HO-HO-KUS, N.J.– Ho-Ho-Kus' American Eagle Mixed Martial Arts and Kettlebells owner Phil Ross of Mahwah has dominated more than 300 fights — and he's got the bumps, bruises and scars to prove it.
The awards, newspaper clippings and photographs adorning the wall of the 1980 Ridgewood High School graduate's studio highlight a wrestling and MMA career more than three decades long.
But the most impressive part could be the fact that Ross, who also worked as a bouncer and bodyguard, is still alive today.
“I’ve faced guns, knives, nunchucks, clubs, even a chain,” Ross, 53, told Daily Voice. “I’ve faced these things in real combat and I’m still here to talk about it.”
Ross' combat experience and credentials are well documented in the two books he’s written that are out this year: “Survival Strong” – which he will be promoting with an April 10 appearance at Ridgewood’s Bookends – and “Ferocious Fitness.”
Ross' first introduction to martial arts came through the 1970s TV show “Kung Fu” starring David Carradine.
He went on to compete in Greco-Roman wrestling and was a two-year wrestler at the University of Maryland.
Unable to maintain weight, Ross switched his focus full-time to MMA, and more recently, kettle bell training. That led him to his wife, Amy, who he met while filming a kettle bell training video.
Ross says his most important job is at home.
“I put my family first," said Ross, who is en route to earning his fifth blackbelt. "[And] I’ve trained all of them."
His 22-year-old daughter, Nicole, is a trainer at his studio. His 20-year-old son, Spencer, is a shot put and discus thrower at Dartmouth College. Even six-year-old Adrienne is involved in MMA when she's not playing basketball or soccer.
Ross wants to take everything he’s learned during his decorated career and pay it forward.
“I love coaching and passing on my knowledge,” Ross said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I have a lot of failures. I want my children to do better than me. I want my athletes to do better than me.”