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Virgil Zwicker got warmed up for Bellator fight by beating up would-be car thief

Bellator MMA

There was no need for Virgil Zwicker to go to the gym last Friday. He got all the work in he needed on the reservation.

The Bellator MMA light heavyweight was home at the San Pasqual Indian Reservation in Southern California all of 20 minutes before his car got stolen. Zwicker called the cops -- something he might not have done in the past -- but then proceeded to seek out the thief.

Zwicker found the guy at a nearby store buying booze. The rough-and-tumble MMA fighter nicknamed "Rez Dog" got his car back and taught the would-be crook a lesson in the process.

"I had to find the guy and get it mixed up with him," Zwicker said. "I got a little sparring in and a little sprints chasing my car."

That entire situation would be deemed pretty irregular for most people. Not for Zwicker. It was just another day on the rez, another story about a fight he had outside the cage. And those stories have piled up.

When Zwicker competes against veteran Razak Al-Hassan at Bellator 137 on Friday in Temecula, Calif., it'll be almost like a vacation rather than a battle. After decades of violence, MMA barely even feels like a real fight to the Kumeyaay-Ipai Native American.

"Fighting in Bellator," Zwicker said, "is a lot of fun."

Fisticuffs have shaped Zwicker's life, for better or worse. His first trip to juvenile hall happened after he punched and dropped a principal in middle school. Zwicker, 32, later went to jail for 4 ½ years on charges of assaulting a police officer. He got out when he was 24 and went back in a year later after knocking an alleged assailant's eyeball out.

Zwicker (13-4-1) says he's a different man. Being in prison with the highest level of dangerous criminals changed him. He knew he wasn't like them. With kids now, Zwicker has cleaned things up. He does his fighting inside the cage now -- for the most part.

"I had to take a look inside myself and find out who I was becoming and man up," Zwicker said. "That was when I realized I didn't like the person I was becoming. I didn't like to have hatred in my heart. I didn't like to be ugly and have that 'oh I'll hurt this person' in me. I didn't like that. I didn't like the way people looked at me and didn't want me around. I didn't want to be that person."

Still, it seems these things follow around the kid who grew up in San Pasqual in squalor and poverty with 11 siblings. Zwicker said he was stabbed multiple times on Christmas Eve in 2013 during an attempted carjacking. He said he was able to fight off the three men and come out of it OK despite the wounds.

"I'm not looking for trouble, but it seems somehow to find me," Zwicker said. "I have one of the faces where I don't look like a tough guy. But if you test me, you're gonna get served."

In the cage, Zwicker, who trains out of Dan Henderson's gym in Temecula, only has one loss in his last five fights. He's coming off a split decision win over Houston Alexander at Bellator 132 in January after fighting Alexander to a draw last October. Never one to shy away from a brawl, Zwicker, a Strikeforce vet, is one of the toughest and most entertaining fighters on the roster.

Zwicker's career is his focus now and he has been looking for homes in Tennessee. There's a chance he could uproot his family and move near Knoxville to train with his good friend and UFC light heavyweight contender Ovince Saint Preux. The two have been involved in each other's training camps for years now.

"I'm tired of it," Zwicker said of living in a tough part of California. "I've been battling and fighting for the wrong things for so long. I've got a family. I don't want things to jeopardize it."

However, Zwicker is still pulled in by the reservation. He said he is there almost on a daily basis helping out with youth and he would still like to live there again so he can give back to the community and be a leader.

Time will well. Right now there is a prizefight in his very near future and he's hoping for bigger and bigger ones moving forward. Not necessarily for the money -- Zwicker simply just enjoys this line of work and it has allowed him to channel his aggression.

"I love fighting," he said. "I really do enjoy it. I love the training aspect and everything that comes with it. The challenges that I battle myself with every day, the things I do to make sure I'm up for the challenge."

Zwicker laughs. There's an even more important incentive for him to keep the fighting inside the cage -- California's three-strikes law. If he is convicted of a third violent felony, Zwicker could go to prison for a long while.

"The other reason is I'm a two-striker and I can't be fighting on the streets," he said.

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