At 31 years old, North Tonawanda’s own Erik Herbert is approaching a time in his life packed with opportunities.
His biggest opportunity yet is coming on February 17th, when Herbert fights for championship gold at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino.
King of the Cage hosts “Prevail,” featuring a championship fight between Herbert and Mike DiOrio.
And Herbert hopes to follow a lifelong trend of seizing opportunities given to him.
After graduating from high school in Tonawanda back in 2004, Herbert joined the Marine Corps and relocated to Quantico, VA; it’s there he heard an advertisement for a local MMA fight, and a call for tickets changed his life.
“They called me and they asked-- this was on a Wednesday or Thursday-- they said ‘Can you be 205 pounds for Friday for the weigh-ins?’” laughed Herbert. “I was like ‘Well yeah, I’m 210 pounds, so losing 5 pounds wasn’t a big deal from a wrestling background,’ and they said ‘Okay, we have a fight for you.’ And I just called for tickets.”
Herbert picked up his first win against a karate black belt, and he was immediately hooked.
Once his contract ended with the Marines, Herbert returned to WNY to attend Niagara County Community College; after graduating, he moved on to Buff State, as the MMA wins kept piling up.
With a wife and a child now, Herbert was a stay at home dad by day, training at his gym at night.
That’s when North Tonawanda Police came calling, offering him a job.
So let’s recap:
That would be quite the resume, Herbert admits. And his 8-year-old son Caleb has no problem showing off which of his dad’s achievements makes him the most proud.
"Somebody asks him what I do, he's not telling them I'm a cop, hes saying 'He's fighting for the world title,'” said Herbert in between his sparring sessions. “This title, when I win it, will spend more time in his playroom than anywhere in my possession."
And after the fight, Herbert my walk away from MMA. He says he's considering running for the North Tonawanda School Board. But first, he’s focused on fighting for championship gold.
“I’m going to take [DiOrio] down, and I’m going to knock him out.”
And if that’s where it ends, Herbert says he’s at peace with walking away, even if the biggest MMA organization in the world came calling after his title fight.
“If UFC came calling and they came back to Buffalo, I’d give that some long, hard thought,” Herbert smiled. “But I’ve got to be honest: I’m happy.”