook (center) and crew at the Evolve MMA fundraiser

Mixed martial artists often travel abroad to hone their skills, but it can get expensive. So, an Ohio MMA gym put together a raffle to raise money to send fighter Doug Kulbis to continue his training in Brazil.

Evolve MMA, located between Medina and Akron, Ohio, tried to give him a boost by raffling off MMA and sports-related merchandise.

A LeBron James-signed basketball was the hot-ticket item at the raffle, which also included a hotel stay, tattoo services, artwork, a Fox Sports Ohio fun pack, a mini-golf gift certificate and a membership to train at Evolve.

Kulbis put himself on the map by winning the 2009 North American Amateur Fighting Series (NAAFS) 145-pound tournament.

After winning the amateur tournament, Kulbis turned pro in March 2010. He lost his pro debut to Brandon Hance, but came back in the summer to defeat Brandon Inskeep via rear naked choke.

That win earned him a spot on NAAFS Night of Champions 2010, where he lost a unanimous decision to Kevin Rothacker.

“That was one of the best, most exciting fights I’ve ever been in,” Kulbis said.

Kulbis bounced back again on May 21 of this year, evening his pro mark at 2-2 with another rear-naked choke submission, this time over Andrew Huffman.

“I try to be well-rounded, but I would say I’m more ground-oriented,” he said. “I worked on my skills as a Marine in boxing and wrestling, and here at Evolve I’ve been able to take it to the next level.”

Kulbis has been working with Mario Micale, Brandon Pondexter and kickboxing ace Ryan “The Lion” Madigan, who competed at UFC 96.

“I feel like my stand-up is coming along,” Kulbis said. “I feel like I have the confidence to keep the fight standing as well as taking it to the ground.”

That confidence will grow if the plans for the Brazil trip come to fruition.

Evolve MMA founder John Cook has been running his gym for 12 years. In addition to Madigan, his training staff includes two-time Penn State All-American wrestler Clint Musser and former national judo champion Andrew Law.

Cook said he may the oldest active fighter in Ohio, with a 2-0 record at the age of 42.

For more information on Evolve MMA, call (330) 329-2692 or go to