MMA is everywhere these days, sure. But, it seems there’s still new ground to tread, and new stories to tell.
Recently, a group from Hawaii began developing something off the beaten path: an MMA themed series of comic books. In addition to the unusual choice of medium, they have selected one of MMA’s most unique stories for their newest offering.
The project is headed by Eddie King, also known as “King Eddie” — a longtime presence on the Hawaii MMA scene as a writer and photographer. Eddie began taking time from that schedule in recent months to fulfill what he calls a lifelong dream: combining his love for comic books with his love for MMA. That journey began years ago in his childhood on the US mainland, dreaming of ‘larger than life’ heroes.
“I’ve always been a huge nerd,” Eddie smiles, in a telephone interview. “I grew up out in the country in South Carolina and there wasn’t another kid around for miles! A friend of mine and I would read comic books and it just became a part of our personality. I grew to love the sport of MMA, and it was always in the back of my head to combine the two.”
This newest release, Iron Sharpens Iron, will feature a group sometimes called Hawaii’s first MMA team: the unusually-named Jesus Is Lord MMA.
Team Jesus Is Lord was a staple in Hawaii’s seminal MMA shows of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, boasting talent like Stephen Palling and Ray Cooper, who would both go on to contention at larger promotions like Shooto in Japan. The team’s new generation features several champions, including a brother-sister tandem: Invicta FC fighter Rachael Ostovich and Destiny MMA lightweight champion Robby Ostovich. From their genesis, as a few friends from an Oahu church training together informally; to today, where they exist as an established MMA fight team; they’ve been known for fighting all comers and exhibiting rare sportsmanship along the way: a unique “fighting fellowship.”
Eddie has created a Kickstarter campaign for the project. Among the premiums being offered to donors to the Kickstarter campaign are the opportunity to be drawn in as a character in the final product. Working alongside Eddie are the artists he calls “the backbone” of the project, Sonny Chargualaf and Daniel Cruz.
According to Eddie, selecting Jesus Is Lord for the project was a natural: “They fit any criteria you’d want from an MMA comic.”
He has been personally following the team for more than a year now, visiting them as they train and compete — and as he puts it, “the story was growing the longer I was there. I couldn’t stop.”
“I really wanted to change the way some of the younger kids really view MMA,” Eddie explains. “It’s not all about (win-loss) records. I see amateur fighters passing over challenging fights because they don’t want to lose. That’s an amateur record! I look at the way team Jesus Is Lord handles themselves, awesome in defeat as well as victory — one of the few teams who look the same, a mirror image win or lose.”
“The initial storyline was based on a night of fights they were in,” he continues. “But they swept. They won all the fights! I thought, there’s not enough adversity here for a good story. So we decided to wait and see what else develops, and we got the adversity, ten fold.”
Among the team’s recent challenges: their training facility essentially burned down back in January, forcing them to find new options before critical bouts.
“It became the portrait I always wanted,” Eddie says. “The worst possible things that could happen, and they’re still all smiles, all positivity — trucking forward, with no excuses. I think it’s perfect for the book.”
He’s quick to add, “We’ve got a lot of MMA here in Hawaii and there are tons of teams I admire for different reasons. This what I love about this team.”