Colgate’s Own Ultimate Fighter

Jeff Fein

Jamal Patterson ’97 leads a double life. By day, he sells dental supplies. By night, he administers beatdowns. He’s very good at both, and he says that he owes his successes to his Colgate education. Go figure. I hope they invite him to Real World.

Patterson works for Invisalign, a company that offers an alternative to braces (“the easy way to improve your smile,” according to its website). He is responsible for selling its products to dentists and orthodontists in and around New York City. Patterson develops relationships with his clients first by charming them with his affability, then by inviting them to watch him beat opponents into submission in his International Fight League matches.

A light heavyweight for the New York Pitbulls, Patterson went undefeated in the league’s inaugural year. He practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and takes pride in his technique. He wins most of his matches before the first four-minute round is over.

In his Colgate days, Patterson was an all-League safety who finished his football career the year Dick Biddle took over as the team’s head coach. “It was the start of what we now call Colgate football,” Patterson said of the 1996 squad, which placed second in the Patriot League. “We haven’t had a losing season since.”

Patterson’s team did have a losing season this year though. The Pitbulls finished 4-6 in 2006.

The IFL is made up of eight teams. Its matches work like mini high school wrestling contests-they consist of five bouts between individual fighters of different weight classes. The team that wins three of the five bouts wins the match. There are no ties.

The league’s competitors are allowed to bust out any technique that falls under the umbrella term “mixed martial arts.” Certain practices are prohibited, however. According to the league’s website, these include “downward pointing of elbow strikes,” “small joint manipulation” and “intentionally placing a finger in any opponent’s orifice.”

Patterson comes from a family of athletes. His four siblings all played Division I athletics, including his brother Jason, two years his junior, who also played football at Colgate. He says his family is “very supportive” of his life in the rink.

In fact, in was Patterson’s father who suggested that Jamal try out ultimate fighting when it first started getting TV time while Jamal was in college. “He said, ‘I think you can do this,” Patterson said, “because I was an all-American wrestler in high school.”

Despite his dad’s advice, Patterson didn’t take up Jiu-Jitsu until he was 27. But he caught on quickly. Before being recruited by the IFL, he took part in grappling and submission tournaments. He went all the way to the United Arab Emirates to represent North America in the Abu Dhabi World Submission Wrestling tournament and won two matches.

Now, Patterson is one of the stars of the IFL, taking on light heavyweights-fighters who fall between 185 and 205 pounds-from around the world, from Seattle (the Tiger Sharks) to Los Angeles (the Anacondas) to Tokyo (the Sabres). It ain’t easy. Patterson drops 25 pounds before every match to make weight and he’s one of the only IFL fighters to hold what he calls “a regular corporate job.”

So what gives him the will to be one of the nastiest martial artists around? His liberal arts education, of course. Somewhere, Chopp is smiling.

More specifically, Patterson says that his time as a Colgate student-athlete prepared him to work like a demon after graduation. “Being at Colgate taught me how to stay focused, how to take direction. It taught me how to push myself. While other kids were out drinking beer, I was at practice or working out or doing homework.”

“The things I learned at Colgate define me now,” Patterson says. Of course, with a chiseled six-foot physique, he’s more defined than most.

The IFL Championship-“The Final Showdown!”-is December 29 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT, between the Portland Wolfpack and the Quad City Silver Backs.

Patterson wants to see the Pitbulls at the top of the IFL mountain before he calls it quits. “I’ll probably fight for a couple more years,” he said. “I want to win a championship before I’m done.”

For now, it’s back to the training room and the Invisalign office, helping people smile without the pain and anxiety of metal braces. Making people smile and alleviating pain-pretty much the opposite of what he does during the season.