BALLSTON SPA Warrensburg High School 1998 graduate Lenny Baker, who was a standout wrestler for the school and went on to become an NCAA national champion, has been awarded a professional fight contract in mixed martial arts competition.
His first of three pro fights with Cage Fury Fighting Championships is to be held June 30 at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., Baker said in a recent interview.
“I’m very, very excited about this,” he said, adding he was now in top condition. “I’m 31 years old, in my prime, and this is the best I’ve ever felt.”
Although he is well-versed in wrestling, Lenny has been training to develop punching skills, footwork and fighting strategies with schoolmate Darin Rafferty, a 1994 WCS graduate, at Spa City Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Ballston Spa, as well as the Legion Training Center in Clifton Park. They’ve been training together for two years.
Rafferty is the boxing coach and strength and conditioning mentor for Lenny and several other fighters. Lenny serves as the wrestling coach at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Both of them receive Jiu Jitsu training under black belts Chad Beatty and Eddie Fyvie.
Baker praised Rafferty, a former Marine, for his expertise and support. Rafferty was a New York State Golden Gloves Champion in 1998.
“Darin is willing to give my training his ‘all,’ and having him in my corner brings me a lot of confidence,” Baker said.
Baker also credited his father, Leonard Baker of Thurman who coached him in WCS wrestling programs from elementary school through high school and beyond.
“My dad was my biggest inspiration — he taught me to never back down, never give up and don’t make excuses — and that’s what I live by,” Lenny Baker said.
He added that while people might think that someone in their 30s might be past their prime for such a physically demanding sport, he knows he’s in his best shape ever. “A lot of people put up barriers that limit themselves, but not me,” he said. “So many people don’t test their limits — but I love doing it — There’s so much hidden potential in everyone.”