Work, martial arts no match for Oklahoma City police
Matt Grice and Brian Picklo spend some of their days working out their problems on the mat, but most nights they spend working out those of the public in the streets.
Both of the men are former wrestling champions turned professional fighters. Both are family men. And both are Oklahoma City police officers.
"It’s a good, humbling experience. It can be life and death, and you’ve got to be prepared, day-in, day-out. You’ve got to be quick on your feet and figure it out for yourself,” said Grice, 28.
He isn’t talking about one of the 13 nights he spent inside a cage as a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Grice is talking about the nearly 250 nights a year that he spends as a patrol officer in southeast Oklahoma City.
"I don’t go to work looking for a fight. I’m just trying to help people and solve problems,” Grice said.
"Our job is not to fight people. Our job is to use as little force as possible. Our job is to go home alive,” said Picklo, 35. "I don’t have to use the brute ignorance of force. Knowing how ... to use their body weight, momentum and balance allows me to take them into custody without hurting them.”
Picklo and Grice attended college on wrestling scholarships: Picklo at Michigan State University and Grice at the University of Oklahoma. Both turned to pro fighting after their wrestling careers ended.
Picklo picked up judo in 2000 while teaching and coaching at Yukon High School after college.
He quickly earned a black belt and won a bronze medal at the U.S. Nationals. The next year he won a silver medal. In 2002, he joined the Oklahoma City Police Department and is now a sergeant. But he didn’t give up on judo, and in 2008, he took three months off to train in Florida, eventually becoming the alternate for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing in the 100 kg weight class.
"It was hard to leave my wife and kids for that long, but that was a small sacrifice to be an Olympic alternate,” he said.
Picklo also teaches self-defense classes to law officers and civilians.
Grice saw his first mixed martial arts match while in middle school.
"I said, ‘That’s cool. I’d like to do that one day,’” he said.
And one day, he did. He’d fought in a pair of amateur matches, and had several other in-state professional fights under his belt, when he received a phone call in 2007 asking if he’d like to fight in Manchester, England.
"When the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) calls and asks you to fight, you can’t say no,” Grice said.
He lost that first UFC match but won the next. Then he took off 18 months for the Oklahoma City police academy. Since 2009, he’s taken two more UFC fights and lost both — one of which he fought with a fractured wrist — but the glint in his eyes and tone in his voice conveys his seriousness about returning to the cage.
"I don’t have to do it. I have a good job, but I still have that drive to compete. I want to test myself,” Grice said.
His fractured wrist is almost healed, and he will train this month before a fight this spring. Between training and work, Grice sometimes goes weeks or months barely seeing his daughter and wife of nine years, he said.
"She gets nervous, as any wife would, but she’s very supportive,” Grice said.
Both men said discipline makes them more confident they can do what’s most important: come home safely.
"I do as much as I can to improve my skill set and grow and learn. I want to do as much as I can out of a desire to come home to my kids every morning,” Picklo said.