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Olivehurst native on the way up in Bellator
When Josh Appelt stood on a scale that read 320 pounds, he knew something had to change. He didn't think that change would take him this far.
At Lindhurst High, he was a two-time heavyweight state qualifier. He played varsity football all four years. He was competitive, very competitive.
After graduation in 2002, Appelt played a year at Yuba College and played two seasons with the local semi-pro football team, the Cougars.
In 2005, he broke his leg and gave up on athletics.
He took odd jobs here and there and eventually settled down with his high school sweetheart and started a family.
But in 2009, at 320 pounds, Appelt had enough.
The competitive fire returned, and he fed his motivation to shed weight and get healthy with a disciplined regimen.
"I just said to myself, 'It's time to do something,'" he said. "I always wanted to try MMA, and I knew a buddy who was training, so I did."
After five months of training at Huckaba's Next Generation MMA Center in Sacramento, Appelt dropped 65 pounds.
"Me being so competitive, just the way I was brought up, and being that I'm still young, I knew it was time to change," he said. "I changed my eating, diet, cardio ... my whole way of life.
"I got one day of training and sparring, and I just fell in love with it," Appelt said.
With his wrestling background, some stand-up training and a fearless mindset in the cage, Appelt was asked if he wanted to give it a shot.
He accepted his first challenge and made his debut at Konocti Harbor in Clear Lake, just months after training. With 50 loved ones in attendance — the fight lasted 48 seconds. Appelt won by knockout. "I had so many people show up, I think they were disappointed that it was so short," he laughed.
He fought three weeks later at another event, and despite severing his biceps in the first round, he won by knockout in the third round.
After three years of fighting in local circuits, Appelt compiled a record of 7-2. Then in October, he finally got the call-up.
The 29-year-old signed a three-fight contract with Bellator, a series aired live on Spike TV each Thursday. Immediately after signing, he received his first fight in Canada, where he fought and defeated Ed Carpenter.
Now, he is set for a preliminary bout against Josh Lanier in the heavyweight division. The event will be held in Rio Rancho, N.M. And while Appelt's fight is on the undercard of the main events, there is a chance his fight will be aired.
He has trained at multiple gyms, including local gym Extreme Damage, and he recently opened up his own gym in Yuba City — Juggernaut MMA — his fighter nickname, which only seems so fitting.
"Juggernaut" describes his fighting style — overbearing punches, low-center of gravity, aggressive and difficult to stop.
"When I get in there, it's business," he said. "You don't want to hurt anyone. But as soon they lock the cage, it's just the two of us, and one of us has to go down. I have tasted the defeat and I don't like it, so I just make sure it's the other guy."
Appelt believes he will be down to 245 pounds for Thursday's fight against Lanier. And he thanks his coaches, discipline and family for the motivation.
"I'm coached very well, they really push me," he said. "My work ethic and cardio are probably the biggest things that have helped me."
At 5-foot-10, 260 pounds, most fighters are taken off guard by Appelt's quickness, hand speed and impressive cardio.
"It works to my advantage," he laughed.
Of course, having a 3-year-old boy, Braden, certainly helps that as well.
"He's the butter and he's a handful," he said. "He is the cardio."
Appelt's manager Dave Hirschbein, with MMA Gold, believes his fighter could continue this run of success.
"He has come really far," he said. "His work ethic is what has really carried him to this point."
Appelt's opponent Lanier comes in standing 6-foot-6, 215 pounds — the size difference is almost unparalleled.
"I have fought taller guys believe it or not, and won," he said. "My coaches prepare me real well, so I know what to expect."
Some of Appelt's accolades: Gladiator Challenge heavyweight belt and a finalist in the West Coast Championships.
Now he's aiming higher — Bellator heavyweight title.
"I did this for health at first," he said. "Now, I want my son to be proud of me."