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Cage fight contender

Southbridge man has MMA stardom in mind

George Papoutsidis, of Southbridge, pulls in the bands on the nautilus machine as he works out in the weight room of the YMCA on Everett Street. Shawn Kelley. (click for larger version)
August 05, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE – Southbridge's own George Papoutsidis is a confident man. He's also big, strong, athletic, flexible and agile, all great qualities for one about to make a cage fighting debut.

"Last year I said (cage fighting is) something I'm going to work on," the 47-year-old Papoutsidis said at his home-away-from-home, the Tri-Community YMCA of Southbridge. "I like a challenge. If you don't challenge yourself in life, then what the hell are you doing? I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I don't smoke, I don't go out. For me, (training) is 24/7. This is my life right now, and I'm going to make the best of it."

But Papoutsidis hasn't always been on the fast track to cage fighting. In fact, September 2008 was his return to the gym after a six-year fallout.

"I didn't devote myself 180 percent," he explained. "About a year ago in September I made a commitment to myself. I said I'm getting into the cage fighting."

Papoutsidis certainly has the size and strength, as he stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs between 275-280 pounds. He is able to squat 700 pounds and bench press another 495.

Papoutsidis is also an amazing athlete, as the 1980 Southbridge High graduate played four years of baseball and basketball, plus another three years of soccer. Then, heading into his senior year, he made a switch from soccer to football.

It was a good move, as the placekicker received Division 1 scholarships and spent one year at the University of Mississippi kicking field goals.

Because of the apparent racism, Papoutsidis said he left Ole Miss and joined a junior college in New York, and then played two more years of football at UMass-Amherst.

And now the cage fighting experience is a whole new chapter in Papoutsidis' life. He talked with a promoter in Cage Fighting Xtreme and visited a show August 1 in Brockton.

Now he awaits his Sept. 12 fight, his inaugural match, which is to be held at the MPLEX building in Mansfield.

"I don't fear anybody," Papoutsidis said of the upcoming competition. "I never have in my life, and it's not going to start now."

Joel Arpin, a friend of Papoutsidis, believes his buddy will fare quite well in the octagon.

"He has a very good chance at going national very shortly," Arpin said. "He's been working out for the past year. The guy's a monster."

Papoutsidis does all of his training at the YMCA, as he has become a fixture in the building.

"You can't beat this place," he said. "The YMCA has been here since 1970, it's the best thing going. These people (work staff) are awesome. They'll help anybody."

The Y doesn't have a fighting area or a skilled mixed martial arts trainer. It doesn't matter to Papoutsidis, though.

"I haven't been in a cage to wrestle in," he admitted. "But it doesn't matter. I can do it all. You have to have a certain mentality. I'm going to become famous and make a lot of money in this sport. It's just going to take time."

Papoutsidis, as well as many MMA supporters, hopes that by next spring cage fighting will become an officially sanctioned sport in Massachusetts, as the dream of fighting on television and making money can become a reality.

"This is the fastest growing sport in America," Papoutsidis said.

And as the sport grows, he is quite confident he will succeed and hopefully bring a whole community on his back.

"I'm going to make this whole area famous," Papoutsidis said of the town he was born and raised in. "Not only am I fighting for myself, but I'm fighting for everybody around here."

He hopes people of all ages will look at him and say, "If George can do it, I can do it."

And in the meantime Papoutsidis will continue training at the YMCA, waiting for the magical day of Sept. 12.

"I'm busting my [butt]," he said. "What I've done the last 11 months, there isn't anybody in this country that has worked out as hard as I have."

Papoutsidis thinks confidence is one of the keys in becoming a successful cage fighter, and the man from Southbridge certainly has a lot of it. Add the brute size, strength, and athleticism to the equation and no one can count out the local man who had a dream and hopes to knock it out head on.

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