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Justin Robinson is a Lieutenant with combat center fire department. He also competes in many mixed martial-arts tournaments and is the reigning Southern California Boxing Heavyweight champion.

Photo by Cpl. D. J. Wu

What I've Learned: Justin Robinson

14 Feb 2014 | Cpl. D. J. Wu

Justin Robinson is a Lieutenant with combat center fire department. He also competes in many mixed martial-arts tournaments and is the reigning Southern California Boxing Heavyweight champion.

- I like anything with competition. I like sports. I like working here with my firefighters and being active.
- I was in the Marine Corps from 1998 to 2006. I did two tours with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and a year and a half with 1st Marine Division as the commanding general’s personal bodyguard.
- I’ve been with the fight club for a year and a half now. It’s nice being on a team again. Camaraderie is great up there. We have a good coach and fighting platform. Working with Fight Club 29 has been a highlight the past couple of years.
- The thing I like about fighting is that it is just you. It’s a competition with you and your opponent. How much work you put into it determines how much you get out of it. If you don’t want to put in the work, it’s going to show in the ring. Whether it’s boxing, mixed martial arts or Pankration, your effort will show when you’re fighting.
- I’m a striker. I like Pankration and limited MMA but my favorite is boxing followed by full-fledged MMA in the cage.
- I started boxing when I was 30 in Battle of the Badges, which is cops versus firefighters.
- I never did any of this stuff growing up. I grew up in Texas, so I played football.
- I guess you can call me getting into fighting a mid-life crisis. I was looking to be on a team. I couldn’t do softball because of scheduling issues. Then, someone here, at the firehouse, challenged me to a “Tough Man” contest. I did it and I won. I’ve been hooked ever since.
- It’s really the team and the competition. In the Marine Corps, you have the same thing. You are part of a unit. There is always competition within your unit and you have that team aspect. When you go into combat, Marines are always by your side.
- You work with them and then you go into the fight with them. It’s the same thing when you’re in the ring. You train with them and you fight with them. When they’re beat up, you’re beat up.
- The biggest thing I’ve learned in fighting is that you have to stay calm in all situations. You can’t react with emotion. What’ll happen is you’ll get angry and you won’t be able to use the skills you learned.
- The fondest moment I have with the fight club was at a grappling tournament. I lost my first match and won my second. Coach then put me in the intermediate class which is way above my level. I won match after match, for a total of seven matches in one day. I ended up taking second place in that tournament.
- The fight starts three or four hours before the match with massive anxiety. You sit there for hours just waiting. There’s nothing but anxiety, stress and pressure. They call your name a few minutes before and as you walk down the aisle, it just builds more. As soon as you get into the ring or the cage, you’re done with the anxiety.
- They ring the bell and it’s just you and him. You forget the lights, cheering and yelling, and you go to work. Once you’re in there, it’s great. It’s the hours prior that will kill you.
- My biggest thing in fighting and practice is I talk to myself. I tell myself, “Keep your hands up and keep moving. Hands up. Move. Strike.”
- I’ve been with Combat Center Fire for seven years. I basically transitioned out of the Marine Corps right into this.
- The Marine Corps gives you that team aspect the same way it does in the fire department. We have crews within fire companies just like you have squads in a platoon. We work and train together. We eat, sleep and when the bells ring, we go off to fires together.
- Since the majority of our area is concrete buildings, we don’t get a whole lot of fires on base.
- We do quite a bit out in town. I wouldn’t say a lot but I’ve fought my fair share of fires.
- The closest thing I can relate fighting a fire to is a fire fight while deployed. You get excited and nervous at the same time. It’s one of those jobs where you want to go do it. If we have to do our jobs, someone is having a bad day.
- You want to do your job, but at the same time, you hope it doesn’t occur. But once the bells go off and there’s a fire, everyone is amped up and nervous but they’re ready to go.
- The anxiety is there like with fighting, but going to a fire, I always have my team with me.
- I talk to myself during a fire, just like when I’m fighting. I always do a mental checklist and prepare for what could be ahead during that fire. It’s a variation for each one, but you’re still hitting those check marks.
- Around the fire house with my crew is like a comedy show all the time. If you don’t have thick skin around here, you aren’t going to make it. If you make any misstep, they’ll be all over you.
- But when the time comes, we all stick together and act as a crew. It’s a family atmosphere around here. For the most part, during the day, it’s all professional. We take care of the engines and gear, and we train.

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