Pay them to train, and they will come

When one has a dream, it is important that he stay on focus, enduring tenaciously, and seeing the dream out to fulfillment. Nearly two years ago, when Jeff Bonugli, with Charlie Clark at his side, took on the task of building a mixed martial arts event which would pay fighters to train, the bet was that it would fail. The idea of awarding a $50,000 contract to winning fighters with $2,500 doled out monthly to enable them to train, was indeed a grand gesture,  some reasoned, but it would surely fizzle out. This was the opinion of other mixed martial arts promotions, and they so informed those fighting for them.

Yes, it was a slow start.  One of the criticisms coming from seasoned fighters was that calling young fighters barely out of amateur status “champions,” after a win at the new promotion was down right preposterous. They raised the question, “who had these guys fought, anyway?”  The fact is that all great enterprises have a beginning, and JC Fight Promotions is no different. The first to fight in the promotion were barely tried or challenged.

That is rapidly changing. Better yet, as was evident at the last JC Fight Productions “Best of the Best” event in Brownsville the evening of 12 September, 2014, the change is here! Those who won in the beginning are either improving tremendously or getting out of the way, generally due to the fury and hunger of a better challenger. Indeed, more fighters hungry to get into the action are beginning to step up to the plate.

We have no better example of this than one  Brandon Farran, taking up the challenge against Best of the Best’s middle weight champion, Ryan Spann. Spann came into this match with a professional record of 5-0. At 6’5 inches tall and 178 pounds, champion or no champion, Spann is formidable, in anyone’s book. But Brandon Farran was not fazed, either by the discrepancy in height, or by Spann’s 5-0 record.  But then, Farran was coming into this event with a 12-7 record, and in this game, experience matters. A bunch.

This was evident from the beginning. Most often the challenger enters into the ring with a hopeful attitude. Yes, the butterflies show. But then, it is so even with the most experienced fighters.  Not so with Brandon Farran. This man exudes confidence! And it is evident he has a zest for life. Myself and Sam Cholico met him on the elevator with his retinue of relatives, and that meeting was most positive. This man is a winner inside or outside the cage. He came into the cage doing a curious little shuffle and step, to a not too loud, nor vulgar, tune.  It was catchy, the tune and his shuffle step, and pure confidence. And when the center ref gave the begin fight signal, Farran went right to work, wasting no time in taking the fight to the champion. Almost immediately he was inside the champion’s defenses, dropping him with a powerful right cross. The ref pulled him off in the midst of a blistering ground and pound attack, calling a TKO in 21 seconds of the first round.

The bar is being raised. Anyone holding the title of “champion” in this JC Fight  Production event is subject to challenge from any worthy fighter with the necessary credentials. That is, in that we now have a Brandon Farran with a 12-8 record, Jeff Bonugli will be looking for fighters in, or above that category. Brandon Farran is now training to fight whomever a worthy challenger may be, (as he has already been doing) but now he is being paid $2,500 per month to do so, having dispossessed Ryan Spann of his $50,000 contract. As the reader can readily see, with the upgrade of the champion’s  experience and skill level, so also is the bar raised for future challengers, and the championship belt takes on greater credibility.

One does not overlook Jammal Emmer’s match against Michael Rodriguez. In the last two matches we have seen  Emmers go to work with a thoroughly convincing and brutal body slam. TKO by punching, Sherdog may call it, but the fact is that the challenger was out cold when he hit the canvas.  This fight moves Jammal to a 7-1 status as a pro. That one loss was debatable, as it was a split decision. Emmers had four bouts as an amateur, all four a win. We will undoubtedly see more exciting action from this young man, who incidentally, was stripped of his title by the State because he came into this match one pound overweight.  While this means his next fight for JC Fight Productions will be a title shot rather than a defense of that title, the contract and the monthly stipend of $2,500 will not be affected by the State’s decision.

The challenger failed to show in what would have been Dee Jay Fuentes’ defense of his bantamweight title, so the audience was denied what would have been a very exciting match. David, who has an exciting stand up game, as well as being able to take the fight to the mat,  is very popular in the Rio Grande Valley, and will draw a crowd for the defense of his title in January.

One must understand that Jeff Bonugli’s goal is to feed fighters into the UFC.  Given what we are seeing, that day is coming,for more and more quality fighters are sitting up and taking notice that there is now an MMA event in Texas which puts winners on a $50,000 contract, with a $2,500 stipend monthly for training purposes. Put ’em on such a contract for being winners, and they will come. Ask the new middle weight champion, Brandon Farran.

 

JC Fight Promotions: Best of the Best II – A Proving Ground for South Texas Fighters

Luis “the Law” Vega, and D J Fuentes, will be on the same card, come June 14, 2014 at Hero Fighting Championship’s “Best of the Best II” hosted by JC Fight Promotions and Charlie Clark Nissan.

Vega will be fighting as a Featherweight in the main event, where he will be going up against Jamal Emmers, whoTexas Fighters will be conducting a first time defense of his Featherweight title.
Defending the title against a tough, and very hungry, Luis Vega, will require everything Jammal Emmers can bring into this fight. Those in the Valley who have witnessed Vega’s ability in a fight will be betting on him. Rest assured, this main event fight will be a memorable one.

Fuentes will be defending his Bantamweight title in the co main event fight against Jose Ceja. Fuentes is old school, stand up, karate kickboxing, with good hands, and devastating spin back kicks that those like myself so appreciate, having drilled such into students of bygone days. This will be a thriller to watch, and to watch closely. Outside the ring, Fuentes is Mr. Charisma, making friends with everyone. Once inside the ring, he is all business.

Among the remarks of commendation to be spoken about the challenger, Jose Ceja, is this; he doesn’t back away from a fight. In a business where fighters try to pick and choose their fights, he takes them as they come. There are those who will question the wisdom of such a determination on his part. “Look,” one will say. “Build up your reputation by taking on fights you can win. You’ll be gaining experience at the same time. What’s the rush?” There is much truth to that. On the other hand, Jose’s take is that you learn the most by taking on and fighting the best. Hurt? He’s been hurt. All fighters get hurt. But if you must get hurt, do so against the best. At 2-0 as an MMA Pro, and 1-0 as a pro boxer, he is coming into this fight as an underdog to take on the experienced and very tough Dee Jay Fuentes, just as he assented a year ago to an offer to fight an equally tough Ricky Palacios, in a fight which never materialized. In agreeing to take on D J, Ceja is taking on a versatile all around fighter. Ceja can box, Ricki Palaciosand comes to the cage eager to fight. He’ll get a fight against D J Fuentes.

Ricky Palacios will also be on this card. He has been fighting on a reality show “Combate Americas” and will be fighting Joel Scott of Beaumont. In a previous encounter, Palacios TKO’d Scott in the 3rd round of their fight. I have written about Ricky Palacios in the past, and of the much potential I see in him. He is a versatile fighter, with hands that thus far have spelled a KO for those who have faced him, in mixed martial arts or boxing. On this note, it is Palacios, and not Jose Ceja, who should have been meeting up with D J Fuentes. This, perhaps, will yet be a fight future.

Another up and coming fighter is a Jeff Bonugli student, Soryu Karate fighter Raymond Banda, who is currently 2-0 as a pro. He will face a strong opponent in Harlingen’s Daniel Duran. I mention Ray Banda because much is riding on him. Can a Soryu Karate trained fighter make good in MMA fighting? I believe he can, particularly if trained by Jeff Bonugli. As I have from the beginning envisioned Texas Soryu Karate, (and I differentiate it from its weak traditional parent in Japan) its parameters go far beyond traditional karate. I shall yet see that. Yes,
much is Jeff Bonugliriding on Ray Banda, but he can handle it. He carries on his shoulders the reputation, not only of Jeff Bonugli as his instructor and trainer, but mine as well, as Jeff Bonugli’s instructor.

We have heard Jeff Bonugli speak of his desire to see to it that fighters are rewarded financially for their hard work and sacrifices. This is true, and there are those who can attest to it, having been recipients of his willingness to give generously. And yet, I would suggest that there may some who would take advantage of such goodness. They have forgotten the value of a simple “thank you”. There is a Spanish saying: “Eres como el azadon, todo para aca’, y nada para alla’…” It translates roughly: “You are like a garden hoe, everything is scraped your way, and nothing goes back in return…” We get the picture, don’t we? Gratitude is a wonderful thing.

Consider that some very tough Valley fighters are in the offing. They are developing, and JC Productions is playing a vital role in such development. And this is it, a financial scholarship, $2,400 monthly for the aid of those who become the best of the best!

JC Fight Promotions - Best of the Best II

J&C Productions: “Go for broke”

Jeff Bonugli and Chris Lopez
[Jeff Bonugli and Chris Lopez]
The problem with a $50,000 contract is that it is a lot of money. When you tell a fighter he will be given $2,500 a month to help him train, it is to his mind, too good to be true. If they only knew that Jeff Bonugli has already helped some fighters do that very thing! Even their attitude has been, “too good to be true,” and they walked away from it. They’ve gone someplace else to take up the fight game, and we wish them well. For others, less money is more in tune with what they’re used to. For Jeff Bonugli, this has been most frustrating!

When you look at it with clear vision however, you will realize that this is no free ride. There is a catch, and this is that once you have the contract in hand, you have to work to keep it! It is what you’ve been doing all along, and that is train, train, train! You will be doing what you’ve always done, but now you’re being paid to do it. You win the contract because you have trained to be better than the rest. You keep the contract because now you train even harder, to stay on top. What is so hard to understand? You are being paid to devote yourself full-time to training! And on top of the $2,500 monthly fee will come any prize money won fighting for JC Promotions. In a word, only the best need apply.

So, you fight and you lose. You then lose the monthly stipend, right? Maybe. That’s what the contract says. Can there be an exception? If your fight turns out to be a slam banger, where you fought all the way through like the champ you are, and people were on the edge of their seats all the way through the three rounds, and the other fighter gets the nod, my guess is that Mr Bonugli will see it as instead of one champion in the ring, there were two, and he just isn’t gonna throw you to the dogs. He’ll want you on the next card. After all, in the MMA game, there are fighters and there are great fighters, and most great fighters have some losses under their belt, but they’re still great fighters.

Case in point is on the next card, and that’s Cody Williams. He’s had some losses, but Cody puts lots of substance onto any fight card, because losses notwithstanding, Cody is a winner, a champion. He’s a contributor to any card. He’ll take on the best, and when Cody gets into the game, if he doesn’t get it over quickly, there will always be one heck of a brawl. The likes of Cody Williams is what Mr. Bonugli is looking for on his cards. Think about that, you naysayers.

I have known Jeff Bonugli since the day he walked into my dojo in 1974. This thing about his wanting fighters to earn enough to live on, maybe that sounds corny to some, but I’m here to tell you that is how Jeff Bonugli operates. He means it. But again, he’s not giving any fighter something that fighter is not willing to work for. He’s about helping hungry fighters. And he is about exerting the type of influence which will cause other promoters to have to pay up. Look around you. You can see that is already happening, and you can thank Jeff Bonugli for that.

Yes, a week from now is payday in Harlingen. Jeff Bonugli sees this as a ticket for some hungry fighter to the UFC. It is up you really. When all is said and done, this is about attitude. Be an optimist. Believe in yourself and gear up mentally. Winston Churchill, that tough old British Bulldog who energized the fighting spirit of the British people during World War II, put it this way. “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” We wish you the very best. Go for broke. (Cristobal Lopez)

Leroy Martinez, Analysis of a Texas Fighter – Post Pride of the Valley II

Leroy Martinez
Leroy Martinez – courtesy of Role’s Photos

I like Matt Mooney, I like his intensity. I even wrote an article about him.  But I was a bit disturbed about him calling out Leroy Martinez.  When I suggested he ought wait a bit before taking on Leroy, he countered with, “Do you think I can’t take him?”  Well, I’d crossed a line, it seemed. What do I know?

Learn something, if you will, from an old fellow who has been around the block a few times. In fighting, there is conditioning, and there is mastery of technique. There is also the battle of the will and the psyche, which play a tremendous part of any contest. We’ll address the latter.

We had in the March “Pride of the Valley” event, the grudge match between Rick Palacios and Leroy Martinez, which engaged both camps. Matt Mooney was training with Rick Palacios. Ricky won the event, via a second round knockout of Leroy, after some pretty exciting exchanges, to say nothing of a hard first round for Rick as he struggled to escape Leroy’s ground game. The fight was over, Rick Palacios had won.

Now Matt Mooney calls out Leroy Martinez. Not good. There is the experience factor.  Matt is 1-0 as a pro.  Leroy has got some wins and some losses, but win or lose, it amounts to experience, lots more than Matt has.  “Wait,” I hinted to Matt. But the fight was set, to take place during the second of J C Promotion’s “Pride of the Valley” event.

More trash talk. Matt is going to break Leroy’s arm. (And he would have, if he could have set it up.)  I used to train cops and often gave the following advice: “Don’t put a man in a corner where the only way out is through you.”  For instance, don’t embarrass a man in front of his wife, girl friend, or children, if you can possibly avoid it. You will get more than you bargained for. Some men will die rather than be humiliated in front of their woman.

Matt put Leroy in the corner I’m talking about. Leroy had just lost to Rick Palacios, and now Rick’s understudy, with a 1-0 record, was going to whip him too? Think about that a bit. You can suppose that Leroy’s psyche upped somewhat on that note. He couldn’t wait to get into the ring with Matt. The moral imperative was on his side.  Spectator empathy was behind him, as would be demonstrated on fight night by calls in unison of, “Leroy! Leroy! Leroy!” Matt would have had to break his arm to submit him, as he had threatened to do.

Come the evening of the fight, Matt wanted the fight to come to him, on the canvas.  Leroy did not oblige, but rather made it a stand up game which he dominated. He did not oblige until the last couple of minutes in the third round, when the war of wills was in his favor. Then he descended to the canvas with a vengeance.

Matt has tremendous potential. He’s tough. He’ll be OK. He’s learning, and this is one of those times when much is to be learned from a loss.  When experience is a factor, it may be best not to threaten up; that is from the position of little experience to a position of much more experience.  In a sense it amounts to telegraphing a punch.  And, my advice to cops is good advice anywhere: “Don’t put a man in a corner, where his only way out is through you.”

Fighter Spotlight: ‘Jose Ceja’

Jose Ceja – Photo via Jose Ceja’s FB

Port Arthur’s Jose Ceja, a tough young man with a penchant for deep thought, made his professional boxing debut this past Saturday night at the South Padre Convention Center, fighting a four round Welterweight bout against Ramiro Balli. It was a fight which saw Ceja work the body well. Nor did he neglect the head in a bout which saw Balli in trouble in the second round, and against the ropes much of the time, under the barrage of punches Ceja rained down on him. In the end, the judges voted Ceja a unanimous win in this, his pro boxing debut. Ceja won his pro MMA debut this past March in JC Production’s “El Orgullo del Valle” in a mostly s standup brawl against Mission’s Rene Gonzalez. Ceja also won that bout by unanimous decision. Both Balli and Gonzalez will aver to the fact that Southpaws, and Ceja in particular, can be difficult to fight. As in his boxing debut this past Saturday, the MMA judges gave the fight to Ceja, unanimously. Ceja, who fights with the intent of receiving his young sons approval, trains in Los Fresnos at the Green Ghost Academy with Jeff Bonugli and at United MMA whenever he is in Port Arthur.

On June 21st, Ceja will be on the MMA card for the second of four MMA events this year promoted by JC Production’s“El Orgullo del Valle” to be held at the Pharr Events Center. Cody Williams will be the main event of the night at that “Pride of the Valley, ” MMA event June 21st, and he will be pitted against D’Angelo de Souza Vieira. Ricky “El Gallero” Palacios will meet Jay Dee Martinez in the co main event. A lot is at stake, as fighters are vying for the $50,000 contracts to be issued in March 2014 .

El Orgullo del Valle Post Fight Analysis

jeff bonugli
[Photo courtesy of SouthTexasContender.com]
Fight promoter Jeff Bonugli was looking for fighters, and he got them. Ryan Spann out of Beaumont opened last Saturday night’s “El Orgullo del Valle” fight event with hands and feet blazing. Although his opponent, Robert Zamora, outweighed him by 26 pounds, it was a mismatch from the beginning, but in Spann’s favor. Spann is the kind of fighter one hates to fight; a towering 6’5 inches tall, with not an ounce to spare on his lean frame of 183 pounds. You take into account also his 82 inch reach, and it spells trouble. Spann, who trains with American Top Team in Beaumont came into this fight 1-0 as a pro, determined to extend his win record. A game Zamora (training out of Mission with Robert Torres) initiated the fray by moving in on Spann with a front kick. After a brief exchange Spann connected with a blistering round house kick to Zamora’s rib cage, which visibly hurt him. The fight went to the ground, and at 2:25 of the first round Spann applied a rear naked choke to end the match.

Julio Villarreal, (McAllen) got into the fight game to lose weight. To that end, he’s been successful, losing over one hundred pounds since taking up mixed martial arts. It wasn’t enough against Christopher Lopez out of San Antonio, though. Lopez quickly got down to business in his match with Villarreal, causing ref Jake Montalvo to stop the match at 1:39 of the first round, when Villarreal was unable to defend himself against the pounding Lopez was doling out. Coming into the match at 1-0, the very humble Lopez voiced no unreasonable expectations about his future. “I’ll take this game as far as it takes me. I’ll be happy with the results, what ever they are.” His immediate short range goal? “I want to meet again the guy I lost to as an amateur. I want to beat him.” He sports 5 wins and one loss as an amateur, and the fight he lost took place in January 2011, in a fight against Jared Perez that went the distance. The 28 year old Lopez, a marathon runner, fights out of Rangel Vale Tudo, and at age 28 is a veteran of the United States Marines. He’s a recent graduate from UTSA. Not exactly sure why, but this writer is partial to him.

You have to hand it to Gabe Reynaga. At 40 years old he took on 24 year old Jordan Morgan. Twice he attempted a spin back kick on Morgan, and each time Morgan walked on him. To Reynaga’s credit, he stayed in the fight, going the distance with Morgan, who won by unanimous decision.

One has difficulty not liking Ray Rodriguez out of New Braunfel’s “Warrior’s Edge. The kid exudes optimism. He was facing a tough Jean Cartagena Maldonado, fighting out of Seguin MMA, just 15 minutes down the road from where Rodriguez trains. The fact that Maldonado holds a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu did not faze Ray. Given his record, Maldonado is no pushover. He came into this fight 1-1 as a pro, with 6 straight wins as an amateur. Strange as this may seem, I felt he should have stuck to his standup in this fight. He has good standup, with very strong kicks and good hands, which, for the little I saw, I rated superior to Ray’s. Yeah, but his strength is in jiu jitsu, and that’s where he continued to go. Explain that to Ray Rodriguez, who put him in a guillotine hold in 54 seconds of the third round!

Alex Hernandez of Ohana quickly overwhelmed Mission’s David Salazar to end the fight in 34 seconds of the first round. Salazar had taken the fight on two weeks notice. One may be physically prepared, but it is the mental game which is tasked.

Jorge Cortez out of Ultra Fit MMA in Harlingen also took this fight on very short notice, but what a fight this was between him and Cory Bellino out of Full Contact Fight Academy in Corpus Christi! Bellino bloodied Cortez in the first round, but Cortez was landing punches as well, in an exciting round of stand up. In the second and third rounds, Bellino took Cortez to the mat, where he had the advantage, as Cortez seemed to be enjoying the stand up game. A close, exciting fight with all judges scoring it 28-29 in favor of Bellino.

Up to this point, every fight has been exciting! One would think the action would slow down. Not so. Next up was Matt Mooney of El Gallero Den in Mission, versus Juan Chapa, also out of Mission. This was probably the most evenly matched fight of the night, with both fighters debuting as pros with an amateur record of 1-0, with both fighters winning their match by submission. So you ask, if the fight only lasted 35 seconds, what was so exciting about it? Those were 35 seconds of great stand up, pure toe to toe confrontation. And then Matthew goes and stops it all by submitting Chapa with an arm bar, which Chapa admits he walked right in to, by thinking he could take Matt out with his hands. Chapa, who lost, will also be on the June Orgullo del Valle card.

Jose Ceja, making his pro debut, represented promoter Bonugli’s Green Ghost Academy in a match against jiu jitsu purple belt Rene Gonzalez, also out of Mission. Ceja landed a hard shot over Gonzalez’ left eye early on, and continued to put on the pressure for three rounds. This fight began with a bang and finished in like manner; action packed, with Ceja taking the fight by unanimous decision.

Up to this point, it had been a night of continuous action, seemingly one exciting fight after another, with each succeeding fight seemingly better than the last. Could it get any better? The best was yet to come. The much ballyhooed co main event between Leroy Martinez and Ricky Palacios was in the offing. There had been much smack talk and insults traded between the two men and their camps, situated only miles apart in Mission. Ricardo “El Gallero” Palacios was coming into this event 4 pounds over weight at 139 pounds, versus Leroy “El Guapo” Martinez at the required 135. Ricky was sporting a record of 1-0 as a pro, and 6-0 as an amateur, all by KO, something which surely did not escape Martinez, whose pro record was 1-1, with an amateur record of 2-2. No one was disappointed at the effort expended by the two. There had been the attempted psyche and shoving between the two at the weigh ins, and this continued into the ring. Palacio’s fight skills are evident in his record to this point; nonetheless, one danger in over confidence can be that training may be allowed to lag. In the first round, Martinez did every thing right. When going up against a striker of the caliber of Palacios, one takes the game to the ground, and Martinez was doing a good job with this. His attempts to get Palacios into a submission hold in the first round failed, but in this writer’s view, the first round went to Martinez. The second round, Palacios got into his game, eluding attempts to be taken to the ground, tagging Martinez at least a couple of times with hard shots to the face, softening him for a clean knockout at 1:22 of the second round.

The much anticipated duel between two good fighters is over, for the time being at least. One writer calls it a total win for the Palacios camp, citing this and two other wins. I don’t agree with his analysis. The first round was too close, and it gets tougher from here, with each fight getting progressively tougher as opponents study his style. Rick’s ground game needs work. Why is this important? You have in Rick Palacios a genuine knockout artist. Consider this: 6 -0 as an amateur, all six wins by KO. 1-0 as a pro boxer, this also by knock out. 2-0 as a pro, both by knock out. Nine fights, 9 KO’s. Future opponents would be foolish not to study his game, as did Leroy Martinez. Nullifying his standup is essential, as Martinez almost did. My advice would be to heal the breach between camps. Sparring partners like Leroy Martinez who can help with the ground game can be a blessing. Both fighters will benefit from each other’s experience. Heal the breach.

We come to the main event, Aaron Rosa versus Tony Melton. Tony Melton entered the fight a solid 264 pounds, the kind of opponent who will pose a threat to any unprepared fighter. He entered this event sporting a 7-3 pro record, and 1-0 as a pro K-1 kickboxer. All his MMA bouts have been almost exclusively stand up. And yes, Aaron Rosa came into the fight, by his own standards, less prepared than desired, and well over his fighting weight. His employment, entailing long hours, has eaten into his training time, and he had been able to train only sporadically. Predictably, the fight evolved into a boxing match, with Rosa having to fight Melton’s game. In a closely fought stand up game, Rosa won by decision, by virtue of landing more punches.

El Orgullo del Norte, first event is now in the past. It has all the markings of a first class event. If Jeff Bonugli has his way, it will come one day to match the UFC in drawing power and excellence.