It isn’t often that a bout on an amateur fight card can generate a buzz due to name recognition, but as fight fans prepare for Front Street Fights 9 at CenturyLink Arena on August 12th, there are two early battles that will get plenty of attention due to a common last name.
The Peel Brothers.
“We’re not really known as Chase and Rob, we’re known as the Peel Brothers.”
Older brother Robert and younger brother Chase have lived mixed martial arts from a young age thanks to their father Joe Peel, who has run a martial arts school in Boise called Free Style Defensive Arts for over 20 years. The 33 year-old Robert and 25 year-old Chase say their introduction to martial arts came when they were four and five years old, and it’s been a family team ever since.
“We both grew up learning martial arts from our dad. This is something we share together and it’s a pivotal part of our relationship,” said Robert, who carries a 1-1 amateur record into FSF9. “I think it’s probably made us the best brothers that siblings could possibly be.”
“If we had any arguments growing up, we had a gym and some gloves to take it out with,” added Chase, whose amateur record is 3-2. “We’re pretty nice to each other now and we never have any spats between us, but it’s definitely created a bond that I think is much stronger than most.”
With the same coach molding them in their youth, these Boise brothers have developed similarly as fighters. Both fighters are karate based and both fighters train and spar together. Yet while they have much in common inside the cage, their exposure to other fighters has also given them the opportunity not only to work together in the mold of their father, but also to teach each other something new.
“Sometimes we feel like it’s like fighting your mirror image. But during our time at SBG we’ve been able to develop our own style. We’ve been picking up things from people we’d never trained with before and coaches that have never coached us before,” said Chase. “So we’ve been able to branch off and develop new styles so that when we go together we are doing different things.”
Robert likes to think that, as older brother, he still gets the better of Chase in the majority of their one-on-one scraps. With a smile, he added he wasn’t sure that was the case anymore.
It’s part of the team mentality these brothers bring to the gym with them every day. In a sport where athletes are literally risking their safety to compete, the bond between two brothers is special and unique. All fighters want to see their comrades from the gym succeed, but this mutual interest exceeds that of normal teammates.
In the cage they will stand alone, but outside the cage they have a common goal and a common interest in not just their success, but the success of the family as a whole.
“I remember being in the back because he fought before me and I’m trying to stay warmed up and focus on my own fight. I wanted to go watch him fight but I didn’t,” said Chase referring to when he and Robert both competed at Rage in the Cage 6 and 7. “I feel like that’s kind of hard in its own right. But usually we’re both in the same mentality in the back warming up together and stretching each other out.”
That was a long time ago. Robert hasn’t competed in the cage since Rage in the Cage 7 back in August 2013, after recovering from a significant ankle surgery. Chase has not fought since February 2014 as he contemplated fighting in a different weight class.
“It was a gnarly surgery and it took me out for over a year. I couldn’t walk for six months,” said Robert. “But now I’m bouncing around like a ninja out there.”
Now both return to action together, with Robert facing Michael Garcia and Chase meeting Paul Crawford. The Peels hope a good showing on their home turf in Boise can springboard their MMA careers.
“It’s been a while for both of us and this is a big moment for us to get back into it and build up momentum again. I think the goal for both of us is to turn pro relatively soon,” said Chase. ”We want to get in and take these fights and see how they go. If we have to make adjustments, we will.”
It’s an important next step in the growth of the Peel fight family, and there is a local following of young fighters that will be excited to see them back in the game.
“I think that fuels our appeal a bit,” said Robert. “We’re the sons of Joe Peel and we’re both MMA fighters, and I like to think we’re pretty tough guys.”
And let’s not forget the fourth member of the family, Gina Peel, Robert and Chase’s mother.
“She can be a little anxious when it comes to us fighting, but she’s our biggest fan and supports us so much,” said Robert with a laugh. “But she does have a bit of a hard time watching her sons get punched in the face.”
Like her sons, she’s tough enough to handle it. After all, she’s a black belt.