Warrensburg High School graduate Darin Rafferty instructs former schoolmate Lenny Baker in some subtle techniques in boxing at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu center in Ballston Spa. Baker was recently awarded a professional contract by Cage Fury Fighting Championships in mixed martial arts combat, based on his recent 58-second knockout in Bennington Vt. Rafferty, a Golden Gloves champion, serves as boxing coach for Baker, who is a 2001 NCAA Division III National Champion wrestler.
Warrensburg High School 1998 graduate Lenny Baker, who was a standout wrestler for the school and went on to become an NCAA national champion, has been awarded a professional fight contract in mixed martial arts competition.
His first of three pro fights with Cage Fury Fighting Championships is to be held June 30 at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., Baker said in a recent interview.
“I’m very, very excited about this,” he said, adding he was now in top condition. “I’m 31 years old, in my prime, and this is the best I’ve ever felt.”
Although he is well-versed in wrestling, Lenny has been training to develop punching skills, footwork and fighting strategies with schoolmate Darin Rafferty, a 1994 WCS graduate, at Spa City Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Ballston Spa, as well as the Legion Training Center in Clifton Park. They’ve been training together for two years.
Rafferty is the boxing coach and strength and conditioning mentor for Lenny and several other fighters. Lenny serves as the wrestling coach at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Both of them receive Jiu Jitsu training under black belts Chad Beatty and Eddie Fyvie.
Baker praised Rafferty, a former Marine, for his expertise and support. Rafferty was a New York State Golden Gloves Champion in 1998.
“Darin is willing to give my training his ‘all,’ and having him in my corner brings me a lot of confidence,” Baker said.
Baker also credited his father, Leonard Baker of Thurman who coached him in WCS wrestling programs from elementary school through high school and beyond.
“My dad was my biggest inspiration — he taught me to never back down, never give up and don’t make excuses — and that’s what I live by,” Lenny Baker said.
He added that while people might think that someone in their 30s might be past their prime for such a physically demanding sport, he knows he’s in his best shape ever. “A lot of people put up barriers that limit themselves, but not me,” he said. “So many people don’t test their limits — but I love doing it — There’s so much hidden potential in everyone.”
Baker’s most recent amateur fight — which led to his pro contract — was caged mixed martial arts combat in the Bennington Vt. Armory. He won it with a knockout in less than one minute.
Baker said that in that fight, he put his extensive wrestling experience to good use.
He took his opponent down with wrestling moves, then delivered punches when he was on the mat to finish him off.
“I went went with a good game plan,” Baker said. “It’s my strategy going forward, too.”
The fight can be seen on YouTube. The video can be located by typing in “Lenny Baker” and “mixed martial arts.”
Baker was an NCAA Division III National Champion at 141 pounds in 2001 while he was attending SUNY Brockport. He’s now fighting at 155 pounds.
Baker is a medical sales representative for Zimmer New England, a provider of orthopedics and other supplies.
Rafferty, who serves as Director of Wellness at Sunnyview Hospital in Schenectady, said he hopes people from Warrensburg and northern Warren County will be following Baker’s pro career and cheer him on.
“We’re very conscious of our roots, and hopefully we’ll have people that will recognize this and cheer for him,” Lenny Baker is one of our own, and he’ll doubtlessly be doing well as a professional athlete.”