In the world of combat sports, it’s simple for one to call themselves a fighter. Fighting in the cage or in the ring is common. However, Sam Hoenig takes being a fighter to another level; fighting not only in the cage, but for his country as a Marine, he served in Afghanistan and has been in the Marines for 11 years. With a smile on his face, Hoenig reminisced about his introduction to martial arts, “In basic training we would go over striking skills, knife technique, bayonet technique, judo, jiujitsu, and I liked it.” He remembers excelling at the sport, which made him hungry for more. Hoenig made it a priority to join a school as soon as he returned home from bootcamp and that’s exactly what he did. Being a Long Island native, he stayed close to home and joined Serra BJJ. He recalls taking to it like a fish in water. After gaining some experience, he found his way to American Top Team. “It was like bootcamp all over again,” said Hoenig. “I had coaches that didn’t take any shit, and they didn’t want to hear your excuses, just like my senior drill instructor and my other drill instructors, they don’t want to hear your excuses, they don’t want to hear your problems.”
Sam “The Marine” Hoenig has fought for New York Fight Exchange twice before, and both times he was victorious, beating his opponents in the first round. He is now scheduled to compete for the next NYFE show on April 2nd, this time against Mason DiGiacopo. “I expect him to be tough…dude’s got seven fights,” says Hoenig. He says he expects it to be a good one. He has no doubt his opponent comes from a respectable camp, but is confident that he is working a lot harder. “I train with some of the finest fighters in the game right now,” said Hoenig. It’s no secret ATT Whitestone breeds talented fighters, such as Codie Payne, Nathaniel King, Clubber Creed and several others. “Even though Codie and I are fighting on the same card, I pick his brain… with stand up, and when he’s in my jiujitsu class, he picks my brain when it comes to jiujitsu.” said Hoenig. “My camp so far has been great, and by great I mean grueling, relentless and emotional.” Hoenig also gives lots of credit to his coaches — Big John, Anthony Andreocci, Natali Corsi, and John Ricardo, just to name a few. “I learn everything from my coaches.”
When times get rough, Hoenig turns to his favorite inspirations. As a U.S Marine, he keeps his battle flag close to his heart, and fights for the fallen. His flag holds the memory of four close friends, who he explains were more like brothers to him. Although he was emotional as he spoke about all of their stories, the most recent passing of one of those close friends, Corporal Andrew Salabarria, seemed to be the toughest. “It just broke my heart when he passed away”. Sam was at work when he received a link from a friend, revealing the cause of death — an awful motorcycle accident. Ironically, Hoenig had spoken to his friend the day before, as he was preparing to go out on his bike, to verify that he was going to attend his NYFE fight last September. “Obviously, he never made it” said Hoenig. He decided to dedicate that fight to his friend that night, but regrets not being able to announce it, “that night there were a lot of fights, and no one was allowed to say anything.” Another thing that keeps Hoenig going is his girlfriend, Paige “Powerhouse” DiBartolo, who is also a fighter. “She pushes me, and I push her,” said Hoenig. “When I’m tired she tells me to suck it up and keep going.” It doesn’t matter if he is sparring, hitting the heavy bag, or doing strength and conditioning, he says she is always by his side giving him the support he needs to keep him going.
The sport of MMA is one that Hoenig doesn’t plan on giving up anytime soon. “I choose to do MMA because I know I can get better” said Hoenig. “When I go with a guy that’s better than me it just pushes me to do better than him.” The challenge gives him a natural high, and keeps him on his toes. Proudly, he spoke about his progression in the sport, saying months ago, people who were taking him down, are now getting good work by him in return. In addition to that, his striking has also improved. He describes himself as a more dynamic striker. Feeling a lot more comfortable with his Muay Thai, he thanks his coach Big John. “That’s a lot of his work and a lot of his time and dedication” said Hoenig. Although he isn’t new to the game, he stays humble and open to learning, and admits to taking advantage of beginners classes in attempt to perfect the basics. “Even the smallest things that I can implement to my game to make me that much better, is why I do MMA, because I know at the end of the day, I can beat my ass from yesterday.” says Hoenig. “The day I feel like I can’t beat myself anymore, is probably the day I’ll walk away.” In general, “The Marine” feels really good going into this fight. He has designed a special shirt for his upcoming fight night, showing love to his many sponsors and creating awareness for mistreated Veterans with the hashtag #VeteransLivesMatter. “They deserve so much better” said Hoenig. “This country has not shown love back to those that deserve it, and I’m going to make it known through my walkout shirt and through whatever comments I say after I win my next fight.”
Writer Janah Campbell
Edit: Matt Culley
Photos: Janah CampbellTags: ATT Whitestone, MMA, New York, NYFE, Queens, Sam Hoenig