Archive for April, 2009

No Excuses: Legends has Tuff Night in Vegas

Posted in Legends MMA, Live Event Reports, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by jaytan716

Legends MMA’s 11-fight win streak at Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA fights came to a halt last night, as Chris Brady, Christian Palencia, and Eddie Jackson faced defeat in their championship title matches.  Lightweight Palencia and welterweight Jackson had fought their way to the finals of an eight-man tournament in their respective weight classes, while Brady was scheduled to challenge Jamie Hernandez (West Coast MMA) for the Tuff-N-Uff bantamweight title.

“Obviously, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but to be totally honest, with such young guys fighting so many times this year, and all the success that they had, and then having to turn around three and a half weeks from their last fight. . . at some point, something’s gonna give,” commented Legends’ head trainer Chris Reilly.

Ironically enough, both Brady and Jackson faced last-minute replacements in their championship matches, as their original opponents, including reigning bantamweight champion Hernandez, bowed out due to injury.  Jimmy Jacobs (Xtreme Couture) stepped in to fight Brady for what was redubbed the Tuff-N-Uff Bantamweight Interim Championship.  The two had met previously in October 2008, when Brady defeated Jacobs by decision.

Jackson’s new opponent also turned out to be an Xtreme Couture fighter, as Kenny Marzolla was brought in to take the spot of Bill Cooper (Paragon MMA), the other welterweight tournament finalist. Cooper had defeated Marzolla by first round submission at the previous Tuff-N-Uff to determine Jackson’s opponent in the tournament finals.

Addressing the change in opponents, Reilly said “the fact that they were last minute replacements I actually find to have been a big advantage [for those fighters].  They probably got the appropriate amount of rest that they needed.  They didn’t have the month to stress out about being in their first title fights.  I know that the times that I got a last-minute call to do a fight, if I was in shape. . . whether I’d been in the gym or not, I went in there and fought really, really well – due to that lack of stress, the lack of being nervous and thinking about it the whole time.”

In that these were championship matches, each bout’s duration was changed to three three-minute rounds, as opposed to three two-minute rounds.

Chris Brady applies a tight rubber guard on Jimmy Jones.

Chris Brady applies a tight rubber guard on Jimmy Jones.

135 lbs. – Chris Brady (Legends MMA) vs. Jimmy Jones (Xtreme Couture)

Round one opened up with Jones charging and trying to trip Brady to the ground.  They did go to the ground on Jones’ second attempt, with Jones working for an armbar, but Brady pulled out.  It’s believed that Brady injured his shoulder at this point in the match.  Jones landed a few up kicks before they took to standing again.  Brady stayed light, keeping out of Jones’ range and countering jabs with kicks and combos.  Jones caught a kick, but couldn’t capitalize for a takedown.  Toward the end, Jacobs caught another kick and charged to throw Brady off balance, pushing him through the ropes.  In round two, they traded kicks, as Jacobs landed a back kick and Brady replied with hard rights to the body and legs.  Jacobs missed a superman punch and caught another kick, but to no avail, as Brady continued the stick-and-move strategy.  Jacobs did eventually land a trip takedown, but pulled out when Brady worked his rubber guard.  Standing, Jacobs charged with punches, pulling guard and tripping Brady to the ground.  Jones clinched in a triangle choke and forced the tapout at 2:09 of the second round.  This victory makes Jimmy Jones the new Tuff-N-Uff Interim Bantamweight champion.

After the fight, Reilly suggested that Brady’s shoulder made all the difference in the fight, saying “I think there is no way Brady would have lost, had he not gotten injured. . . that shoulder separation made it impossible for him to get out of that triangle, once [Jones] got the bad arm.”

As of this writing, the severity of Brady’s shoulder injury has yet to be determined, but the Tennessee native was quick to reset his resolve for redemption, stating “the tough losses and hard times just make my resolve to be a champion that much more real and concrete.  I’m a warrior.  This is who I am.  I won’t stop till I have my revenge and that belt around my waist.”

Christian Palencia, cornered by Chris Reilly, Jimmie Romero, and Conor "The Hurricane" Heun.

Christian Palencia, cornered by Chris Reilly, Jimmie Romero, and Conor "The Hurricane" Heun.

155 lbs. – Christian Palencia (Legends MMA) vs. Odis Ruiz (Filipino MMA)

Palencia sparked the fuse with several combinations, one of which almost dropped Ruiz.  After a brief clinch and jockeying for position, the two traded high kicks.  In the clinch, Ruiz landed a pair of right body shots that left a noticeable red welt for the rest of the weekend.  Palencia caught a right kick and tried to capitalize by throwing overhand rights, but had to let go as Ruiz kept his balanced and peppered him with headshots.  Palencia let his hands go with combos to the head as the round ended.  Round two saw Ruiz tag Palencia with some combos and trip him in the corner.  Palencia was crowded up under the ropes, so Ruiz threw body shots until the referee finally stopped the action and restarted them in the center.  Palencia opened up with headshots down the pipe, evading a Ruiz-sponsored head kick.  Just on the eve of the bell, Palencia knocked Ruiz down and sunk in a triangle choke on the ground, but missed the tapout by mere seconds.  In round three, Palencia fired jabs which Ruiz countered with kicks, both trading center ring position during the exchange.  Palencia had Ruiz in trouble standing, firing nonstop combos and landing an especially rocking uppercut, but Ruiz was able to survive and stay on his feet, moving his head and retaliating with combos and front kicks.  At the 10-second mark, Palencia opened up and let his hands fly, but was knocked down with a backhand right.  Ruiz fell into Palencia’s guard just as the bell rang, and the two hugged with mutual respect.

Judges awarded Odis Ruiz the unanimous decision, making him the new Tuff-N-Uff 155 lb. champion.  Palencia vs. Ruiz also won Best Match honors for the night.

After seeing the video of the fight, Palencia admitted that he possibly followed Ruiz’ lead too much, noting “I already knew he was a tough guy but he was definitely tougher than I expected. . . I think that I didn’t fight aggressive enough.  I did the same mistake that I did before, where I kinda wanted to just try and fight whatever he would throw at me, instead of coming in with a game plan.”

Reilly, however, had praise for the aspiring lightweight, saying “I can’t be unhappy with how that fight went.  I actually thought that Christian did more damage.  We sat through the rules meeting right before where they said that damage was going to be scored #1. . . Christian’s bloody nose may have shown more from far away.”

Echoing Reilly’s thoughts, teammate Eddie Jackson spoke to the cardio game in this match: “Christian, man, I think he got robbed. . . And he pushed Odis, as far as cardio and condition-wise.  And [Ruiz is] fuckin’ climbing mountains, swimming – I mean doing all kinds of Mr. Olympian workouts and shit. . . I’ve never seen [Ruiz] struggle the way he did.”

170 lbs. – Eddie Jackson (Legends MMA) vs. Kenny Marzolla (Xtreme Couture)

Jackson came in riding high off his previous Tuff-N-Uff victory, a first-round KO that was featured recently on HD-Net’s Inside MMA.

At the onset, Marzolla landed a high kick that Jackson took square on the neck.  In doing so, Marzolla slipped, and Jackson fell with him, landing in Marzolla’s guard.  But Marzolla swept Jackson and got full mount, with both of Jackson’s arms trapped beneath.  After three unanswered rights, the referee stopped the match, making Marzolla the new Tuff-N-Uff Welterweight champion.

Thankfully, Jackson was able to leave the ring of his own accord, and was clear and coherent backstage, nursing little more over the weekend than bruised pride.  “I ain’t gonna lie; I have a lot of anger built up.  Its part of this sport, you gotta control that shit.  It’s just part of growing up and becoming a fighter.”

Overall for the night, Xtreme Couture came away with a 6-1 record, while Filipino MMA went 2-1.  Attendance was announced as approximately 1,500, and light heavyweight Patrick Begin (Xtreme Couture) deserved Song of the Night honors for walking out to Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.”

In reflection on the night, Reilly concluded “this is a sport for men.  You can’t be a little bitch about it.  And that’s the reality – You get the glory with the win, you gotta suffer the indignity of the loss, and whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger . . . but in the end, it’s going to make them all better fighters.  It’s an experience for them.  It’s almost like keeping that title out there is going to give them that much more motivation to keep going and keep trying hard.  There’s a silver lining in every cloud.”

On May 30th, Tuff-N-Uff will hold their first open-invitational event, scheduled for the Orleans Arena; and in July, the promotion will present an all-female MMA event which may include Legends MMA fighters.  Prior to that, Legends fighters are scheduled for Muay Thai action on May 30th in Costa Mesa, CA and at Hollywood Park Casino on June 13th.

Advertisements

Verbal Sparring: Takashi Munoz (Legends MMA)

Posted in Interviews, Legends MMA, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , on April 20, 2009 by jaytan716

Kyokushin brown belt and Legends MMA fighter Takashi Munoz

Kyokushin brown belt and Legends MMA fighter Takashi Munoz

Just the name “Takashi Munoz” alone speaks volumes of his story, but that’s merely the tip of the iceberg for this mature young man.

Born of Japanese and Mexican parents in the City of Angels, Munoz has been a fighter almost all of his life. He currently has a brown belt in Kyokushin karate, one of the more notoriously brutal and violent of the Japanese fighting arts. He took second place in the Kyokushin World Junior tournament at the age of 12, after only a year of training. At 15, he was invited to compete in the adults division – three years before normal eligibility. In 2005, Munoz placed in the Top 16 of 2,300 competitors at the World Junior Division Kyokushin championships in Tokyo. Having joined Legends MMA team just over a year ago, Munoz has jumped into the amateur MMA game and already started to make waves.

But behind those accomplishments is a lifetime of sacrifice. And behind that sacrifice is a clear understanding and maturity that few other men at his age or level possess. Moreover, Munoz is the first to acknowledge that the life he’s lived isn’t the best for everybody – just the best for him.

In this interview, Munoz opened up about the pressures as a child martial artist, his vision and definition of success, and what he thinks about kids looking to walk in his footsteps.

JT: Talk about your training background.

TM: I come from a full-contact karate background. Kyokushin karate. I trained out of Los Angeles. There’s one right here in Little Tokyo. I’ve pretty much been there my whole life. That’s like another place for me to be. I started at 12, on my birthday. . . I got my ass kicked pretty bad, and I was like “man, maybe I should come back again.” So I did, and then, like even though I was getting my ass kicked every day, little by little, I started to learn. . . It took me awhile to get used to it. All the bruises that I had. Then, little by little, I was getting used to it. . . So then I stuck to it and I’ve been doing it for like nine years already.

I teach kids sometimes too. And I sometimes teach fighters class [to kids that want to learn how to fight]. The funny thing is that they don’t want to go through the hard training. That’s one some of them don’t understand. I tell them “right now, as you’re a kid, it’s okay. But sooner or later, you’ll come to realize that you gotta do a lot of stuff to reach for the top.” Some parents, they’ve seen me go through that stuff too, because I grew up with some of their kids too. So they’ve seen what I had to go through. And they tell other kids “hey, listen to him. He knows what he’s talking about. We’ve seen him go through that suffering.”

And then, finally, my big thing in karate – had the first World Jr. Division tournament. There were kids from all around the world coming in. I fought in the open weight division. So you see light guys fight against heavy guys. And only two kids represented from the US. Me and another guy from my dojo.

JT: Did you grow up in California?

TM: Yeah, I grew up in Alhambra, a small town over there. And pretty much, almost everybody knows each other. It’s funny, because, it’s like, you might not have seen them before, but they know you. That’s how it is. People are like “hey, I know you” and I’m looking at them like “umm, alright.” I guess I know you too.

JT: Let’s talk about your name. You don’t see a name like “Takashi Munoz” too often. It sticks out when you hear it.

TM: [Laughs]. I get that a lot. . . My dad is Mexican. . . He was from Texas and came out here. . . And my mom is Japanese. . . She’s a teacher at a language school for Japanese. . . My dad gave me that name, Takashi. Because he had a friend that fought too. His name was Takashi.

JT: When you grew up, was it mostly one culture or another?

TM: I had a little bit of both. It kinda raised me to “hey, y’know – every culture is the same. Or everybody’s different, but to me, it’s like the same.“ I could pass internationally, everywhere.

JT: Your mom raised you to speak Japanese?

TM: Yeah, she did. From what I hear, my first language was Japanese. So it was a pretty surprising thing. She made me go to school for it, in elementary all through high school. . . At first I didn’t like it, but little by little, I was just like “you know what? It’s helping me where I’m at, right now. I know I’m going to be going to Japan here and there.” I visited my family in Japan . . . And sure enough, it did.

JT: What was that like growing up, with your dad as a boxer?

TM: It was good because he taught me a lot of tricks that a lot of fighters don’t really see that much. . . He was pretty much, [did] a couple of smoker fights, but he knew what it’s about. He also competed elsewhere. . . He was a hard hitter, so he knows what to do and stuff like that.

He always told me that he was small, and he is. He was shorter than me . . . but he was smart, he said. Because [he] knew they were gonna put him up with insane guys. . . And he knows that these guys aren’t in shape. One thing he always said, “I was always in shape. That was made me smart about it.” He knew that they were gonna pound on him. The only thing is that

Takashi Munoz, victorious at Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships.

Takashi Munoz, victorious at Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships.

he could last. That was the whole point.

He’s passed away, but he was always there for me, every step of my fights. In the karate tournaments, I’ll be like “hey, I won my first round.” He’ll be like “yeah, good.” He doesn’t smile, but he tells me that, y’know, “you still got another one. Stay in the game.” I know he’s proud. My first tournament, I came out second place. And that was with only one year of karate, and I was surprised that I came out second place. I told him “I wonder how I did it,” and he said “you were just more prepared than anybody. That was it. Not everybody could pull that off.”

JT: How did you fall into the mix at Legends?

TM: My friend Tyler knows Chris [Reilly] through K-1 fights. He’s interviewed the fighters for martial arts television. So he introduced me to Chris and from there it happened. Chris told me “hey, come to pro training then. Work your way up.” I started from pro training, so I got my ass kicked. . . I didn’t really talk to anybody. I just stayed quiet and focused. Little by little, I was like “hey, man, this is the home for me. Everybody’s friendly. . .” Chris is a great guy. I trust him a lot. And then Jimmy [Romero], he’s a nice guy to train with too. I started feeling a team spirit here.

JT: What’s the transition like, going from Kyokushin to MMA?

TM: I wasn’t really used to the face hits that much. . . It’s not for everybody, the transition. . . I think after all the years of doing one thing, you have to think another way. It’s like a shock to them. . . I did kickboxing too, between karate. Before I started at Legends. So I kinda got used to the face hits.

JT: Was the ground game a new thing to you? That doesn’t exist in Kyokushin, does it?

TM: No, it doesn’t, but in some karate organizations, it does. A lot of them, the head directors of those organizations, come from Kyokushin backgrounds. They put throws and everything. . .Like Sambo, for example.

JT: Was that a difficult part of the transition for you?

TM: Yeah, it was. Because what I learned – I did most of the pushing. Punching, kicking, you have to kick out. But ground game, you have to pull. It’s the opposite thing. It’s a different kind of muscle. Oh man, I got tired quick. At first, I thought maybe it’s not for me, but I stuck to it to see if I could do it. And little by little, I started getting it.

JT: Did you start with Eddie [Bravo’s] class?

TM: No, I started with the pro team, actually. And then little-by-little, with Conor [Heun].

And then a friend of mine from EliteXC, Jamie Fletcher – I used to train with [him] before I started with Legends. He used to tell me “hey, why don’t you check out Erik Paulson?”. . . He was one of those first generation Shooto fighters. . . I go once in awhile, to see where my ground game is at. The good thing about it is he’s got a lot of guys that fight at my weight. He has me rolling with them for like an hour and a half straight. . .

JT: How far out do you start your training camp?

TM: I start like all year long. It’s better to be prepared for something than to wait for it. It’s better to be prepared ahead of time. My dad. . . he said “fighting – there’s really no day of rest. You gotta constantly keep going. . .you gotta be ready all year long.”

JT: For you, what’s the toughest part of fighting?

TM: I say the butterflies before training. . . And the butterflies before the fight too. . . Because then, really, I get nervous when something new is going to happen. . . I like to be alone before any fight. Be separated from everything. Just by myself. Quiet. I believe that’s the better way of concentrating.

JT: Does it get easier when you step inside the ring?

TM: Yeah, it does. I feel calm once they say my name. And I know “alright, I’m here now. I’m finally here. Thank you.”

JT: Does it help you that you’ve been through that before? Do you go “okay, it’s just another fight?”

TM: Yeah, it does. A little bit more. It helps me more, because in the karate tournaments, in Japan, they were like in stadiums. So you have the crowd looking down on you. You’re in the middle of the whole place.

JT: What’s the biggest crowd you’ve ever competed in front of?

TM: At least 60,000 people. In Tokyo Stadium. Not the Dome, but . . . That was my first time . . . on the big screen . . . [that was about] two or three years ago. The World Junior Division tournament. 2,300, and I made it to the top 16.

JT: Was that the highlight of your Kyokushin career?

TM: Pretty much. . . My teammate lost in the round before. My division was hard. I had nothing but Russian dude after another. The first guy, I knocked him out. The second one, he went through two extensions. This kid was tough. And it’s a tournament, so you have to rest as much as you can. Now I’m going into two overtimes with these guys and it’s like “shit!” Finally, at the top 16, I got a long-legged Russian guy. He was just beating me down with his front kicks. That was it . . . that guy that I lost to, he ended up being the first World Junior champion.

JT: Would you go back to Kyokushin again?

TM: Yeah, I would. I wouldn’t mind doing it again. Just to keep the tough spirit up. That’s what Kyokushin is all about – spirit and mental toughness.

I believe that helps me in my fighting now.

JT: That leads into another question – Having fought for as long as you have, being a fighter really is a part of who you are as a person. That said, you’ve got to have some kind of a philosophy or outlook on training and fighting.

TM: I really don’t. . . I’m still learning as I go, right now. What I’ve learned, fighting is like an art. You sketch it during training, and then you paint it at the fight. . . Even though I’ve been fighting for nine years already, I still haven’t figured it out. Like everything, every day, you never stop learning.

JT: What do you do for your downtime?

TM: I just hang out with my girlfriend. Or hang out with friends. Or just relax. Sit at home and watch TV. Be like the next Al Bundy. Just sit there, lazy. Remote control, hands in the pants. It’s like “wow.” Because training takes a lot out of you. It’s like shit, you don’t want to do anything after a hard day. And MMA especially, you’re using your whole body. It just breaks down. I just sit there sometime and watch a movie at my girlfriend’s house and relax.

JT: Was she at your last fight?

Wanderlei Silva awards Takashi Munoz with "Knockout of the Night" honors.

Wanderlei Silva awards Takashi Munoz with "Knockout of the Night" honors.

TM: No, she wasn’t. She doesn’t like to see me get hit. And she worries that this is what I have to do. This is my life. It’s not part of it. It is my life.

I sacrificed my whole childhood for fighting. I didn’t party. I didn’t get to go out. I sacrificed all that, just to fight.

JT: Who are some of your favorite fighters?

TM: Cro Cop. Because he had that striking, and that “nobody can take me down” mentality. And that’s like mine. I don’t want to be taken down, but I’m gonna knock you out standing up. It’s better to knock out than tap somebody out. Because when you knock them out, they’re not gonna come back up. That’s my mentality.

Shogun was another favorite. He was always that hustle-hustle kind of guy. Always in shape, too.

JT: What do you think about his performances recently?

TM: I didn’t really care, because I know he’s recovering from his knee injury, and it’s been awhile since he fought. I know everybody [says] “hey, Shogun looked horrible,” and I’m like “hey dude, how you would look if you came back from a knee surgery.

JT: What is the best and worst memory in your fight career? Either the whole thing or just MMA.

TM: Getting my ass kicked. . . Every day is an ass kicking. I get beat up, and to me it’s like I’ve always got to be hard. For some reason, I was always hard on myself. Even though Chris [Reilly] tells me “no, don’t be so hard on yourself.” To me, I have to do well, then I know I’m in the game. If I don’t do well, I feel like shit.

JT: It sounds a bit like what you described your dad instilled in you. No matter how good you are, keep it hustling. Keep the pressure on.

TM: Right. And best memories are, like, being up there, in the ring, finally. To even think that “oh wow, I’m in the ring now.” A lot of people don’t even dare. . . and then, knowing that one hit could end your life, pretty much. Knowing that, it’s like “oh, wow” . . . you gotta really be in there.

I remember what the movie 300 says. In the beginning, he says “give them nothing, but take from them everything.” And I’m like “oh wow, that’s exactly like fighting.” You’re not gonna give them nothing, but you’re gonna take everything from them. Their pride, their glory, everything.

JT: What are your goals, either within or away from fighting?

TM: Be the best that I can, pretty much. Be who I can be. The world title feels like something for me. But then, on the other hand, being up there is at least an honor. . . Of course, belts are nice. But I don’t think so high above yet. Always think low, because it’ll lead to higher things. That’s what I think.

JT: “Think low” meaning what exactly?

TM: Don’t think too proud. Don’t think “oh, I’m the winner.” In fighting, you never know what’s going to happen. You have that mentality that you want to win. Of course, you have to have that, but always remember “be prepared.“ Because it takes that one lucky shot, and that’s it. That one lucky shot.

JT: Some people will say that the winner of a match isn’t necessarily the better guy. It’s more that [the winner] was better than the other guy that day.

TM: My dad told me, when I won my tournaments, “you’re just a winner today. Tomorrow, everybody’s gonna forget about it.” So you gotta constantly be the best every day. That’s why I’m saying I’m trying to be the best that I can be – inside and outside of the ring. Because outside of the ring, I’ve learned that kindness comes from strength. When you’re strong, you’re more kind. Because you don’t need it. Only when you have to.

To me, I say be the best you can be every day.

JT: When the match is over and the bell is rung, you’re going to your victory dinner. What’s the first choice?

TM: First choice will be fast food [laughs]. In-N-Out or Carl’s Jr. It’s like “finally! I can at least pig out for this day.” Cutting weight, you’re disciplining yourself by not eating so much bad stuff. You gotta be healthy. And finally that day comes and it’s like “ugh, finally!” You get to eat something good now.

JT: Talk about being a teacher.

TM: I love kids! Because, working with them, it shows me different perspectives. It shows me more patience. It’s like, you know they’re little. They’re not gonna understand it. If its adults, it’s like “c’mon, you gotta fuckin’ understand.” You’ll be yelling at them. But with kids, it’s like “ok, do it this way then.” If they can’t do it this way, then you gotta break it down a little easier. And then, yourself, you’ll start seeing “oh, alright. I guess maybe I’m not doing this either then.” You learn from kids. . . and you find your mistakes.

Kids are fun. But to everybody who walks around that has kids, I wouldn’t suggest that kids fight as a career. If they want to do it, I’ll help them, but I wouldn’t suggest them doing it because I’ve seen the suffering that I’ve had to go through, the sacrifices. And when you see these kids – “oh, I’m willing to do it” . . . that came to me for their karate tournaments, to help them, and they never followed through. And I learned – I tell these kids that this is a long road. Are you willing to sacrifice everything? Your fun, everything? To be the best?

JT: What was the toughest sacrifice for you?

TM: No fun. I’m a little kid. I didn’t get to play. . . I didn’t really get no laughs when I was a kid. Getting my ass kicked was depressing every day.

JT: Would you have traded it?

TM: Nah. I wouldn’t have traded it at all. Now that I see different things. It was worth it. Hard work does pay off.

Shortly after this interview, Takashi Munoz scored a first-round TKO victory at Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA event in Las Vegas, NV. He hopes to fight again as early as May.

Callaham writes DOOM for Opponents at CA State Pankration Tourny

Posted in Legends MMA, Live Event Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2009 by jaytan716

Longtime Legends mainstay Dave Callaham took second place in his 160 lb. weight class on Sunday at the 2009 California State Pankration Championships, which took place at Santa Ana College. The event, which was sanctioned by the USA Federation of Pankration Athlima, was a 16-man tournament in one of nine different weight classes (in the Men’s Division).

The tournament could not have been more serendipitous, as Callaham, who normally competes in no-gi jiu-jitsu tournaments, was looking to test his meddle on the mat before taking to the altar.

Dave Callaham was excited to fit some competition into his schedule, just before his upcoming wedding.

Dave Callaham was excited to fit some competition into his schedule, just before his upcoming wedding.

“It had been a long time since I had competed and I was getting the itch. . . I had a limited window to work with because I get married in early May. . . So this tournament was just sitting there a little over a month out, with perfect timing. . .and I just thought, ‘to hell with it, it’s close to jiu jitsu’,” he explained.

Pankration is a forefather to MMA in that the sport combines stand-up striking with grappling and submissions on the ground. Because amateur MMA has yet to be sanctioned in California, promoters, coaches, and aspiring fighters sidestep this current prohibition with modified rules (no strikes to the head, downward stomps, or upkicks from bottom) and single round bouts. The California State Athletic Commission is in the process of creating rules, regulations, and a sanctioning body for amateur MMA.

Granted a bye in the first round, Callaham’s first match came in the quarterfinals, against a representative from the Fightworx fight team. The bout went to the ground early when Callaham’s opponent got a front headlock and jumped guard, but it wasn’t long before Callaham escaped to take a front headlock of his own, setting up for a Japanese necktie chokehold and getting the tapout at 1:13.

After the match, he accredited Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu for his first round win, commenting “I’d just learned that technique online two weeks before from the 10th planet instructor in Dallas. And it was cool to be able to do that move in competition.”

In the semi-finals, Callaham was challenged standing and on the ground before claiming a win by points, which advanced him to the finals. His opponent, Charles Gay of Camp Pendleton, set up numerous chokes and armlocks from the bottom, putting Callaham in brief danger several times, but the 10th Planet blue-belt was able to escape each time. As the round ended, they took to their feet and traded kicks and combinations, with Callaham catching his opponent’s leg as the bell rang.

In the finals, Callaham opened up with body shots and a solid inside right low kick. His opponent, James Clarke of Fight Club 29 (a fight team rival of Camp Pendleton) scored a takedown, claiming side mount and a tight headlock. Callaham straightened out and worked to implement his butterfly guard from bottom position, but was caught in a kimura armbar and forced to tap out at 2:23 seconds.

Legends represents.  From left: trainer Jimmie Romero, Kyle Harimoto, Dave Callaham, Dave Kalstein.

Legends represents at the 2009 California State Pankration Championships. From left: trainer Jimmie Romero, Kyle Harimoto, Dave Callaham, Dave Kalstein.

“I expected, honestly, to go out there and get torn to pieces.  I didn’t know what sort of guys I’d be against, and there were no skill levels. . . Just one big bracket.  That worried me a lot. . . I was hoping to acquit myself well and maybe squeak out a win. After the first match, I thought, ‘Oh wow, I can hang with these dudes.’  Then my expectations went up.  . . . And that guy I lost to in the finals was just better at it than I was.  I hate it when I lose and know I could have won . . . with that kind of guy, it’s hard to be angry at yourself afterward,” he said in a post-fight interview.

As a second place finisher, Callaham qualified to compete in the FILA USA World Team Trials, which is scheduled to take place in June in Milwaukee. However, due to matrimonial commitments, he does not anticipate attending the event.

“You can’t overemphasize the level of competition that he was going against. If you’re a Marine and you get picked for the Pankration team, you pretty much train 365 day a year for this specific event. In the finals, he was facing one of their best guys, who was cutting down from 180 lbs to 160 lbs. And Dave walks around at 155. And considering Dave’s job is to write screenplays, it’s pretty impressive,” said Legends member Dave Kalstein, who was on hand to see the matches.

Callaham sported pink toenails for the event.

Wright, Acosta Attack at South Coast Martial Arts “Come Back”

Posted in Legends MMA, Live Event Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2009 by jaytan716

Jordan Wright (center, with trainers Roxy Balboa & Jimmie Romero) after his decision win.

Jordan Wright (center, with trainers Roxy Balboa & Jimmie Romero) after his decision win.

Legends MMA amateur fighters Jordan Wright and James Acosta stepped into the ring on April 4th at South Coast Martial Arts in Costa Mesa, as part of a Muay Thai amateur kickboxing event entitled “Come Back and Attack.” Jimmie Romero and Roxy Balboa cornered both fighters.

In his fourth match, Wright won in decisive fashion, earning a unanimous decision in the eyes of the judges by an across-the-board score of 30-27.

“I thought he connected a lot of good punches and kicks. . . he had a pretty good game plan. Sometimes he got a little jumbled up because he was all anxious to get in there and kick some ass, but for the most part, he did a helluva fight,” commented Balboa.

With an improved amateur Muay Thai record of 3-1, Wright noted that he was especially happy about this victory in light of his prior performance.

“My last fight, I won by a TKO, but I kinda caught the guy. He was rocking me the first two rounds, and at the end of the second round, I caught him with a knee. . . I’m way more pleased with this because I wasn’t falling all around this place,” he reflected.

According to Romero, Wright most notably demonstrated a fiercer killer instinct in the ring:

“Jordan was really aggressive, more than I’ve seen him. . . And that’s really important. You’ve got to get in with bad intentions, but at the same time, have the composure to put the combos together nice. . . This time, he really put it down. He dropped his jab-crosses and hard kicks. Hard knees. With intent, like you’re supposed to do.”

The night also marked the Muay Thai debut for James Acosta, squaring off against Sam Yi of Long Beach. Although Acosta ultimately came up on the short end of a 27-30 unanimous decision, he fought a valiant battle, landing powerful bodyshot combinations and high kicks.

Legends' fight team represented for James Acosta's (left) debut.

Legends' fight team represented for James Acosta's (left) debut.

“The only problem here is that I got tired fast. He just beat me at the clinch, and that’s the thing to work on more.”

No less of a factor was that Acosta took the match on a four-day notice. “I was just training and Jimmie asked me when I wanted a fight. I was like ‘I dunno. Whenever you guys put me in.’ And he got me a fight on Tuesday,” he explained.

The night was a significant growing experience for the young fighter, who displayed an easygoing composure in front of the estimated crowd of over 400.

“Come Back and Attack” is the second show South Coast has held in cooperation with the California State Athletic Commission, and only the fourth CSAC-sanctioned amateur Muay Thai event in the state. Up until recently, amateur Muay Thai events, commonly known as “smokers,” were held without the sanction of the CSAC.

The winners of “Come Back” will be invited to return and fight on the next event, which is scheduled for May 30th. Fighters who win five matches in a row will be crowned “Walking Tall World Champions,” named after South Coast’s Walking Tall Foundation, a program created to finance and subsidize martial arts training and performance opportunities to low income and underprivileged youth.

Evangelista vs. Aina set to headline first-ever ShoMMA Event on May 15

Posted in Breaking News, Strikeforce with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2009 by jaytan716

On the heels of Showtime’s April 4 announcement about SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers, the cable premium has officially signed Billy Evangelista (9-0) vs. “Iron” Mike Aina (11-6-1) as the series’ inaugural main event. As speculated, it will take place on May 15 at the Save Mart Center in Evangelista’s hometown of Fresno, CA.

Aina and Evangelista has previously been rumored to compete on Strikeforce’s upcoming event at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO.

Female fighter Kim “Sugar Free” Couture (1-1) is also scheduled to appear on ShoMMA, although an opponent has yet to be named.

SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers replaces ShoXC: Elite Challenger Series as the network’s platform for young, burgeoning mixed martial arts fighters. The series complements Showtime’s higher-profile Strikeforce events, the first of which is scheduled for April 11 and features Frank “The Legend” Shamrock vs. Nick Diaz in the main event.

Although Evangelista and Aina’s respective resumes reflect the “classic match-up of striker vs. grappler,” both fighters have demonstrated impressive all-around proficiency in prior matches. Evangelista is an experienced wrestler and Muay Thai kickboxer who holds wins against submission specialists like Nam Phan and Ryan Bixler.

Aina, in comparison, is a longtime disciple of B.J. Penn, yet boasts six KO’s in his 11 victories.  His 2007 match against Diaz, which saw Aina get the better of several striking exchanges, had a lot of fans and experts talking about his striking aptitude.

“Billy is no slouch. I’m expecting a really tough fight because we have similar styles.  We both like to stand up even though we’re both also well rounded. I’m going in with a positive mindset and I’m ready to work hard in there,” Aina noted in a release issued by Showtime.

Added attraction Kim Couture, who has looked to establish herself outside of her celebrated husband’s shadow, impressed many fans for her tenacity in her June 2008 debut match.  Although Couture took a decision loss to Kim Rose, the fact that she suffered a broken jaw early in the first round and continued to go the distance forced many doubters to give the striking spouse her due. More recently, Couture beat Lina Kvokov via first round TKO at Strikeforce: Destruction in November.

SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers will be broadcast live at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) on Showtime. Tickets for this event go on sale Monday, April 13, at 10:00 a.m. PT.  They are available at the Save Mart Center box office and select Save Mart Supermarkets, as well as at through all Ticketmaster outlets and Strikeforce.com.

MILESTONE! Legends MMA goes undefeated 5-0 at latest Tuff-N-Uff

Posted in Legends MMA, Live Event Reports, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2009 by jaytan716

Legends MMA team celebrated a 5-0 win streak backstage.

Legends MMA team celebrated a 5-0 win streak backstage.

Led by the command of coaches Jimmie Romero, Conor Heun, and Chris Reilly, the Legends MMA pro team stormed the beaches of the Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA fights and captured the flag with a perfect 5-0 performance.

“We’re all super proud. . . I’ve been in the fight game since I was four, and I cannot remember seeing one gym outfight five fighters on any show,” Reilly commented. “Once I got up here, I could see that they were prepared. They were relaxed. There was good team spirit going on. . . I thought we [had] a good chance of winning five matches.

Another understated but significant theme of the weekend was that the nights’ performances all proved to be turning points in one way or another for each fighter. Chris Brady faced his toughest challenge to date in Xtreme Couture’s Cory Jeffers, who kept the pressure on throughout the match. Takashi Munoz came back from a four-month hiatus to score a highlight reel TKO victory. Christian Palencia tested his cardio and striking mettle into the third round before directing it to a quick submission finish. Victor Henry continued to win over the crowd with his cagey technique and entertaining in-ring antics. And Eddie Jackson overcame yet another unique new challenge, conquering a towering 6’4” striker with speed, power, and tenacity.

“We’ve had all the Strikeforce guys in town regularly, so they’ve all got to work with guys like Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Jake Shields, and Gilbert Melendez. So these guys have seen worse in practice every day than [they saw] on Saturday,” added Reilly.

170 lbs. – Takashi Munoz (Legends MMA) vs. Ernesto Martinez (West Coast MMA)

Takashi Munoz emerges victorious with a first round submission win.

Takashi Munoz emerges victorious with a first round submission win.

Being the “curtain-jerker” first match of the night, Munoz set the tone not just for Legends, but also for the overall fight night. Munoz’ previous match, in November, was his MMA debut, which alleviated him of the dreaded “first-time jitters” here.

“I’m glad to be back in Vegas. . . I’ve already experienced it. When you go through it once, you don’t have to go through it again. It’s like, okay, I’m here again. Nothing’s changed,” he said.

Right from the bell, Munoz and Martinez bartered a left for a right, but then downshifted to feel each other out with punch and kick combinations. Munoz stunned Martinez to the ground with a powerful overhand right, following up with a clinch, but they broke apart just as quickly. Just moments later, Munoz repeated the assault with an overhand right and left jab that dropped Martinez for the finish. Takashi Munoz was awarded the KO victory at 1:22 of the first round.

“I was expecting him to be a little [rougher], but what can you say? A fight’s a fight. A win is a win. You never know until the end.”

145 lbs. – Victor Henry (Legends MMA vs. Billy Bull (Striking Unlimited)

Using Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” as his ring entrance music, Henry literally walks to the beat of his own drummer. Not only was this song born long before Henry was, but the band had moved on from Diamond Dave to Hagar years before Victor even hit the hospital scale.

Victory Henry sinks in a triangle choke in round two.

Victory Henry sinks in a triangle choke in round two.

As for the match itself, Henry and Bull immediately started trading leather faster than a cattle auction at the OK Corral. Henry took Bull down with a clinch-trip, but, unable to pass guard, let Bull up to continue the slugfest. Bull scored a trip takedown of his own off a Henry high kick, but Henry used rubber guard to trap Bulls arm and dish out some right punches to the head. In the second round, Henry wasted no time, charging Bull with jabs. The two clinched up and went to the ground, with Henry working some ground-and-pound from the mount and standing before finally letting Bull up again. Bull scored another trip takedown off a high kick, but Henry was able to lure him into his guard. From there, Henry clinched on a gogo plata, transitioning to a triangle choke, until Bull finally submitted at 1:15 of the second round.

“He trains with Frank Mir, [so I knew] he was going to turn it into a jiu-jitsu match. . . That’s why, every time I had a good position, I would hit him . . . and that eventually led to me getting a triangle choke. I locked it in, I hit him in the head a couple of times, and then I cinched it up and finished,” Henry commented after the match.

With two exciting wins under his belt, Henry has proven to have some of the more animated, enthusiastic post-fight victory antics in Tuff-N-Uff, running around, hamming it up for the camera, and backflipping off the top rope. “At the time, I’m just really happy. . . When I’m in the ring, it’s like ‘hey, everybody already knows me.’ You really just play who you are in the ring,” he explained.

170 lbs. – Eddie Jackson (Legends MMA) vs. Joshua Morgan (Centennial Taekwondo)

Joshua Morgan (left) vs. Eddie Jackson

Joshua Morgan (left) vs. Eddie Jackson

This match garnered a lot of talk beforehand, stemming mostly from the huge size difference between Jackson, 5’11”, and Morgan, who stood at 6’4”. Moreover, it was one of two semifinal matches in the Tuff-N-Uff welterweight championship tournament.

“I’ve never fought anyone that tall before. . . He was a lot longer than I thought. A little harder to get inside. I tried to stick with the original game plan, but that reach made a whole difference. When he caught me, my killer instinct stepped in and it was all about survival at that point,” commented Jackson about his win.

Morgan made the most of his significant reach advantage, firing off jabs, but Jackson was able to get in the pocket and bull him around the ring. Morgan rocked Jackson twice, opening a cut over his left eye, but Jackson caught himself and was able to stay on his feet. Jackson retaliated with an overhand left that threw Morgan clear across the ring. Smelling blood in the water, Jackson chased after him with lefts and rights, finally sending Morgan to the ground with a left body shot-right uppercut combination. Jackson splashed to the ground on Morgan before the referee could stop the match at 0:42 of the first round.

Eddie Jackson was awarded the win by TKO and now faces Bill Cooper at the Tuff-N-Uff welterweight championship tournament finals in April.

155 lbs. – Christian Palencia (Legends MMA) vs. Tony Martinez (Team Mad Beatings)

In Martinez, Palencia found himself facing a relative unknown. Palencia’s opponent in fact changed several times over the weeks prior to the event. This match was also a Tuff-N-Uff semifinal tournament match, but in the lightweight division.

Christian Palencia looks for the opening.

Christian Palencia looks for the opening against Tony Martinez.

“I was going to fight Odis [Ruiz, of Filipino MMA], but now he’s fighting Chas [Mulkey, of Warrior Training Center], which is the guy I beat last time,” lamented Palencia at the weigh-ins.

In round one, Martinez and Palencia set things off early by trading low kicks. Martinez charged, but Palencia defended the attack with combinations. From there, Martinez was selective in his shots, circling the ring and looking for the opening. Round two saw more low kick combinations. Martinez stuffed a takedown, but Palencia landed a hard right kick and swung for the fences as the round ended. In the final round, Martinez wasted no time keeping the pressure on, but Palencia forced the takedown, having little problem escaping a guillotine choke to full mount. He worked a body lock and cinched in an armbar from below, forcing Martinez to tap out at 1:05 of the third round.

According to Reilly, “knowing that it was a prelim to a title bout, I told [Christian] to get in there and get that guy down on the ground and get him out. But his last three fights have all been under a minute, and I think he was getting overconfident . . . [Martinez] had boxing skills, he had good footwork, and he was tough to catch. It was a great experience for Christian.”

Ironically enough, Palencia now faces Ruiz in the finals of the Tuff-N-Uff lightweight championship tournament.

Chris Brady prior to entering the ring.

Chris Brady prior to entering the ring.

135 lbs. – Chris Brady (Legends MMA) vs. Cory Jeffers (Xtreme Couture)

Chris Brady got a rousing welcome not just from the Legends contingency, but other fans as well, indicating that he has established himself at Tuff-N-Uff events as a force to be reckoned with.

In round one, Jeffers quickly established his intent to keep the pressure on, chasing after Brady and, after a brief clinch, following up with kick and punch combinations. Brady was quick to reply in kind, dancing back to the center of the ring. Jeffers took Brady to the ground with a trip takedown, but it was Brady who ended up on top in Jeffers’ closed guard. In round two, as they circled and exchanged punches, Jeffers tried to pull guard. But Brady, making clear that this was going to be a striking match, let Jeffers fall to his back and then get back up. Brady continued the assault with more combinations of the hands and feet, pushing Jeffers against the ropes with a knee. Jeffers eventually did get the match to the ground, but only to end up taking some ground-and-pound punishment. Jeffers was able to neutralize Brady with rubber guard at the end of the second round. He continued to push the action in the third, but Brady was unafraid to trade. They went to the ground twice, once with Jeffers in half-guard and once as Brady stuffed a takedown attempt, ending up in Jeffers’ rubber guard. After a stand-up restart, Brady threw kicks to end the round. Judges awarded Chris Brady the match by unanimous decision. He now goes on to challenge Jamie Hernandez (West Coast MMA) for the Tuff-N-Uff Bantamweight title.

Brady catches Jeffers with ground-and-pound.

Brady catches Jeffers with ground-and-pound.

Of Brady’s performance, Reilly had this to say: “With the team going 4-0 and Brady being the last fight, there’s a lot of different pressure for a lot of different reasons. That was Brady’s toughest fight, at least at this weight. And I think Brady needed a tough fight. He was beginning to dominate on a pretty consistent basis. And he needed to remember that there are always tough guys out there. This sport is never easy. . . I also think that, had there been knees to the head in this sport, this fight would have been over way, way earlier. Brady had full control of the guy’s head. Lots of times, there was nothing to do with it.”

Also worthy of note on this night was the apparent grown of Tuff-N-Uff as one of the most prominent amateur MMA promotions on the West Coast, evidence of that being the fact that no less than 19 fight camps had at least one fighter on the card. Legends was out populated only by Xtreme Couture, who brought six fighters to the event.

Legends MMA returns to Tuff-N-Uff on April 24th, where Eddie Jackson, Christian Palencia, and Chris Brady are all scheduled to fight for Tuff-N-Uff championship titles.