SPORTS

Josh Hill hits the books and then opponent before taking firefighter test

03/14/2012 03:53 EDT | Updated 05/14/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Hamilton bantamweight Josh Hill is hoping for a quick, easy win Friday night in his 135-pound MMA fight with Saskatoon's Eric Wilson in The Score Fighting Series.

That's because he has to get up at 8 a.m. Saturday and wrap his head around two three-hour written exams to become a Hamilton firefighter.

The City of Hamilton has a few rare openings and the only days Hill could write the test were Thursday, Friday or Saturday this week.

Some 2,000 people will take the test, with Hill needing a 90 per cent score to have a chance of progressing to an interview and physical test. Last year, the city hired about a dozen new firefighters.

"I've got a better chance of being a doctor right now," Hill joked. "It's crazy."

"The odds are heavily against you but you've just got to keep trying," he added. "They say the average waiting time to get in after applying is like five to seven years."

He wrote the test last year and expects to do better now he has a better feel for the type of questions — and the math.

"I'm horrible at math," he lamented.

He already has his firefighting certificate from a school in Fort Worth, Texas.

For the time being, he's trying to put the weekend test aside until after the fight. Hill knows anything that takes his attention off his opponent is dangerous.

In Friday's lightweight main event at the Hamilton Place Theatre, former UFC and WEC veteran John (The Natural) Alessio (33-14) takes on former Strikeforce and WEC fighter (Diamond) Ryan Healy (19-9-1).

Alessio is a B.C. native who now fights out of Las Vegas. Healy's twin brother Pat is also a professional MMA fighter.

Hill (7-0) feels some pressure these days to maintain his unbeaten record. The competition is getting tougher every time out and he knows a UFC shot may be close.

"There's a lot of talk that if I win this fight, it might be the fight to push me into the big show," he said.

Asked what he would do if he earned a call-up to the UFC and was offered a firefighting job, Hill didn't hesitate.

"I'd take the UFC in a heartbeat," Hill said. "I can always work later in life. You can't always do this later."

While all fighters look for a quick, painless win, it's the second straight bout that Hill has had a compelling reason to finish quickly.

Last August in Hamilton, Hill found himself battling the flu as well as opponent Federico Lopez.

Hill had chances to finish Lopez off in the first round but couldn't do it. And then his ailing body let him down.

"The last two rounds I had nothing left," said Hill, normally known for his cardio. "I just had to grind out the win. It wasn't my best performance for sure."

Firefighting has long been a career goal, not to mention it runs in the family. Hill's father is a firefighter at Dofasco and both father and son are volunteer firefighters in Hamilton.

Hill Jr. wears several other hats.

He works part-time at Quantum Murray, which deals with hazardous materials, and at Thomson Metals and Disposal, which is a waste transfer station.

He works about 20-25 hours a week at Thomson and does one night a week as a volunteer firefighter — not to mention any fire calls.

At Quantum Murray, he's a responder — meaning he cleans up big chemical spills as needed.

Then there's his training.

Hill trains all over. His main gym is House of Champions in Stoney Creek but he also spends time at Pura BJJ in Hamilton and Para Bellum Mixed Martial Arts in Oakville. Once a week, he drives to Oshawa to train at the Bruckmann Academy of Martial Arts.

"It's pretty hectic but I try to make it work," he said.

He also has to find time for his girlfriend. "I try my best," he said with a laugh.

Growing up, Hill played plenty of sports although hockey and rugby were at the top of his list. A left-winger, he finished his hockey career at 21 with the Glanbrook Rangers of the Niagara & District Junior C Hockey League.

Hill turned to MMA training when he was 20 while attending Brock University, focusing first on submission wrestling and grappling.

After years of playing sports with friends and teammates who were bigger than him, the five-foot-six, 150-pound Hill — who cuts to 135 to fight — says he enjoys competing against people his own size.

Hill had planned to try out for "The Ultimate Fighter" reality TV show but was unable to attend tryouts in New Jersey after breaking his thumb in a win over Diego Wilson in March 2011.

"I didn't feel it in the fight but afterwards it swelled up like a balloon," he said.

He needed surgery to repair the break.

Wilson is reputed to be a leglock specialist but Hill says he is also capable on his feet.

"He's not afraid to throw," Hill said. "I wouldn't say he's the most technical striker but he's definitely willing to trade. And those guys you have to be careful (of). They throw some unorthodox-type punches and those are the ones that might catch you."

Wilson (5-1) is coming off a submission loss to John (The Haggis Basher) Fraser last May.

Hill saw a pretty good game plan from that fight, saying the bigger, stronger Fraser pushed the pace and kept putting pressure on Wilson.

When the fight went to the ground, Fraser negated Wilson's submission attempts by punching him in the face.

"Through the second round, Fraser just broke him. Tired him out and kind of gassed him. In the third round, he got the submission."

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