Former UFC vet teaches self-defense in Savannah

SAVANNAH, Ga, (WSAV) — From the backyard to the big ring, Ultimate Fighting Champion Stephen “BigFish” Bass uses his craft to keep others protected.

He started as a kid, but 12 years ago he decided to make his professional debut as a mixed martial artist. After being undefeated 9-0 as a Mixed Martial Artist (MMA), he was injured — but those injuries are what led him to open the Savannah Combat Club.

Now he’s sharing what he’s learned with others in various classes, including self-defense.

“I exercise really hard to make myself happy. Some people go to the doctor and get prescriptions. I do this,” Stephen Bass said. “This is my prescription for health.”

Not only does it make him happy, it keeps others safe. Bass teaches his classes in a cross fit format.

“You’re going to come in, you’re going to do pushups, situps, squats — you’re going to learn the skills of keeping a person three feet away from you. Protecting your head and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground,” Bass says.

Protection is key, especially on the streets of Savannah. According to the Savannah Chatham Metro Police Department, in 2016 there were 396 street robberies and 280 aggravated assaults with a gun and 260 without.

These stats are a reason for Jennifer Vacala to train here. It applies to her daily life as a woman and a personal trainer.

“If you’re in a parking lot at a grocery store, and somebody’s coming after you he teaches great ways to get away,” Vacala said. “Not to fight but to just be able to get away maybe throw a couple of punches and then head out.”

Not only is it important for her, but she feels that it’s a learning experience for all women.

“Its so important. In the day in age now where women are all over the place by themselves, and late at night, we need to know what to do to get away,” Vacala said.

Bass says staying safe doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s simple — gloves up, guns down.

“The people that are causing all of the trouble in the streets the crime, they’re not a bunch of bad people. They just don’t have an outlet, they don’t have an avenue,” Bass said, adding, “And I think we can use martial arts to give people an avenue to not have to be out and settling their problems the hard way with a pistol.”

Click here to visit the Savannah Combat Club website.

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