Getting It On

I had seen him a few weeks past, at a rank exam Jeff Bonugli was conducting at his Green Ghost Academy. David Fuentes was in fine fettle then, as he sparred, one after the other, the entire group  of fighters examining, to include Ray Banda (4-0-0) currently in place to fight Alexander Hernandez (5-1-0) for the 155 pound championship at Best of the Best V in April. Dee Jay evinced no trouble establishing his superiority over those examining. On the evening of January 17, just prior to his fight, I met him with a typical abrazo. I said nothing to him other than “you’ll do well,” but I was concerned because he looked somewhat under the weather. I attributed it to too rapid a weight loss in the days just prior to the fight. It was only after the fight that he explained that he had come down with a cold two days prior to the fight, and had gotten two shots for it. He had given up a day of training, and did not feel at his best leading up to the fight. His opponent, Ray “the Judge” Rodriguez, (5-3-0) on the other hand, came into the cage ready to get it on, and quickly went to work. For the first two rounds, my impression was that Dee Jay was simply working to contain him. I myself wanted more of a stand up game, because Dee Jay is exciting to watch standing up, but it was not to be. Most of the five rounds were spent on the mat. Rodriguez was able to go the distance with the Champ, but if you as the challenger are going to unthrone the man, you have to go more than the distance. What the judges saw was a Dee Jay Fuentes who, although not putting a whipping on Rodriguez, was in complete control of his opponent for the majority of the fight. In what turned out to be a unanimous decision for the champion, one judge went so far as to give the fight to Fuentes, 50-45.  A bit far fetched. The first two rounds looked to be in Rodriguez’ favor, but even then, at no time did Fuentes seem concerned. That again is what the judges saw. Rodriguez was in the fight, just not enough into it. He could not get past what the judges were seeing from ringside, that is, a seemingly unperturbed Dee Jay Fuentes, doing what champions do, controlling the fight. Afterwards, Rodriguez announced his retirement, citing a need to work to support his family. Ray Rodriguez can go out with his head high. Taking on the champion, he was game for five rounds, the entirety of the fight.

Prior to his fight, Middleweight Champ Brandon Farran had voiced his respect for his challenger, Hayward Charles, giving him credit for his high number of submission wins, (ten out of eleven wins by submission.)  Being knocked out by Charles was not likely, he felt. As was expected, given his very aggressive fighting style,  Farran, went into the fight throwing some heavy bombs. Early on, he had stipulated that he wanted an opponent who would give him a run for his money, and he found it in Hayward Charles. He walked into what looked like a hard right hook, and at 1:05, of the first round, having thus set him up, Charles effected a submission by arm triangle choke. The irony is that Farran had intimated that with a fighter like Charles, this very thing was a possibility. But like the outstanding gentleman he is, he was quick to congratulate Charles on his win.  And then, from Hayward Charles came one of the humblest speeches you’ll ever hear from a fighter, something to the effect of “I don’t like to hurt my opponent if I can help it, so I submit him as quickly as I can, doing as little damage as possible.”  I have to admit that I had wanted to see Brandon Farran pull this off, because of his exciting style of fighting, and because I am partial to stand up fights, but after hearing Hayward Charles’ explanation, I figured the win couldn’t have gone to a nicer guy. In a humorous vein, Brandon Farran probably saw it the same way. Two real class gentlemen.

I have previously covered the fight between Jamaal Emmers and Rey Trujillo. See “Facing the Junk Yard Dog, the Aftermath,”  at In that article, as well as another article on the same website, “Experience Matters,” I believe I caught the gist of Rey Trujillo’s feelings regarding the matchup: ““He is a great fighter with great potential and has a bright future, but he was a minnow swimming with a large mouth bass.” That uh, pretty well sums it up.



Experience Matters

One of the more exciting fights on the undercard, the night at Hero FC’s Best of the Best IV the evening of 17 January 2015, featured an up and coming fighter out of Ohana Academy in San Antonio. A Jason Yerrington protégé,  Alexander Hernandez,  took on and defeated Jacob Capelli.  Hernandez suffered a cut over the left eye in the second round, and it was feared that the doctor would stop the fight. However, the doctor, recognizing that Alex was clearly dominating the fight, allowed it to continue, and as expected, Alex was declared the winner by unanimous decision.

We will be watching Alex as he moves up, for thus far, he has been very solid, and a credit to his mentor, Jason Yerrington, with his one loss being a close and disappointing decision going to Jamaal Emmers.   A championship belt in the near future is a distinct possibility, given Jeff Bonugli’s announcement of a $50,000 contract to be awarded in the 155 pound division.  Hernandez will be challenging Ray Banda for the contract, but whether Banda or Hernandez win the contract, they do so with the understanding that the road ahead of them will be getting progressively more difficult. Holding on to a title belt will become a great educational tool, and a test of their very best skills.

Fighters around the state are beginning to see that contract money is being paid out, month after month, to enable belt holders to train. The same skills Jeff Bonugli used to propel Gillespie Ford into the number one auto dealership in San Antonio a decade and a half ago are being applied here, and Hero FC’s Best of the Best MMA event is here to stay, with the additional backing of Charlie Clark and his Nissan dealership.

Regardless of who emerges as the winner, we can expect that the new 155 pound division will be challenged by more experienced fighters.  Consider the more experienced Brandon Farran, with nineteen pro fights under his belt, stripping the less experienced Ryan Spann of the 185 pound title in 21 seconds of the first round in Best of the Best III.  Spann had only five pro fights to his credit.  Much the same occurred in the match between Jammal  Emmers and Rey Trujillo. Emmers, another tough and upcoming fighter, entered the match sporting a 7-1-0 record, versus Trujillo’s 18-13-0.  Trujillo’s thirty one pro bouts unapologetically trumped the eight bouts Emmers had under his belt.  Although Emmers had devastated most of his previous opponents, in this event Trujillo countered his every move, almost easily. It was a credit to Emmers that he lasted into the second round. Thirteen of Trujillo’s seventeen wins were by KO, and the other four by unanimous decision.  Until meeting up with Jamaal Emmers, Trujillo had never won by submission.  That changed In 1:48 of the second round in this match, with Trujillo racking up his first submission win by triangle choke over Emmers.

Figure this to be a sign of things to come.  Consider the following:  the 135 pound belt is currently owned by David Fuentes, with twenty one fights under his belt.  The 145 pound belt is now held by Reynaldo Trujillo, who counts thirty two fights to his credit. As of this last event, the 185 pound belt went to Hayward Charles, a veteran of eighteen fights, who took it from Farran this past Saturday night. The point is, you have to respect experience. It matters. Experienced fighters who in the past were loathe to trust Jeff Bonugli at his word, are now coming to the table.

Whichever of the two emerges in the fight for Best of the Best V’s  155 pound title, be it Alex Hernandez, currently 5-1-0, or Ray Banda, at the moment 4-0-0, he can count on being challenged by more experienced fighters, hungry for  a  paying contract. Best of the Best gets better with each event. The large crowd in attendance was drawn there by the promise of great fighting, and they were not disappointed.

Facing the Junkyard Dog, the Aftermath

It was as I predicted. The Friday prior to Hero FC’s Best of theBest IV, I reasoned that Jamaal Emmers would have his plate full the following night. Sure, we had seen a couple of brutal body slams dealt out to opponents, courtesy of Jamaal, but this night would be different. It would different, for this night, in comparison to his meetings with past opponents, he would find himself  pitted against a junk yard dog; that is, if experience were any factor.  As others will soon find out, a newly crowned champion pitting his puny 7-1-0 record against a challenger’s substantial 17-14-0 record, is an awesome hurdle to overcome, and fraught with danger. They are coming, these scarred and embattled fighters, for the word is out amongst them: Hero FC pays its dues.

Yes, experience is a factor, and the junk yard dog of whom I speak, even Rey Trujillo, has arrived to demonstrate personally the how and why of the matter. My earlier post affirmed that those of Trujillo’s ilk, fighting their hearts out for mere beans over thirty one fights, are looking for a better way, and that is what Jeff Bonugli and Hero FC are offering, in a monthly stipend for training, as well as the winner’s purse. Rey Trujillo had come to claim his prize.

But first, there was the matter of schooling the kid. It was a harsh lesson, this process of education. Jamaal’s potential for brutal body slams were not to be discounted, for they worked most effectively against novitiates such as himself. Only this was no newcomer to the game, but instead a seasoned warrior who easily countered what to him were elementary techniques. He not only stymied each technique, but reversed it. To simply demonstrate, Emmers lifts Trujillo up, in preparation for the body slam, and is slammed instead.

That isn’t working, so let’s do stand up. That is dangerous territory, as Jamaal soon finds out, for thirteen of Rey Trujillo’s seventeen wins have come by way of knockout, and the other four by decision. But wait! Not one of those wins has come by submission. Not one!

If you’re Jamaal, you figure Trujillo is going to want to stay topside. After all, he must have heard that Jamaal is a good wrestler. Been wrestling since the ninth grade. But after a bruising first round, where he gets shellacked, barely escaping becoming KO number fourteen, he figures that the better way to go is grappling.  Is there not comfort in knowing that in thirty one matches, Rey Trujillo has never submitted an opponent, not ever? Yes, grappling is the way to go.

And so it happened, that in the first half of the second round, for the first time in all his thirty one matches, under the watchful eye of center ref Jake Montalvo, Rey Trujillo claimed his first win by submission, as if trumpeting contempt through the most unexpected means. Thus came vindication of the earlier prediction that Jamaal Emmers was going up against a veritable junk yard dog in Rey Trujillo. And, as before mentioned, that junk yard dog was hungry indeed.

Facing the Junk Yard Dog

It got off to a slow start, but it has picked up speed in a big way, this dream of Jeff Bonugli’s  which is Hero FC’s “Best of the Best”. With the backing of Charlie Clark, of Charlie Clark Nissan, this train is beginning to move down the tracks fast, and tomorrow night, January 17, 2015, we’re looking forward to an exciting Best of the Best  IV.  Dee Jay Fuentes will be defending his 135 pound title against a Jason Yarrington protégé, Ray Rodriguez. Ray comes into this fight with a 5-3 record. Except for the one where he submitted his opponent in the first round, in all of his fights he’s gone the distance.  Prior to turning pro, Ray sported a 3-0 record as an amateur, winning twice by TKO in the first round, and once by submission, also in the first round.  It isn’t like David Fuentes to underestimate anyone. He takes every opponent seriously. “He’s trained under Jason Yarrington. You have to respect that.” But, he added, “I’ve trained hard for this fight. You’ll see things from me you haven’t seen before.” We’re looking forward to that, Champ.

Brandon Farran will be defending the Championship Belt he took from Ryan Spann the last go around. When you didn’t think it could get any better, here comes Brandon Farron, waltzing into the ring. Take the word “waltzing” literally.  He has swagger, lots of it, and when the ref gave the fighters the nod, he got down to business immediately, taking out Ryan Spann in 21 seconds of the first round. It was one of those great educational lessons, one an outstanding fighter like Ryan Spann is sure to profit from. He had just learned what life in the big leagues is about.  Like any winner, he wants back in.  Farron will be taking on Hayward Charles, who is equally matched with Farron, as records go. However, the difference in the fighting styles of these two fighters is great. Because  ten of Charles’ wins have come by submission, he will want to take Farron to the mat. Farron respects that, knowing that his opponent is at home on the ground, whereby  Farron is in the business of getting the fight over quickly.  Eight of his twelve wins have come by knockout.

It is the business of a champion to take on all comers.  Although the State stripped Jamaal Emmers of his Championship status because he came into the ring one pound overweight for Best of the Best III, Emmers is in the act of regaining his belt.  Coming from an awesome win by brutal body slam of Michael Rodriguez in the first round, he is willing to take on any comer.  If experience is any factor, he’ll have his plate full tomorrow night.  But should he win, nothing is wanting for this young man!  Consider what he’s up against; shall we say the junk yard dog?

Rey Trujillo is coming into this fight at 17-14-0 versus Jamaal Emmers at a 7-1-0 record. That’s a bit of disparity, is it not?  The fact is that fighters around the state are beginning to sit up and take notice of what Jeff Bonugli is offering, with his $50,000 contract, and the $2,500 monthly training stipend as well as prize money.  Fighters like Trujillo, who have been fighting their hearts out for beans in thirty one fights are looking for something better, and that is what Jeff is offering.  Take a look at this fighter.  Thirteen of Rey Trujillo’s seventeen wins he has won by knockout. The other four he won by decision. You know he’s going to want to stay on topside.  Yeah, he does standup, and he’s been through the mill, having been KO’d six times.  Four of those times come within a period of one and a half years. Some danger in that, going into a fight within months of the last knockout! However, in between, he’s scored knockouts as well.  On his loss record are four losses by decision, with the last one coming to Adam Ward this past November, following two of his own wins by TKO in August and Oct 2014.  He’s been submitted four times, by an arm triangle choke, twice by arm bar, and once by a rear naked choke. There you have his losses, six by KO, four by decision, and four by submission versus his seventeen wins, thirteen of which were by knockout.  One has to understand the danger in not allowing any dust to gather between KOs.  Is Jamaal Emmers capable of a KO? Yes, we’ve seen it, in brutal body slam fashion, and he is young and fresh.  Jamaal Emmers is dangerous, and he’s not fazed, even against an experienced fighter with thirty one fights under his belt.  He needs to be dangerous, as well as just a bit fazed.  He’s going up against a veritable junk yard dog in Rey Trujillo, and that junk yard dog is hungry.

(Jamaal Emmers’ photo)






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.