With doe-like eyes and an innate gentleness, Myrtle Beach High School senior Cody Jones is a soft-spoken favorite instructor to the noisy gaggle of children attending summer camp at the Myrtle Beach Martial Arts center.
He grins as a 7-year-old girl sprays a wet raspberry through missing teeth onto his ear, flinches not while a young boy uses his back to practice karate chops and barely looks up when yet another child snatches the cap from his head and runs for the door. Cody takes all the sprays and chops and high jinks the kids can dish out with saintly patience.
But don’t take him for granted.
At 17 years of age, Cody already has two mixed martial arts titles under his belt, traveling to Virginia for both competitions because he can’t legally fight in South Carolina until he turns 18.He was only 16 when he took the Junior Muay Thai North American Championship that was “just kickboxing, in a ring rather than a cage.” And recently, Cody went back to the state of Virginia to win the Junior North American Welterweight Championship, his opponent tapping out in just 48 seconds.
Cody started with karate, realizing early in his youth that he was never going to be “a ball and stick kind of guy.” Team sports didn’t seem to interest him as much as “individual sports where you have more control.”
“One night, a UFC fight came on TV and I watched it with my dad,” says Cody. “I was fascinated with the whole mixed martial arts thing and knew I could do it. Then, about two-and-a-half years ago, we saw this center driving down the road, so I joined as soon as I could.”
Under the tutelage of Jim Kiser – who holds a third degree black belt in Zen Ketsugo karate and black belt in jiu-jitsu – Cody transformed his lanky countenance into a lean, mean fighting machine. “Mixed martial arts feels like second nature to me my body just does it. I love the training and sparring. And even if you lose a fight, but you know you gave a hundred percent and put up a good fight, you walk away happy,” Cody says with a glint in his eye.
He cites a combination of wrestling and jiu-jitsu as his competitive strength. In fact, Cody missed “going to states” for wrestling by only one point last year. And he uses “calm” to his advantage.“A lot of mixed martial arts competitors like to be crazy, yelling and screaming,” Cody grins. “When I go into the ring I concentrate on staying real calm and focused. That’s what works for me and yeah, and I want to protect my legs. A good hit to the leg scares me a lot more than a hit in the head.”
Cody talks about his future plans with the same focus and determination he employs for competitive bouts, “If I end up getting a wrestling scholarship to college next year, I’ll gladly take it. But if I don’t, I’m going to train like crazy and go into UFC full-time, professionally.”
Whether it be the world of college wrestling or the wildly popular Ultimate Fighting Championship, Cody Jones is destined to emerge as the sport’s “gentle giant.”