OCEANSIDE, Calif. - With the aggressive and physical nature of Marines, it is no surprise some compete in Mixed Martial Arts. The sport is growing in popularity, but not everyone has the mental and physical fortitude to step in the ring for a full contact fight.
Lance Cpl. Oscar Kush, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, doesn't have that problem.
Kush, a native of Chicago, started his training for MMA during January and has a record of two wins and zero losses.
"I've always wanted to strive for greatness," Kush said. "Anything I've ever done, I always wanted to be the best that I could."
Kush's passion to be the best started four years ago when he chose to join the Marine Corps. He wanted a challenge and to be a part of the toughest branch of the military, he said.
During Kush's four years in the Marine Corps, he deployed with a Marine Expeditionary Unit and to Afghanistan.
When Kush returned home from Afghanistan, he realized he missed competitive sports. He started searching for gyms that offered wrestling. This led him to the owner and head coach of The Compound MMA and Fitness in Oceanside, Calif., Sean Loeffler.
He told him he would like to compete in wrestling.
"He said, 'Yeah, you can just wrestle here, but don't you want to learn even more?' I said, 'I might as well,'" Kush said.
Even though MMA was not pure wrestling he originally searched for, he enjoyed the challenge of mixing strikes and kicks. He continued to train and improve his fighting skills with Loeffler. After a month of MMA training, Loeffler knew it was time for Kush to fight in an amateur match.
"I walked into the gym one day and I thought I would check out who's fighting and show support for the team I joined," Kush said. "I looked at the board of competitors and I saw my name on it. I said to Loeffler, 'Why is my name on there?' He said, 'You're fighting tonight.' So I did it, and I knocked him out in 12 seconds."
The challenges Kush faced in the Marine Corps helps him during fights and in training. Being an infantryman can be stressful, but learning to overcome that stress helped him overcome the hardships of being an MMA fighter.
"Things get hard in MMA just like they get hard in the Marine Corps," Kush said. "When someone's on a hike and they want to quit is like when they're in the cage and they want to quit. I can't quit though, I want to win."
Kush's dedication to MMA comes from his dedication to the Marine Corps. He is a hard worker, not afraid to get his hands dirty and stays out of trouble, said Sgt. Jason Lomeli, a section leader with Weapons Co., 1st Bn, 1st Marines.
"He's committed to his job," said Lomeli, a native of Crown Point, Ind. "He shows that by teaching the junior Marines how to do their job better so everyone knows exactly what their doing to accomplish the mission."
Fighting is not the only thing that makes Kush a good person. He's good natured, laid back and he makes friends easily, Lomeli said.
"When you look at him, he looks big and mean, but once you start talking to him, you're going to make a good friend," Lomeli said.
For Kush to come as far in his fighting abilities as he has, one of the most important things he needed was a personal trainer. It is essential to trust the coach 100 percent while he's in the cage and do exactly what the coach says, Kush said. He credits his coaches for his success in fighting.
"My father passed away when I was young, so my coaches are the ones who made me what I am. I owe them everything for it," Kush said.
Kush trains with his coaches on his personal time away from his duties in the Marine Corps. On a normal day he arrives at The Compound at 5:30 p.m. and trains for three hours a day. The training consist of Muay Thai, Jujitsu, wrestling, boxing, cardio conditioning and mixed martial arts spread throughout the week.
Kush wants to be an MMA champion and is set on making that goal a reality.
"I want to be the best," Kush said. "I firmly believe with all my heart if I put my time and effort into it, I could easily accomplish what I want to do. I want to be the best."
Kush is scheduled for another professional fight next month. His coaches are positive he will win the match and eventually be an MMA champion.