Kickboxing is a combat sport that takes every ounce of an athlete’s strength, determination and energy to compete at the highest level.
No one knows that better than Adam Poore, a three-time World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) U.S. champion and member of Team USA Kickboxing.
“You train extremely hard and you feel your body getting better, little by little,” said 29-year-old Poore, who also goes by the nickname “‘WAR’ Adam Poore.” “It’s really challenging, but the feeling of accomplishment you experience after you win a fight is like no other. All of the work you put into it comes through and finally pays off. And you are standing there in the ring with your hands raised. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Poore hopes to once again experience such success when he competes with WAKO’s Team USA against Team Australia on Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Miller Theater in downtown Augusta.
The Miller will host two kickboxing events in one day, starting with the WAKO Stars & Stripes National Tournament from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. followed by the main kickboxing event, Team USA versus Team Australia, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 25.
For Poore, it will be a unique experience fighting in Augusta because he rarely competes in locations close to home.
“For most of my fights, I have been the athlete who’s from out of town — in fact, I’ve been the athlete who’s been from out of the country,” said Poore, who grew up in Aiken, S.C. “I have fought in Ireland, Canada, Serbia, Budapest, Hungary, Brazil and Argentina. I’ve fought in all these different places, but I’ve never fought in Augusta before, so I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome.”
Another local kickboxer who is anxious to step into the ring is 54-year-old Zack Day, an International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) professional U.S. champion.
That’s right. At 54, Day says he’s more than ready to take on any competition in the ring.
“After about 30, age is just a number that you say,” Day said, laughing. “It’s how you take care of yourself and how you want to live, that’s all that really matters.”
Both Day and Poore are trainers at Greubel’s Mixed Martial Arts owned by Mark Greubel, the head coach for WAKO’s Team USA Kickboxing.
When you walk into Greubel’s for kickboxing, you immediately realize you’re competing among some of the sport’s best athletes in the country, Day said.
But despite training and fighting with athletes half his age, Day said he can still hold his own.
“Well, I was fighting all of these champions that we have at Greubel’s and even at some of the other schools and I’m handling them just fine, so even though I’m 54, I said, ‘What the heck. Let’s do it again,’” Day said. “This is kind of what I’ve always done. I’ve always been a fighter or a trainer, so it’s not that big of a deal to me. But I know a lot of people are excited to see me back in the ring because they like to watch me fight.”
Mark Greubel, who has trained 35 International Kickboxing Federations champs, has known Day for more than a decade and he has the deepest respect for him.
“He has always kind of been my hero,” Greubel said, smiling. “When you see Zack fight, it is just awe inspiring. He is tough as nails, he never gets tired, and he just never stops.”
The audience at The Miller better be prepared for a high-energy fight when Day enters the ring, Greubel said.
“It doesn’t matter who he fights or how skilled of an athlete are — they are in for a fight,” Greubel said. “They really have to pack a lunch to go fight this guy because it is going to be a long fight. He’s not going to give up.”
Day said he simply practices what he teaches people as a trainer at the gym.
“When some guys come in, looking around the gym, thinking about joining, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, well, I’m 45 now. I’m not sure what all I can do,’” Day said, chuckling. “And I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m 54, and I’m still competing. I have a 62-year-old guy that I train and a 59-year-old guy that I train, and they get in there with our 20-year-old and 30-year-old fighters. So, there is no age limit. That’s all in your head.’”
For those newcomers who have never seen a kickboxing tournament, Day said they are in for mind-blowing experience.
“The high level of competition that you are going to see — even in the daytime tournament, but especially at the night match — will be way above what you would normally see,” Day said. “Some people when they hear kickboxing, they will think of something like a karate competition, but it’s not even close to that kind of stuff. That’s the old, 1980s ‘Karate Kid’ kind of stuff. This is totally different.”
There will be some very intense matches for the audience to watch, Day said.
“Kickboxing is pretty brutal because we stay standing up. We don’t go to the ground, so it is non-stop action,” Day said. “And these are really good, top-level athletes. These are not just your Average Joes that get kind of beat up and run out of gas after one round. These guys will be going hard and lasting the whole time, which is not easy to do.”
Day also is excited about the fact that his 25-year-old son, Cody Day, will be competing in the Stars & Stripes National Tournament during the day.
“It’s pretty cool because I don’t know of many times that a father and son have fought on the same fight chart,” Zack Day said. “So, my son is actually fighting in his first sanctioned fight. Cody is a high-level competitor, but he just so happens to have not gotten into a sanctioned fight before now. He moved to Colorado and recently moved back, and now it’s going to happen.”
As Mark Greubel walked through his gym, going over the list of athletes who will be participating in the Stars & Stripes National Tournament and the main kickboxing event, he said he couldn’t be more proud of all of the local athletes competing.
“I have a very good, consistent track record of producing high-level fighters right here out of Augusta,” Greubel said. “I’m competing with folks in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and all of these other big cities, but we are still kicking everybody’s butt. So I want to put Augusta on the map with kickboxing. I have said that over and over and over for many, many years.”
In fact, Greubel said his goal is to one day bring the WAKO’s world championship kickboxing tournament to Augusta.
“WAKO has 250,000 active members globally from about 90 different countries,” Greubel said. “To give you a sense of how big these tournaments are, the Irish Open — which is a WAKO tournament, but it’s not even the world championship — it has 5,000 active participants. That’s 5,000 athletes coming to town, not including their coaches and family members. You are talking about bringing a small city to your town. So, that’s my goal for Augusta. I want to bring the world championship here.”
The World Association of Kickboxing Organizations is also currently working to try and get kickboxing approved as an
official Olympic sport, Greubel said.
“I have been working on this for more than a decade, but I’m hoping that by 2024, kickboxing will be an Olympic sport,” Greubel said. “It’s a massive undertaking. But I’m trying my hardest.”
Meanwhile, Greubel said he loves to see the local athletes grow and fully embrace kickboxing.
“Adam Poore has been training with me for about eight years, and his story is pretty remarkable,” Greubel said. “I always brag about him because he is the quintessential example of, ‘This could be you,’ because Adam used to weigh 250 pounds at 5 foot, 6 inches tall. And now he’s a three-time world champion and getting ready to fight at 140 pounds representing Team USA.”
Poore will be headlining the night fight at the Miller, Greubel said.
“I think Adam is going to put on a fantastic show,” Greubel said. “He is a very dynamic and spectacular kicker, and he has an endless gas tank. He’s really exciting and fun to watch.”
Poore is the first to admit that kickboxing has completely turned around his life.
“When I was 9 years old, I got into Taekwondo,” Poore said, just minutes after finishing a training session at the gym. “At the time, I liked martial arts and I was winning competitions and having fun doing it. But after I got my black belt, I lost interest in it.”
Not long after walking away from martial arts, Poore said he suddenly found himself at 20 years old weighing about 250 pounds.
“I got down on myself one day and finally said, ‘Hey, I’m going to lose this weight and get back into martial arts,’” Poore said. “At that time, I knew I wanted to lose the weight, but I also knew I wanted to fight again, but I didn’t really know where.”
At first, Poore began to train by himself and managed to drop about 50 pounds, but he knew he needed help in order to reach the next level.
“I was looking around for gyms and I saw Greubel’s,” Poore said. “I remember Mark had trained with my school back when I was younger taking Taekwondo. Before he owned Greubel’s, Mark would go around to all the different gyms like the boxing gym to train with his hands and at my Taekwondo school to challenge his legs.”
Poore soon realized that Greubel’s could help build him into a fighter.
“I was like, ‘This place has to be for real because I trained with Mark before and he’s serious,’” Poore said. “So I started out doing kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, MMA and boxing. And I just kind of liked kickboxing because of my background in Taekwondo. I had good kicks, and I just excelled there the most, so that’s what I wanted to do.”
When Poore enters the ring on Aug. 25, he’ll have Greubel supporting him in his corner, but he’ll also have his Taekwondo coach from Aiken, Yolanda Bennett, there as well.
“Yolanda was a Taekwondo world champion in the 1980s, and she was going to go to the Olympics, but she unfortunately got chickenpox and couldn’t go,” Poore said, adding that Bennett has competed in more than 1,000 national and international tournaments throughout her career. “She’s been an incredible coach, and I just wanted to give her credit for what she did for me. So she will be in the corner with me, too.”
Augusta better be prepared for an exciting day witnessing some of the best kickboxing in this nation right here at the Miller Theater, Poore said.
“My fight is going to be action packed. I guarantee it,” Poore said. “And it’s a competition between countries — Team USA versus Team Australia — and those kinds of fights normally don’t happen in a smaller town like Augusta. It’s normally that these kinds of tournaments happen in big cities. So, this is a real opportunity for Augusta.”
Greubel hopes that the Miller will welcome a large crowd to the kickboxing tournament to cheer on the local athletes and Team USA competing against Team Australia.
To help in that regard, Greubel has decided to allow both active-duty military and veterans into the day-time tournament for free.
“Also, those who have tickets to the main event — the night fight — in the evening, they will receive free admission to the national tournament during the day,” Greubel said. “I just want people to enjoy this tournament because I really love the sport of kickboxing, and I want to see it continue to grow. For me, it’s a real passion. I really want to see the sport take off.”
The idea of having hundreds of local fans cheering him on during a fight at the Miller is a dream come true, Poore said.
“I hope my story inspires people,” Poore said. “I hope it inspires people to accomplish their goals, whatever they are. No matter what it is. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
WAKO Stars & Stripes National Tournament and the main kickboxing event, Team USA vs. Team Australia
Saturday, Aug. 25
708 Broad St.
The Stars & Stripes National Tournament is from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets are available for $10 and are free for members of the military with a valid ID. The event is general admission.
The Main Kickboxing Event, Team USA vs. Team Australia, opens its doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $23. Ring-side table seating is available.