As the calendar turns to May, the average high school senior is preparing for finals and getting ready for graduation. Noah Shultz is not your average high-schooler.
At 18 years old, Noah Shultz is in the final phases of training for his first amateur mixed-martial arts fight at Front Street Fights 12, presented by Bodybuilding.com. When Shultz does step into the cage against opponent Justin McCormack, he will be the youngest competitor ever inside the CenturyLink Arena cage.
“I knew I was going to be one of the youngest, but I didn’t know I was going to be the youngest. I think it’s awesome,” said Shultz, who has trained at SBG Idaho since he was a young boy. “I’m really excited to be the youngest fighter for Front Street Fights and to give a little bit of young blood to the organization.”
While his experience inside the cage is nonexistent, Shultz certainly has a solid resume for his age that has led him to this moment. He has wrestled in high school and has trained and competed in Jiu-Jitsu since his youth, taking part in the SBG kids’ program. Shultz has impressed in Jiu-Jitsu competitions, what he considers his strongest fighting skill, even earning the fastest tap-out at the 2014 Oregon Open. He already serves as an instructor at SBG Idaho, teaching Kids MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
With the success and experience that have come with his youth endeavors, Noah has been patiently waiting for his 18th birthday and his opportunity to compete in a different kind of bout, one that captured his interest when his brother showed him UFC videos at a young age.
“I got into it because my brother introduced me to Anderson Silva and I thought, ‘I have to do this, it’s amazing,” said Shultz. “I started doing jiu-jitsu competitions when I was pretty young after I’d started training. When I got into high school I started wrestling. That’s all I’ve done competitively.”
It’s important to have coaches and mentors you trust when preparing for any fight, let alone your first, and Shultz has the advantage of having worked for years with a stable of experienced Front Street Fights regulars from SBG. Shultz credits his boxing coach Kameron Moore and Jiu-Jitsu coach Michael Ransom, two men who have helped him transition from practicing techniques to situational training.
“I’m blessed to train under the best team in Idaho, and maybe in the Northwest. My coaches and teammates are so experienced and they’ve been really helpful in walking me through the process,” said Shultz. “It’s basically more training and doing more of the team practices. It’s doing live drills where I’m starting in bad positions or I’m using the cage. The only thing that’s changed is my diet a bit, and I’ve done a bit more lifting and running.”
Shultz will have the benefit of making his MMA debut in front of family and friends in his home town, certainly a comfort for any first-timer preparing to square off with grown men. He’ll also have the thrill of making his debut in the company of two men he has idolized throughout his life of training, sharing a fight card with two of his most trusted counselors.
“Jesse Brock was my head coach when I started as a little kid and he’s taught me everything I know. I look up to him in a lot of ways because he is the hardest working man I know,” said Shultz. “Matt Jones is an awesome mentor to me. I see what he does in the gym and the work he puts in, and the impact he has made on Idaho MMA. I want to follow in his footsteps.”
Brock will be competing in the Main Event for the Bantamweight Title against Noah Ali, while Matt Jones will fight Carson Frei.
Shultz says he has focused on himself in the weeks leading up to his fight, saying all he knows about his opponent is his name, age, and the city out of which he fights. Shultz is ready to go against the 24-year old McCormack, but there is more to accomplish than just winning.
Outside of the results of the fight, it’s easy to understand how the opportunity for the young amateur is just plain cool. Shultz talks about getting more eyes on MMA among Idaho kids his age, with a handful of classmates that will be in the crowd attending their first MMA event. While playing the role of competitor and ambassador, Shultz will also stand in front of thousands to compete at CenturyLink Arena.
“This is definitely going to be the biggest crowd I’ve competed in front of and I’m really excited for it. I want to showcase my skills to a big audience like this,” said Shultz. “I’m thankful that I’m fighting in a big organization like Front Street Fights, and I’m thankful that I’m in Boise.”
Not a bad way to wrap up the school year.