Prospect man readies for MMA pro debut

Jesse James Kosakowski, of Prospect, right, trains with Robert Beamon, left, Dec. 20 at Practical Self Defense Training in Waterbury as he prepares for his first pro mixed martial arts fight. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

PROSPECT — Jesse James Kosakowski is a fighter.

Kosakowski, who turned 21 in August and lives in Prospect, won all five of his amateur mixed martial arts bouts, including his last fight by submission (choke) with 22 seconds left in fifth round against Pat Casey on Nov. 11.

The Waterbury native with the outlaw name is preparing for his first professional match against Hugh McKenna for a Reality Fighting main card in a welterweight bout (170 pounds) Jan. 6 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

It’s an opportunity he has been preparing for most of his life.

“I started training probably around 4 or 5 years old, training with my father in mixed martial arts, basically practicing the art of jeet kune do, which is Bruce Lee’s original style,” he said. “I started doing the kids class, then around 8, 9 years old he had me going to the adult class.”

His father, Ron Kosakowski, runs the Practical Self Defense Training Center in Waterbury and has an extensive background in mixed martial arts. He has studied various techniques and grappling styles for 30 years — including integrated grappling systems, muay thai, jeet kune do and kuntao — and learned from several of Lee’s original students.

Ron, who was also an original stakeholder in UFC in the early 1990s before the league took off, passed a lot of his knowledge of various ancient and modern martial arts techniques on to Jesse.

“He has warrior DNA,” Ron said. “You can compare his heartbeat to a machine gun. It’s amazing.”

Jesse has fought in tournaments that feature various martial arts styles, including North American Grappling Association, Dragon’s Lair (grappling) American Karate and Boxing Federation and Smoker (Muay Thai exhibitions).

To prepare for January’s match, Jesse is constantly training at various gyms. He works with his father at PSDTC as well as with Robert Beamon at PRT Fitness in Waterbury, with MMA fighter Nick Newell at Fighting Arts Academy CT in West Haven, and with the GF Team at the Cruvinel Brothers Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Bridgeport.

Jesse also focuses on strength and conditioning and yoga to maintain his flexibility.

Having his father serve as a coach helps Jesse stay motivated.

“When you have a coach, you’re trying to meet your coach’s standard. But when it’s your father coaching you, I think you’re also trying to reach your father’s standard as well,” Jesse said.

But Jesse is thankful that he has a wide range of mentors who can teach him various fighting styles and how to counter one with another.

“You have to study it all. There’s a lot of one-dimensional fighters out there that are just about striking or they might just be good wrestlers, or they might be a taekwondo guy and really good at kicking,” he said. “But when you have the whole package and you can put it all together that’s what really makes MMA MMA. … When I go into my fights, I have too many tools for these guys to handle.”

Every style can be countered. Brute strength can be a valuable asset for an MMA fighter, but having the knowledge of how to properly defend and attack an opponent’s style can be the difference in a victory.

“I feel that any style is beatable. There’s always an answer. That’s why I have so many tools,” Jesse said. “If I’m fighting a wrestler, I can keep my distance, use my jab and my little short shots in the pocket and defend the takedown. If I’m fighting a striker, I can close the gap, throw an overhand and take him down to the ground.”

Jesse, who’s 5-foot-8 with a 73 1/2-inch reach, has been studying McKenna, a 5-10, 28-year-old fighter from Syosset, N.Y., with a 72-inch reach and a 1-1 pro record, according to

“I watched his videos three, four times just to go over what habits he has,” Jesse said. “Does he fake right before he throws his jab? Is he telegraphing his cross? What kind of takedowns is he going for? What habits does he have on the ground? Little habits like that make a huge difference.”

Ron thinks the biggest factor will be how long Jesse can last.

“Endurance is the big thing,” he said. “The technique will be there if endurance is there.”

The crowd at Mohegan Sun should have a clear favorite to cheer for in Jesse. He ordered about two batches of tickets for his fans.

“I’m going to have a huge following there. All my friends and family are coming out from Connecticut to go watch it,” Jesse said.

Ron is confident that his son can make it to upper-echelon MMA leagues such as Bellator or UFC. But he still has some steps to take before reaching the big stage.

“People have been talking UFC since they started watching him,” Ron said. “He is so dedicated and disciplined. I know he will make it to the big leagues. He just needs more experience in smaller events. Once he gets good experience, he will take it from there.”