Thursday, December 16, 2010
The headline sucker-punches the holiday season: “Santa Claus will be arriving early handing out beatdowns to all the lucky mma fans!!!!!!!”
Anyone who’s been to a mixed martial arts fight – or seen one on TV – will know that exclamations do the furious action justice.
Central Coast Throwdown promoter Michael MacNeill, of Salinas, has put together what he calls Fox Theater’s first ever “combat sport” event.
“I started out doing [unsanctioned] ‘smoker fights’ in Soledad in 2007,” he says. It was only last year that the California State Athletic Commission delegated the regulation of amateur mixed martial arts to the California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization, or CAMO, an organization that oddly mixes regulation with promotion.
MacNeill identifies three levels of fight cards: backyard brawls, a format he doesn’t touch, though Kimbo Slice came to prominence via the Internet this way; smokers, which are generally run by professionals, though unsanctioned; and sanctioned fights with requisite blood tests, physicals and medical staff on hand.
Winter Brawl will be MacNeill’s fourth sanctioned fight card under CAMO rules. Its headline fight pits Marco Orozco, a Salinas High alum, against submission specialist Benji Silva from the Bay Area.
“[Orozco] is a Greco-Roman wrestler for Sacramento State,” MacNeill says. “He is a powerhouse from a wrestling family. They’re all bad-asses.”
Preceding the headliners is a bout between two-time all-American wrestler Ashley Smith and Muy Thai and Brazilian jujitsu fighter Samantha Mosqueda.
“That fight’s going to be a barn burner,” MacNeill says.
Under that match-up is a welterweight title fight between Hollister’s Fernando Lopez, a kickboxer with a wrestling background (“Loves to stand and bang”) and Eric Prado (“He can knock you out with either hand”).
There’s a heavyweight title fight between a heavy punching 235-pound Tongan (and rugby player) named Fatai Bailala, and submission grappler and boxer Steven Dickey, who MacNeill says is about to go pro.
A few of the fighters come from gyms attached to legendary MMA names like Chuck Liddell in San Luis Obispo and Cesar Gracie in San Jose. A few come from local gyms that are building their name from the ground up, like Salinas’ Kugtar Mixed Martial Arts Academy.
Adrien Olivas, fighting out of Kugtar, is a traditional Korean tang soo do style martial artist and a blue belt in jujitsu. His first amateur fight was at a Central Coast Throwdown number at Palma High last October.
“He looked good,” MacNeill says. “Explosive.”
Another is Jonathan Gaxiola, a flyweight making his amateur debut. Both their fathers are coaches at Kugtar: Gaxiola’s father, Vince Vanderlipe, is the owner.
There are 12 fights scheduled. Fighters will wear regulation 6-ounce fingerless gloves. Kicks and knee strikes to the head are not allowed. There are three two-minute rounds, with a referee, three judges, a fight doctor and paramedics on hand, via CAMO regulations.
Winter Brawl promises slo-mo replays on four giant screens, lighting effects, beer and snacks, and ring girls. Any drama in the crowd, MacNeill says, is checked by a couple of factors.
“A good 60-70 percent of the people there are martial artists or mixed martial artists and their family,” he says. “There’s a sense of respect, dignity and responsibility that martial artists are taught. It’s really a pure sport.”
Another reason seems obvious: “It would be pretty stupid for someone to pick on people at a MMA event.”