Chicago Police Officer Mike Russow
Chicago Police Officer Mike Russow
Photo credit: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Chicago Police Officer Mike Russow is no stranger to the sound of gunshots and the violence that exists on the streets he patrols daily on the city's South Side.
But every day before his shift, he trades his uniform, badge and service weapon for five-ounce gloves, a mat and a cage.
When the 36-year-old isn't on duty, he's training for his second job as a fighter with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Russow has fought for the top mixed martial arts league since 2009 on some of the biggest stages on both national television and Pay-Per-View.
"It was something I always wanted to do," the 10-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department told Officer.com. "I was watching the UFC when it first came out when I was in high school. It had a strong wrestling background and it was always something I liked.
"I went to school, I wanted to get my education, get a job and once after I got a job and settled into that. It was just something to do for fun, just see where it would bring me. It's been pretty successful so far."
His most recent fight was on Jan. 26 against Shawn Jordan in front of his hometown fans at Chicago's United Center -- the same place he had his hand raised in victory almost exactly one year ago.
After a first round in which Russow dominated his opponent, he slowed down in the second and the fight was stopped due to punches. Moments later it was Jordan's hand that was raised instead.
"I'm not happy with the outcome. It's just one of those things," he said a little over a week after the fight. "I have to get back in the gym this week, watch the video and just really go over what I'm doing and look at the mistakes I made and just go from there."
Along with getting back in the gym, he was also preparing to go back on duty.
"It's always nice going back after a win, but everyone is still supportive whether I win or lose."
Juggling Two Jobs
Russow works the 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift and does his training before that.
"It's very demanding. You just have to do a really good job with time management," he said. "Most of these guys I'm fighting; they're young and they just do it fulltime. With me and other guys out there, we have to work, do our eight hours, and go to bed, get up, train and then go to work."
One of the good things about the UFC, Russow said, is that they give him plenty of notice before a fight. "Usually it's like a three-month notice of when the fight's going to be so I can plan with work."
If the fight is on Saturday, he'll fly to the location on the previous Tuesday.
For his latest fight, he was able to use part of his vacation time and didn't have to use a lot of comp or unpaid time.
He took off on Jan. 20, fought on Jan. 26 and goes back to work on Feb. 6.
Russow said that his supervisors have always been supportive of his MMA career.
"My bosses have always been great with giving me time off," he said. "They like to watch the fights themselves."
About the same time he got into fighting in 2006, he was partnered with Officer Tony Petrancosta, with whom he is still works alongside today.
"He's been there from the beginning when I first started getting into it," Russow said. "He loves it. He goes to all of my fights and is very supportive.
"I'm lucky to have a good partner. That's one of the keys. It's not very much fun if you don't have a good partner, especially being with them for 8 1/2 hours a day."
Following some of his more high-profile fights, Russow said that he has been recognized more often when he is on the street.
"I'm more of a shy guy," he said. "I'd rather people not even notice it. I don't even talk about it much. Me and my partner rarely even talk about it. That's just not me."
MMA and Policing
As the UFC has become bigger, MMA and fighting disciplines such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu have become more popular.
"When I was growing up I pretty much knew wrestling -- which is what I did in high school and college -- and didn't even know what jiu-jitsu was," Russow said. "Now you've got these people growing up, they're going in the sport and they know stand up, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, they know all of this stuff."
Russow said that he's seen more police officers try their hand at it.
"I have, especially on the local shows. I know a lot of guys who train. It's like a hobby. It gives them something to do," he said.
"A lot of people like to compete and set goals and things like that, so I think it's great."
Aside from fighting, Russow said that MMA training can be very beneficial for all officers.
"There are more guys who just do it to keep in shape than are actually out there fighting on the local shows," he said.
At his gym in Bloomington, Ill., he said there are about eight or nine officers in a class.
"I think it's great. It keeps people in shape and they are learning moves that actually do -- especially with jiu-jitsu -- help you when you're out there on the streets."
Fighting at Home
For his Jan. 26 fight against Jordan, Russow was able to take the short drive to the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown Chicago a few days before the fight as he prepared.
Having a fight booked in the same place where he works and lives is a huge plus.
"I love it. It's the simple fact that I don't have to fly, go out of town. I don't have to provide plane tickets for my coaches," he said. "In that aspect it saves money, and then just being in the comfort of your home.
"The fact that all of your friends and family come and watch you fight, it's really exciting. I've been blessed to be able to fight in the United Center twice."
Russow was disappointed he wasn't able to win in front of the home crowd, but said that it hasn't tarnished his love of what he does in the cage when he isn't out patrolling the streets of Chicago.
"To me, it's better than a side-job I'd be doing anyway -- doing security somewhere, he said. "So at least I get to do what I love, train and fight and still make pretty good money."