By MATT PARRINO
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Jesse Plotner wasn't always a physical specimen. In fact, at one time he tipped the scale at about 365 pounds.
That's before he found Victoty MMA and started training to be a fighter.
Today Plotner, set to compete in the main event of Saturday night's TNT event in North Tonawanda, weighs in at an amazing 240 pounds, evidence of a life that now revolves around training. He works out three times a day and trains his boxing, jiu-jitsu, muay thai and mma spars three times a week.
"I just like training. It's always been a goal of mine to be in better shape," Plotner said after losing 125 pounds in a year and a half. "My goal is to just always keep losing more weight. Training is the part I enjoy the most out of everything. The fighting is just where I get to display everything I learned."
In recent years, mixed martial arts has been infused with tons of talented wrestlers. They have an advantage in the sport simply because of their experience in controlling their opponent and their ability to dictate where a fight goes — on the feet or on the ground.
Plotner wrestled at Tonawanda High School and was a Section IV runner up in his senior season. He didn't have any ambition to wrestle in college so he set out to find his calling after he graduated. When his brother Cody Plotner, who's also fighting on the card, returned from the Marines in 2007, he introduced Plotner to weightlifting and the rest is history.
"You get out (of wrestling) and you're out a few years and some people are just competitive. Then you get that itch and you want to get back into it," Plotner said. "I started doing grappling tournaments and I just wanted to compete ... Now working out is my life.
"I started when my brother Cody — who's also fighting on the card — started training. He told me he liked it and he was dropping weight, and that was one of my goals, to lose weight. I started with jiujitsu and I loved it, so I just kept doing more from there. I went to Muay Thai, boxing, and then I wanted to fight. This is going to be my third fight and I'm hoping to keep moving forward."
Plotner said the best way to describe his addiction to the gym is simply that it's become his lifestyle. While some people watch movies or play video games, he trains. But he was quick to point out that his love affair with MMA and his training regimen isn't just a hobby — it's who he is.
Erik Herbert, the head trainer at Victory, has been working with Plotner ever since he started training at the gym and said he's the hardest working amateur at Victory.
"He's an animal," Herbert said. "He's a power lifter, a cardio guy and a technique guy. He comes in here and he spars well. I remember his first MMA fight, he was like 290 cutting down to 265. Now he's going to make 240 pounds, so he's the ideal person to have on the team. He's like an assistant coach even, because he helps a lot. He's scary good and he's the real deal."
Plotner works as a maintenance man during the day so he can focus on training at night. He recently took first place at the Hayastan New York State Grappling Tournament where he defeated everyone in his weight class and then moved on to win a total of seven matches, taking the Absolute Championship.
Herbert said Plotner's progression has been off the charts because of his dedication and work ethic. He came into the gym with the solid wrestling base but has quickly built himself into a multi-skilled fighter.
Plotner is 2-0 and both wins have come by submission.
"As far as submitting an opponent with arm bars, chokes, leg locks or triangles — (those are) learned techniques. He didn't know any of that a year and a half ago," Herbert said. "It's hard to not get good if you're doing it every day and that goes for anything."
Plotner said every day isn't a picnic, but when you want something bad enough you find a way to make it happen.
"Some days it's harder than others, but on those days I drag myself here because the guys that want to be good are going to put the time in every day," he said. "I want to know when I go into a fight I've done everything I could have done to be 100 percent ready."MAIN EVENT PREVIEW: Jesse Plotner vs Keith Haubner @Body agate: This matchup pits Plotner, a wrestler, against Haubner, a striker. Haubner likes to keep the fight standing and he's been known to throw punches in bunches. In his first few fights, Plotner attempted a takedown right away to try and get the fight to the ground, but Erik Herbert, Plotner's trainer, said to expect more patience out of the 240-pounder. Plotner is thrilled to be performing in the main event in front of a home town crowd. "To headline the event is a huge honor but I'm more excited because it's the first time my brother (Cody) and I are going to get to fight on the same card," Plotner said. "We're going to get to fight in front of our family and friends right here in our hometown. It's going to be great." No matter where the fight goes, Plotner said he feels comfortable in any situation. He's hoping to use his standup a little more this fight to show off his improved boxing. Herbert said Plotner is definitely ready for the opportunity. "His confidence is as high as it's been," Herbert said. "It's growing because he can see his own progression. He's literally getting better every day."