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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 4:39 am | Fair 50º


Cancer Survivor and MMA First-Timer Doug Elder Proves He’s a Fighter

After beating melanoma, the Noozhawk ad rep prepares to compete in Saturday's 'Throwdown at the Showgrounds'

A year and a half ago, Noozhawk’s own Doug Elder, an advertising representative, won a battle with cancer. This Saturday, June 19, he hopes to win a battle of a different sort — this time as a first-time mixed martial arts cage fighter, when the Earl Warren Showgrounds hosts “Throwdown at the Showgrounds IV Young Blood” presented by local fight promoter California Fight Syndicate.

Just last February, Elder had his lymph nodes removed in three places after being diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The operation left a 6-inch scar on his triceps and a 9-inch scar on his back. The 31-year-old says it left him with something else, too — a newfound appreciation for life.

“It was definitely the scariest thing I’ve dealt with in my entire life,” Elder said. “It changed the way that I see things. It made me really want to live for the moment.”

After his brush with death, Elder began training to compete in his first MMA fight. The lifelong athlete wrestled in high school and had taken up boxing at the State Street Boxing Club before his cancer diagnosis. So, after his recovery, he decided to fulfill his ambition of fighting in an MMA event.

Elder started training with Michael MacDonald of Valhalla Training Center on State Street about seven months ago. He was scheduled to fight in the last California Fight Syndicate event, but was forced to bow out because of broken ribs sustained during training. On Saturday, he will have the chance to finally get in the cage and test his skills as he takes on Teddy Cabugos.

Outside the cage, Elder spends much of his time giving back to the community, something he says became especially important subsequent to his fight with cancer.

“I try to give back a lot these days and never take anything for granted,” Elder said. “You just never know when something is going to come along and take you out, and I want to make sure that I’m helping younger kids realize that.”

Doug Elder, left, has been training with Michael MacDonald of Valhalla Training Center on State Street for about seven months
Doug Elder, left, has been training with Michael MacDonald of Valhalla Training Center on State Street for about seven months. (John Conroy photo / www.johnconroyimages.com)

Elder mentors an 18-year-old Santa Barbara High School graduate through United Way, volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club and works with the local Special Olympics. When Elder was only 19, his father died suddenly of a heart attack at age 47, so he understands the importance of young kids having a positive male role model in their lives.

Saturday’s event will be the sixth promoted by California Fight Syndicate, founded less than two years ago by longtime friends Jeff Restivo and Anthony Arria. The local promoters have already had a lot of success in their short time in the MMA game, setting up events from Santa Maria to Ventura.

They were actually the first ones to put on an all-amateur show in California. Their next event is scheduled for July 31 at Six Flags Magic Mountain. It will be the first time the amusement park has hosted such an event, and a full day at the park is included in the ticket price.

Saturday is sure to be an emotional night for Elder, who says he’s dedicating the fight to his late father, Donald, and his 14-year-old son, Dylan, who will be on hand to watch the brawl.

For someone who has overcome so much already in life, it’s just another battle he doesn’t intend to lose.

“I’m feeling great,” Elder said. “I’m ready to go. I’m just ready to go!”

— Kevin McFadden is a Noozhawk contributor.

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