Behind the smile and hairless head of Sergeant Isaac Payne is a man dedicated to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, his family, the community and a few passion projects.

Payne first started in law enforcement while he was a student at BYU-Idaho. He worked at the sheriff’s office and graduated with a degree in communication. Following his bachelor’s degree, he got a job with the Air Force where he worked for a few years before he was medically discharged for a back injury.

He then spent time in competitive mixed martial arts, worked at the Fairbanks, Alaska Police Department and the Alaska Department of Corrections before he returned to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in 2015.

He said law enforcement and martial arts came naturally to him because he was a talented fighter, which he had a hard time understanding at first.

“Now I’ve come to find that there is a purpose for that,” he said. “That I am very good at hand to hand things and dealing with those situations in a productive and helpful way. So, I’ve found an avenue to express my God-given talent in a way that actually helps people.”

Besides working for the sheriff’s office, he leads the Jr. Deputy Program, runs an anti-bullying program through the sheriff’s office and his gym and will soon roll out with a self-defense program with the Smart Foundation.

“So there’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of projects that I’m involved with but it’s all great and it’s all fun,” Payne said.

The project with the Smart Foundation called Smart Defense will teach physical self-defense techniques using Krav Maga, Jiu-Jitsu, and boxing, as well as communication techniques like crisis communication, conflict management and de-escalation.

“The objective is always to get away and to get out of danger, but if we can get people to be a little bit more situationally aware, get people a little bit more comfortable addressing something that they feel uncomfortable and safe in, then they can vocalize and deal with those situations before they ever become physical,” Payne said.

Payne said Rexburg, while a small town in Idaho, does have many of the same problems as any other town like thefts and drug busts, though at a smaller rate.

“But thankfully, a lot of those situations are few and far between and we benefit here from having a lot of support from our community, so we thank everyone for that,” he said.

Payne opened his gym called Payne Athletic Company because he couldn’t find a gym that offered the martial arts he was looking to train in. He said he doesn’t compete like he used to but he does train others to compete. He said fighting has a bad connotation. He likes to think of them as athletes.

Besides Krav Maga, Jiu-Jitsu and boxing, his gym also offers MMA, Muay Thai, (cowboy) yoga and personal training.

The yoga trainer is a former bull rider who was injured riding a bull and now teaches yoga.

Last year, doctors diagnosed Payne with stage III colon cancer in his intestines. Doctors removed a foot of his intestines and some lymph nodes along with going through 12 rounds of chemotherapy. He also nearly died during his second round of chemotherapy.

He said he learned many things during this hardship. He learned to ask for help and to rely on other people. He learned how to live without being as physical and he has more empathy, which he said has made him a better person.

“Just life in general – law enforcement especially – but life in general, can make you jaded, can harden your skin a little bit, so you forget to kind of feel things and I think that kind of softened me up to feeling things and to being more sensitive to the people around me,” Payne said.