ST. LOUIS – The annual battle of red versus blue is less than five weeks away and Guns 'N Hoses hopefuls are well into their training for the event.
The event raises money for The BackStoppers, which provides financial assistance and support to families of public servants who have died or been catastrophically injured in the line of duty.
Over the summer, three firefighter/paramedics from West County EMS and Fire Protection District began training for this year's big event.
Greg Bewig has fought in the event four years. While he isn't ruling out the idea of getting into the ring again someday, for now, he is using his experience to coach boxer Andrew Palmer and mixed martial arts fighter Josh Woolums for their first fights.
Bewig said he learned something new with each fight, and he's sharing that wisdom with his friends.
"Nine times out of ten the Guns 'N Hoses fights end up in a brawl, so maybe training more for the brawl aspect of a very fast-paced, hard pushed fight," Bewig said.
The men tell me they have been working hard to build their strength and endurance to compete in the physical sport. Fighters need quick hands and fast feet.
However, fighting is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one, they said. According to Woolums, in addition to the challenges boxers face, there is even more strategy that goes into MMA fighting.
"I'm worrying about getting taken down, being able to take someone else down, how we're going to go on the ground, how not to get choked or have my arm broken," Woolums said.
Bewig, Palmer, and Woolums train daily either at the firehouse, on their own, or with other first responders from across the area. Fox 2 tagged along Thursday evening (Oct. 24) as they trained with other first responders at the St. Louis Police Academy.
"It's pretty exhausting," Woolums said. "It's really hard on the body. I'm definitely feeling it everywhere. It's tough."
Loud music and encouraging words from coaches help get the fighters through their long workouts. When that isn't enough, they said they remind themselves what and who they are fighting for.
"When you think about those times when you're like 'Oh, I don't really want to do this,' you think about why you're doing it, and they definitely help give you that motivation to keep going," Palmer said.
The 33rd annual Guns 'N Hoses will be held on November 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Enterprise Center. Tickets are on sale now.
The public is invited to attend an open workout to watch the training and meet some of the fighters on Sunday, Oct. 27 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Sweat Gym (8011 Maryland Ave.) in Clayton. The event is free.