Meeting the Challenge: Best of the Best II

DJ FuentesDid I say he would come in fighting? In earlier reports of the upcoming fight with the champion, Dee Jay Fuentes, I made the prediction that come what may, Jose Ceja would come into the fight with all barrels blazing. He did just that, in what appeared to be the most action packed fight of the night, in a night full of action packed fights, during JC Fight Promotion‘s “Best of the Best II”,  in Brownsville, Texas, last Saturday, June 14, 2014.

Smack talk, he had aplenty, until one of the State officials instructed the center ref, Jake Montalvo, to put a stop to Ceja’s verbal assault.  A bit controversial that, for we are talking fight, where smack talk is part of the psyche out. Ceja was much defiant, with smack talk and sneers followed up with a flurry of power packed punches. Yes, a bit of controversy in curtailing smack talk between battlers. Tell that to a Mike Tyson or a Roberto Duran. Take the smack talk from a Muhammad Ali, and what have you done? You’ve deprived the world of great poetical thought, as for example, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”  Where would the world be without the philosophical outbursts of Mike Tyson?  “My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I’m just ferocious. I want his heart! I want to eat his children!”  Profound.

mma1Not that it fazed Dee Jay, but it may have had a tendency to be disconcerting, when Jose showed no sign of slowing down. But then it happened, toward the end of the five minute first round. Just before another clash with the champion, Jose fell forward.  Most of those watching thought Jose had slipped, but as one who has an injured knee, I knew immediately that Jose’s knee had gone out, the result possibly of torn cartilage from an earlier injury. Well, there was an Achille’s heel uncovered, there for the taking.  Dee Jay didn’t waste any time. He attacked the knee with a kick.  Jose’s angry response was to revert to grappling, latching on to the champion and slamming him to the canvas immediately.  But he could not hold him, and like the champion he is, Dee Jay went to work at bringing Ceja to bay. Ceja fought back , attempting to stand toe to toe with the champion, and taking facial damage for it. It was not until the 4th round that Fuentes began to really get the upper hand. He was relentless in the attack,  driving his knee into Ceja’s  injured leg, and from there delivering punches and knees at will into a still very game Ceja’s face. When Ceja was no longer able to adequately respond, Jake Montalvo stepped in, to call the fight a TKO.

Jose CejaOne expects a thrilling fight from Dee Jay Fuentes, and he delivered, fighting like the champion he is, slowly but methodically chipping away at the challenger, Jose Ceja, until the moment Jake Montalvo stopped the fight, but for pure “never say die spirit”,  my hat is off to Jose Ceja, who certainly gave the champion a heck of a fight, as well as keeping the audience on the edges of their seats. After the fight, he approached Jeff Bonugli, proclaiming, “I didn’t lose that fight, Mr. Bonugli! I was still in the fight! I never quit! I was winning that fight!”

That game was lost when his knee went out. He was virtually crippled, and in the cage, no mercy is extended in seeking a win. Had the knee injury been to Dee Jay, Ceja would have been merciless as well. It is a tribute to Ceja’s courage that he fought so hard and well, despite the injury. Inasmuch as experience is a factor, this was an uphill battle for Jose Ceja. Most fighters pick their fights, taking on fights they feel sure to win. Most fighters, in their desire to build up a tally of wins, do not take on such a fight, with the odds so against them. Jose Ceja is not most fighters. Months ago, when a fighter was needed to step in and take on Rick Palacios, Jose Ceja did not flinch. Palacios had plans elsewhere. When a fighter was needed to take on the champion, Dee Jay Fuentes,  that fighter should have been Rick Palacios. That didn’t happen, ostensibly because of the emotional crisis in his life at the time. Without hesitation, Jose Ceja stepped up to the plate. He came to fight.

Jammal EmmersJammal Emmers did a masterful job in keeping his Championship Belt in his fight against the more experienced Chris Pecera. He fought like the winner he is, leaving no doubt he has used the past three months to train to remain the champ. At no time did he appear in any danger of being bested by  Pecera. And the body slams! In this, he owned Pecera. One cannot discount the psychological impact being slammed to the canvas time and again had on Pecera, nor does one discount their impact on those judging the fight.

In fairness  to Pecera, he took the fight on two weeks notice,  and there was the weight loss, which in the heat of the fight certainly had to affect him. Nonetheless, Emmer’s performance was top notch, and he looks to be JC Fight Promotion’s featherweight champion for the long haul.

Ray Banda, a Soryu Karate Purple Belt student of Jeff Bonugli, was very aggressive in his onslaught against  40 year old Daniel Duran, showing no mercy in his ground and pound attack, which brought the fight to an end as a TKO for Banda. Duran was certainly game, for almost three rounds, but to no avail. He was TKO’d in the third round

We expected much from Rick Palacios, but Joel Scott had a game plan, and followed it. It is no secret that El Gallero is a good stand up fighter. Six wins as an amateur by KO, two as a pro by KO, and one as a pro  boxer by KO; yeah, he has good hands, so to deny him the use of them is the game plan. This Joel Scott did with a quickly applied Kimura arm bar almost immediately in the first round. I applaud Ricky Palacio for the recognition he received in Florida, but I will tell you of the vulnerability incurred in fighting for such an organization. If you fight only Latino opponents, you are excluding a lot of outstanding competitors who are not Latino. It won’t fly, and Rick is realizing that. He also realizes that any loss needs to be viewed as a learning experience, and perhaps a wake up call. Joel Scott did what most of those fighting Ricky will be attempting to do, that is, deprive him of the use of his hands in a standup fight.  Rick will shrug off this loss, but we may suppose he will be working gabeon his ground game. And perhaps we will yet see a Dee Jay Fuentes, versus Rick Palacios, face off. That one will keep us on the edge of our seats.

Gabe Reynaga came out charging.  Reynaga, now 42 years of age, had done his homework. His trainer, Jason Yerrington, assured me of that. Reynaga’s hard charging stand up attack and a solid left ended the fight for Brandon Bradshaw early on.  Reynaga has worked his cardio, and every fight he has entered up to now reflects that, for in each he has gone the distance. This time his training paid off early in the fight.

The fight between heavyweights Javier Rendon and Raul Ponce ended early in the first round, when Jake Montalvo stopped the fight, given that Ponce was unable to adequately respond to Rendon’s ground and pound attack. Rendon was awarded the win.

The kick of the night had to go to Travis Joyner. Joyner has not fought since 2006, and was fighting a more experienced (in the cage) Joe Rodriguez. Knowing that Joyner is a Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, one would have expected a strong emphasis on a ground game from him. With that in mind, when it happened, that beautiful rear leg round house kick to Rodriguez’ head was totally unexpected. It was good. Very good. From where I was sitting at ringside, between Jason Yerrington and Louis Arnold, it appeared to have caught him on the side of the neck. It was solid. Joyner trains at Rudy Vasquez’ Soryu Karate Academy in Austin. Like his father before him, Joyner is an Austin Texas police officer. As an Austin Police Officer, he, and not anyone else, ought be running that department’s defensive tactics section, a position this writer held for five years,  long before Joyner was born. No one on that department has the qualifications to teach defensive tactics that Joyner has.  We shall see.

jeff bonugli“Best of the Best II” was an outstanding MMA event, with the hard work of Daniel Martinez and Jan Bonugli and their supporting cast much evident, in making noticeable improvements from one event to the next. The fighting was outstanding. Two champions, Dee Jay Fuentes and Jammal Emmers, retained their belts, and the $2,500 per month which goes with them, courtesy of JC Fight Promotion. They fought like champions, and will continue to improve as they train to meet future challengers. Indeed, the “Best of the Best” promises to get better, in order to fulfill the vision of Jeff Bonugli and his partner, Charlie Clark, speaker of fluent Spanish, and even a little English.

In a serious vein, let us remember that the event began with a prayer, invoking the Lord’s blessing on the participants, that none would suffer serious injury. And so it was, for which thing we are grateful. We compliment JC Fight Promotion for their determination to dedicate their event to Jesus Christ. It is inspiring to me, and it thrills me, to see each winner raise a finger to the air, and  hear them proclaim their gratitude to Jesus Christ. In each instance, in keeping with that proclamation, we see two fighters who have battled hard against each other, embrace after the fight. This is as it should be.  We thank you. The Lord is pleased.

[Pics courtesy of South Texas Contender]

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)

It’s Reckoning Time! Three Title Winners Will Each Get $50,000 Contracts

JC Productions
JC Productions: Jeff Bonugli, Charlie Clark, Chris Lopez

When Jeff Bonugli came to me in 1974, he was nineteen, fresh out of Canyon High School in New Braunfels, Texas. That took some guts in those days, as he was a White boy coming into what was at the time the rough area of town, into a dojo peopled by some as rough characters. Anyone who could fight in New Braunfels trained in my dojo. In the previous decade, New Braunfels had put out two Heavyweight Texas Golden Gloves champs, Robert Mesa and Cheche Rios. Jeff was very aggressive, and from the beginning was always in the winner’s circle. In between tournaments, he would lead others of my students to make fighting rounds to other schools in the San Antonio area. He, along with others of my future Black Belts took on jobs as bouncers in a local night club, where they could put their skills to work. Even as a Brown Belt, Jeff was entering and winning in the Black Belt Division, but in my mind, one of Jeff’s greatest fights, point or full contact, was at George Minschew’s Karate Olympics in Houston, around 1976. The fight was for the championship of the Heavyweight Green Belt Division, and Jeff was pitted against a powerful, and raw boned, Dino Holmsley out of Beaumont. With Dino as an opponent, Jeff was more than well matched. When I see the up and coming Ryan Spann, fighting in JC Productions “Best of the Best” mixed martial arts event, February 1, 2014, in Harlingen, I am reminded of Dino Holmsley. Ryan is the same kind of powerful fighter. My high estimation of Dino was not only in his versatility of technique, because he had that aplenty, but rather because he was also a skilled street fighter, and without question, very tough. In one of the hardest fought fights of the night Jeff came out on top, and in so doing, cinched my estimation of Jeff’s abilities. Dino was also a bouncer, and while in the performance of that duty, was killed breaking up a bar fight in a Houston nightclub. Dino Holmsley was as tough as they come. Nothing but respect for a true warrior to the end. Jeff applied his aggressiveness to business, eventually becoming General Manager of the largest car dealership in San Antonio, currently a partner of a large dealership in the Valley, and now JC Productions. His search for fighters willing to fight for $50,000 dollar contracts is a true fact. Jeff Bonugli, always a warrior, has shown all along that he truly cares for his fighters. The time of reckoning has arrived and, as any warrior, he plans to go down fighting.

J & C Productions
J & C Productions – The Best of the Best
Three $50,000 dollar contracts that will be going out to our Title Winners and a Brand New Car will be given out to someone in the Crowd that night.
For VIP table paper tickets please call Daniel with J&C Productions at 956-622-9053

Ricky “El Gallero” Palacios Making a Comeback for JC Productions “Texas Pride” MMA Event

jc promotionsA New and rejuvenated Ricky “El Gallero” Palacios is making his comeback in Beaumont Texas at the Montagne Events Center, with Jeff Bonugli’s JC Productions “Texas Pride” MMA event on Saturday, September 28. Comeback? Yes, following some tough times in his life, some of them self made, what follows now is a comeback. He’ll be fighting a very tough Jose Ceja who is currently 1-0 as a pro MMA fighter and 1-0 as a pro boxer, which will make for a very interesting fight, considering that El Gallero favors stand up, and boxing in particular. While I am personally a friend to both of these boys, the odds stand in Ricky’s favor, but by no means should he be complacent. Jose will come to fight, and he comes undeterred by the stats, which show Ricky 6-0 as an amateur, 2-0 as a pro, and 1-0 as a boxer, all fights won by KO. In Jose’s favor is the fact that he can box. I’m partial to either of these boys. Expect a slug fest. I would be very surprised if either of these boys take the fight to the mat.

[Press Release] Rocktagon MMA Adds Lone Star State to West Coast Line-up

Rocktagon-28-El-Paso-EventPRESS RELEASE: Las Vegas, NV (July 24, 2013) – The MMA boom is underway in Texas as Rocktagon MMA Worldwide brings premium fight events to the Lone Star State. Rocktagon MMA is set to make its debut in Texas on Friday, July 26 with an ALL-Pro MMA card stacked with elite talent. The event, ‘Rocktagon 28 Journey of Champions –El Paso’ will take place at Buchanan’s Event Center in El Paso, Texas.

Rocktagon MMA has held a total of 27 events to date in cities on both coasts, primarily in Ohio and California. They are very excited to add Texas to the line-up and plan to make a positive impact when it comes to live MMA events in the state. The popular promotion hopes to reignite the MMA scene in the El Paso area by delivering consistent, high-quality MMA events that feature elite pro fighters from all over the globe.

According to James Jeda, CEO of Rocktagon MMA Worldwide, “We are very excited to bring premium MMA events to the great state of Texas. Between Ohio, California and Texas, Rocktagon will continue to infuse cities from coast to coast with top-level professional MMA events.”

‘Rocktagon 28 Journey of Champions –El Paso’ will feature a stacked ALL – Pro MMA fight card headlined by Billy “The Puerto Rican Assassin” Colon and Martin Sano Jr. The clichéd mantra, “don’t blink,” is certainly relevant considering both fighters have a 100-percent finish rate.

Colon, a submission specialist and seasoned MMA veteran, has competed all over the United States. Colon feels his significant experience in the cage will rein superior against his opponent in the Rocktagon arena. He plans to prove it by finishing Sano impressively and early on, but knows it will not be an easy feat.

At just 22-years-old, Sano exudes the kind of confidence one expects in a future champion. He is a highly touted prospect with an unblemished record, yet this will be his first fight on the big stage against a savvy veteran like Colon. It will also be his first venture from welterweight to middleweight.

Will Sano find success in the middleweight division or suffer his first defeat? Fans will find out on Friday night when both fighters lay it all on the line in the Rocktagon cage. It is a fight that will keep fans on the edge of their seat from the moment the cage door closes and the co-main event is expected to be just as exciting!

In the co-main event heavy-handed slugger Patrick “Skar” Dixon will face Fort Bliss Combatives team member Anthony Stevens. While some fighters rely on point scoring, Dixon tends to take the road less traveled, which typically consists of throwing haymakers and leaving opponents curled up in the fetal position.

Stevens, on the other hand, is a more technical fighter and consistently pushes forward. He has a smooth boxing style and is known for delivering exciting performances with wild, impressive exchanges. The contrasting styles of these dynamic fighters make for a very compelling match-up!

The Rocktagon 28 card is jam-packed with well-matched professional bouts and high-octane fights that fans want to see! The full fight card is listed below.

*’Rocktagon 28 Journey of Champions –El Paso’ Full line-up:

Billy Colon vs. Martin Sano Jr.
Patrick Dixon vs. Anthony Stevens
Rodrigo Sotello Jr. vs. Joseph Torrez
Alida Gray vs. Jessica Kennett
Jazmin Quezada vs. Stacey Sigala
David Ruelaz vs. Adam McGurk
Brian Castillo vs. Matthew Hunt
Julio Hinojosa vs. Ibrahim “Lion Heart” Eid
Jesus Urbina vs. Alan Lerma
Randy McCarty vs. Derek Perkins

*Card subject to change

Rocktagon 28 “Journey of Champions” takes place on July 26 at Buchanan’s Event Center, located at 11540 Pellicano Dr. in El Paso, Texas. Tickets starting at $30 are available online at Limited VIP tables are also available by calling 440-934-4MMA.

About Rocktagon MMA:
Rocktagon MMA is the mixed martial arts division of Rocktagon Worldwide, a sports and music entertainment company. Founded in mid-2010, Rocktagon MMA has successfully completed 27 events on two coasts and is the only promotion able to offer four types of shows to meet the needs of various markets: all Amateur, all Professional, Pro-Am, and Rock-n-Rage. Rock-n-Rages are premium events combining the cage of mixed martial arts with a stage featuring live musical performances by well-known artists. All Rocktagon MMA events are streamed live globally via the Rocktagon Sports & Music Network and filmed to air on multiple networks throughout North America, including Comcast, Comcast SportsNet and the Fight Network. For more information, please visit

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.”