Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: Orthodox Rabbi Becomes Mixed Martial Arts Fighter in California



An Orthodox Jewish rabbi from Encinitas, California hadn't thrown a punch in his life until he wanted to enter an amateur Mixed Martial Arts fight.

Yossi Eilfort's journey began  when he joined forces with MMA fighter and judo specialist Thierry Sokudju of Cameroon and started training at Team Quest Gym in Encinitas.

"I never thought that a rabbi would be interested in fighting," said Sokudju. "But I was stoked. He never quits."

Eilfort had 12 years of Krav Maga experience, a self-defense system developed for military in Israel, but wanted more experience with mixed martial arts fighting.

Eilfort trained nearly every day while balancing his duties at Chabad at La Costa. He also trained on Fridays during the fasting period, but had to forego a last round of preparation for Shabbat.

The 22-year-old entered his first bout at Mansion Fights in a historic North Hollywood house and used the simple moniker "The Rabbi." Before entering the octagon, he watched as a previous fighter was wheeled out on a gurney.

Twenty friends, family and congregation members were on hand to see him swiftly take down his opponent. Eilfort won in the second round by TKO.

"It was very uncomfortable hitting someone," said Eilfort. "I actually held back, but I proved what I wanted."


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