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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Coeur d’Alene tribe member Kyle SiJohn looks to avenge controversial decision in latest MMA bout

Kyle SiJohn will compete at the King of the Cage mixed martial arts event at the Coeur d’Alene Casino on Thursday.  (Courtesy of Kyle SiJohn)
By Charlotte McKinley The Spokesman-Review

Kyle SiJohn is ready to settle some unfinished business.

SiJohn looks to avenge a controversial referee’s decision when the King of the Cage mixed martial arts event arrives on his home turf, the Coeur d’Alene Casino, on Thursday night.

It was a year ago that SiJohn, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, fought against Donovan English for the amateur Heavyweight Beatdown belt that resulted in a no-contest.

Now he gets another chance as he resumes his childhood dream of becoming a professional fighter.

“I always got in street fights (and) after-school fights,” SiJohn said. “Several different people (said) that I could actually do something and get paid for it. I didn’t really care about that, I just liked fighting.”

Though SiJohn, now 31, started MMA when he was 18, his uncle trained him in boxing, leading to a familiarity with the cage.

“All I wanted to do when I was younger was go professional and try to make a name for myself,” SiJohn said.

SiJohn’s pursuit of his dream has admittedly been sidetracked by several brushes with the law over the years. Add in his full-time job and being a father, he said finding time to train has been challenging.

“I’m a maintenance tech,” SiJohn said. “That alone is exhausting. You’re trying to come and train every day and trying to keep up with it is exhausting.”

SiJohn makes it work, training three to four times a week at the Coeur d’Alene Tribe gym.

Over his 13 years in MMA, SiJohn has had only four fights – the most recent of which was last February’s fight against English.

From the beginning of the first round, the two heavyweights electrified the crowd by trading blows and takedowns.

SiJohn kneed English in the face three times throughout the match while the two were standing. The third knee to the head caused a referee timeout and SiJohn’s first warning.

“I didn’t know you’re not able to knee the head,” SiJohn said.

According to Washington state law WAC 36-14-510, which details MMA fouls, it is illegal to knee an opponent in the face whether standing or grounded – having three points of contact on the ground, such as two legs and an arm.

“They said I kneed (English and) he fell to the ground,” SiJohn said.

Only after the referee broke up the match, however, did English place a knee to the ground and sit.

“Donovan’s laying on the canvas, acting like he’s dazed the entire time,” SiJohn said. “He won the (Oscar) of the year for best acting.”

The referee told English he had 5 minutes to recover and at that point, could decide to keep going or quit. At the end of 5 minutes, English decided not to continue the fight, resulting in a no-contest.

Now SiJohn is set for a rematch against English.

“(English) does not want to stand up and fight (me),” SiJohn said. “First thing my brother and my coach said is, ‘He’s gonna try taking you down.’ ”

Though the ground game is an important factor in MMA, SiJohn trains primarily striking, and relies on his wrestling. His older brother trains Jiu Jitsu at Alpha Training Center in Post Falls and has been working with SiJohn.

“I have a lot of practice going on with the wrestling and Jiu Jitsu from some good guys,” SiJohn said.

Though English might want to capitalize on SiJohn’s weakness on the ground, SiJohn will do everything he can to prevent the fight from going there.

“(This fight) is gonna (have) a different ending result,” SiJohn said. “It’s not going to go all three rounds.”

SiJohn will fight at the Coeur d’Alene Casino on the King of the Cage card on Thursday at 7 p.m.