Fight competitor raises funds for resident –  With a crowd of hundreds and an MMA cage/ring in the background, Elmhurst resident Maggie Ward-Kossak(left) breaks from her pre-bout routine for some smiles and inspiration from Matt Toole and his wife Karen. Kossak decided to train for the Amateur Muay Thai competition held on Friday, Dec. 1, in Bed-ford Park, and donate proceeds from the fight to Toole, who is living with ALS.

 

Raises funds for friend battling ALS; celebrates late husband’s birthday

By Patti Pagni

For The Elmhurst Independent

For a split second, Maggie Ward-Kossak heard hundreds of her fans and friends chanting, “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie!” outside the boxing ring during her on Friday, Dec. 1. Kossak thought, “Wow,” but the 5’1”, 120-pound dynamo knew she had to stay focused on the match-up going on inside the ring.

Outside the ring at the Total Fight Challenge in Bedford Park’s Swanson Center, there were hundreds of supporters wearing Machine Gun Maggie shirts. There were Shannon Rovers bagpipers who led her to the ring at the start, and dozens of cameras were flashing. Kossak entered the ring and went three full rounds against her opponent, ultimately winning the exhilarating and exhausting fight by unanimous decision.

Muay Thai is a standing combat sport that uses punching, kicking, and throwing elbows, knees and shins.

As she made her way to the ring listening to the crowd clearly in favor of her, Kossak said she felt elevated.

“I knew this was gonna be good,” she said. “I couldn’t believe I’d feel this happy again without Paul being here.”

Remembering her husband Paul

Paul Kossak, Maggie’s husband and father of their three children, Grace, Jack and Frances (Frankie), passed away in May of 2016. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer one month after Maggie competed in her first Mixed Martial Arts competition in 2014.

“After Paul was diagnosed, I felt like I had to be with my family,” she said. “I couldn’t take the time away in order to train to compete again.”

But about three years after Paul’s diagnosis, the 48-year-old Kossak said she was ready to train again, but wasn’t doing it just for herself.

“I wanted to get back in it, yes, but mostly for someone else,” she said. “So many people were so amazing to me and my family when Paul was sick, that I just knew I wanted to pay it forward.”

And, pay it forward she did!

Donates proceeds to resident living with ALS

Kossak, a Farmers Insurance agent based out of Oak Brook, sold about 300 tickets to the event at $50 each and 200 Machine Gun Maggie shirts at $20 each, with proceeds going to the Matt Toole family. Toole is an Elmhurst resident who has been living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease for several years, and whom Kossak knows from the Visitation School community.

“Matt is such an inspiration,” she said. “He fights every day – along with his wife and their kids – and yet his smile is bigger and bigger every time I see him. Helping them has been such a cool way to pay it forward.”

The Tooles sat ringside at the fight with Matt Toole’s wheelchair right up against the outside of the octagon.

“We are so blessed and grateful that she would think of us and do this for us, and help us continue to spread the word about ALS,” said the 47-year-old Toole. “The energy in the room was amazing. We were so close that we could hear the thumps coming out of the ring. The time and effort she put into getting ready for this battle emotionally and physically is pretty amazing. That spinning backhand move she used…I don’t think her opponent saw it coming!

“Living with ALS is challenging, but with Maggie in our corner, I know I can win.”

Kossak’s Top Notch MMA coaches include gym owner Macario Ramos and Michael Santiago, who recently signed to an Ultimate Fighting Championship contract. When she told them she was interested in a fight again, Kossak was stopped in her tracks when her coaches gave her a competition date.

Training for the big event

“It was Paul’s birthday – December 1,” she said. “I thought it was perfect, cause I don’t really know what to do with myself on his birthday. To walk into the ring following the Shannon Rovers and to hear everyone screaming my name was just crazy.  I should have known how awesome people would be, ‘cause they were all amazing when Paul was sick.”

The time, training and dedication Maggie put into to prepare for the competition was grueling.

“I trained every day for at least eight months,” she said. “Then with two months to go, I trained two times a day.”

Maggie says she took her family and friends along for the wild ride and she says her friends have now asked her to take up watercolors or dancing in the future.

“When I told my mom about my first fight in 2014, my mom said, ‘One and done,’” she laughed. “Then I had to tell her I was going to do it again, and she said, ‘two and through!’”

‘Feelin’ no pain’

During the fight, Maggie said she didn’t feel any pain when she was struck or kicked.

“After the fight, my body was sore, tired and my neck a little stiff, but during the fight I didn’t feel pain…I felt it later,” she said.

And though it was clearly evident she wasn’t fighting with one arm tied behind her back, Maggie, who wears glasses, quickly adjusted to only one eye at optimal vision.

“I popped contacts in right before the fight, and my left contact got punched out of my eye about 30 seconds into the first round,” she said. “But it all worked out.

“I probably won’t compete again, but will continue to train.

Maggie summed up her experience thusly:

“I had the time of my life…I felt like Paul was there and was amazed by the number of people who came and supported me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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