23 Andover Drive, West Hartford, Connecticut 06110

Underdog Members of the Year - 2019

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Underdog 2019 Members of the Year:

As we embark on the beginning of a new year, we would like to take some time to honor the members who stood out the most in the last year for their efforts. This gym is full of many excellent members, and so compiling this list was no easy task. It’s no coincidence that all of these members had previously been selected as Member of the Month: they’ve been doing it right for a while now. Without further ado, we bring you the 2019 Members of the Year.


Striking – Erica Valentin


The Valentin family is a strong and constant presence at Underdog Mixed Martial Arts. Erica’s brother and cousins have all fought under the Underdog banner, and she’s looking to be the next in line. Her training has spanned all areas of the gym, but she has spent the most time in the striking cage. Always one to go the extra mile, Erica has scheduled many a group training session with the other lady fighters at the gym, and has even dragged some of them along for extra sprint or sled work. Despite being a single mother with triplets, Erica has logged some of the most consistent training hours this year of anyone at the gym. We have a feeling that she doesn’t know how to make excuses. Perhaps because of her parental status, she is a tough and no-nonsense student who takes coaching well and has an indomitable spirit, always willing to try again and again until she can get things right. Erica competed as an amateur martial artist this year after honing her skills at the gym, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for her.


Fitness – Jessi Daase


Jessi is another member of the gym who has put a foot on every mat, and while she is a mainstay in the Tuesday/Thursday striking classes, she has been perhaps the most consistent member of the strength and conditioning classes. In addition to her excellent attendance, Jessi’s attitude and friendly demeanor make her a pleasure to have in class. She has lost a ton of weight over the last year due to totally overhauling her diet and exercise, and she has also gotten way stronger. To top it all off, Jessi often stays late to work on extra strength work and as previously mentioned comes back for striking in the evenings. In addition to all of her training in the gym, Jessi also faced a bit of a fear this year and complete our annual Underdog obstacle course race with the rest of the crew. Jessi’s next big goal is to get a pull-up, and we’re excited to help her get there.


Grappling – Ricardo Febles


When you’re a really quiet, humble guy, and everyone on the mats knows your name, what does that mean? It means you’re damn good, and you’ve been putting in the hours to get even better. Always walking around with the same soft smile, it’s easy to underestimate Ricardo, who some call “the honey badger”. Ricardo is almost always one of the last students to leave the mats, and dedicates much of his time during the year to competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Always hungry for knowledge, he gets in tons of reps on his technique work, eager to learn each move to perfection. Ricardo never backs down from a roll, whether he’s showing a new person the ropes or giving it his all against the higher belts. With his strong work ethic and excellent attitude, the sky is the limit for Ricardo.


Overall Underdog Member of the Year – Dominic Basile


While many members train in multiple areas at the gym, Dominic has been the most consistent all-around member at the gym this year, and no one trains harder. Depending on when you come to the gym, you might not even know Dom: he mainly trains during the afternoon time slots, though he has frequented night classes on occasion. A former high school wrestler, he trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Striking, and Strength and Conditioning consistently, with most of his hours going into S&C and Striking. His current goal is to compete in a smoker, and so the extra hours logged in these areas makes sense. Dom has grown dramatically in strength and brings an excellent work ethic to everything he does. Always looking for ways to get better, Dom puts in extra time on the heavy bag every single day and often completes not just the strength and conditioning classes, but also the extra credit work assigned. Often at the gym with his daughter, who has become something of a gym mascot, Dom goes well out of his way to make it in. He has moved even further away from the gym this last year and doesn’t work nearby but has made his training a priority so that he can continue to excel. The exemplary dedication he has shown to Underdog MMA has led to an increase in not just his athleticism, but also his skills as a martial artist.

Over the last year, Dom has changed as a person. His commitment to a healthier lifestyle has led him to make changes in his life to improve his training. He has become more responsible, more humble, and sets an excellent example for his young daughter, who always watches him train and is his biggest cheerleader. We are proud to have him as part of the Underdog family, and he is a worthy selection to carry the banner as Member of the Year as we all make strides to improve in 2020.

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