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.
Ricky “El Gallero” Palacios loves to fight, not because he likes to hurt people, but because he wants to share his unique talent with the world. He’s worked extremely hard to build a solid fight record, he owns his own gym, has a large Valley fan base, and continues to push his way to the top. His amateur record stands at 6-0 and he concluded his amateur career after obtaining two titles. In his pro debut he won his fight by TKO stoppage putting him at an uptick of 1-0. His next opponent, Loroy Martinez, comes into this fight off of a decision loss but won his pro debut by TKO as well. Ricky intends on making a name for himself, not just in The Valley, but whenever he steps into the cage, ring, or mat… Enjoy the interview!
Tell us about what led you down the martial arts path and why you fight?
What led me to mixed martial arts was mainly my weight. I was close to 200 lbs, which is very large for my stature. I was determined to lose weight. I started out getting into street fights so I set a goal to lose weight and get a legit fight in the cage. It was part of my bucket list to get in there and after I fought and won my first fight, I made it a goal to become a champion!
What would you like to accomplish in your MMA career?
To be honest everyone wants to be a world champion but to me I see it as a goal like everyone else. The main thing is that I’ve done it so later in life when I’m older I won’t be haunted with the question, “What if?” or “I should have?” knowing that I tried something I wanted is an accomplishment in itself and not too many people get to do what they dream of doing. With that being said, I would like to give others the opportunity to do what they dream of. I’ve been blessed to be where I am at and with my own gym “El Galleros Den” now I can help others make their dreams come true. That’s what I’d love to accomplish!
As a pro MMA fighter and boxer, what else would you like to compete in? Which discipline are you most passionate about?
I’ve been working to be an all around fighter. I’ve been thinking about trying out kickboxing or Muay Thai just to see where I stand. I fell in love with boxing and I think I’m good at it. I’m not afraid to try other martial arts and compete. All I need need to do, or anyone for that matter, is to set a goal and have a positive mind set, and never give up.
What advise would you give to someone who’s currently struggling with obesity but wants to make a change like you did?
Now that’s a great question that I love to answering! I was close to 200lbs and now I walk around 148 lbs. I set a goal to lose 15 pounds but the main thing is your mind set and how dedicated you are to accomplishing that goal. I had no one to push me and I didn’t know anything about a diet or fat burning. I did everything naturally just worked out and the willingness to do it. No one was going to stop me no matter what! I set high expectations for myself even when it seemed impossible. I made it possible and that’s how it should be.
Who inspires you?
My inspiration is my spouse and children, They give me the drive to succeed. They have been my back bone since day one. I had a lot of financial problems when I first started training and they have always stuck with me. I was never alone when it came to motivation before or after a fight. Like I said, “make the impossible possible.” We use to sell chicken plates for gas money just to get to the northern cities in order to fight. The we’d come back broke again. The promoters didn’t really care if I was broke or not, they just wanted me to make a fight happen.
Tell us about your upcoming fight and your training regimen going into it.
My upcoming fight is against Leroy Martinez. My training is going great and I feel like I’ve got all the tools to come out victorious March 16! I see every fight as a championship fight and I never think I’m the best or that I’m going to walk through anyone. It’s a fight – anything can happen.
Your opponent Leroy, is there bad blood?
I really don’t take anything personal but I feel like he talks too much. I don’t know, maybe that’s how he pumps himself up but I could care less. I just see it like any other fight. He has said some stuff that shouldn’t have been said. Ido feel like he needs to work extremely hard to beat me. He says that he wants to knock me out or break my arm or something like that. I really don’t care. All I know is that he has a good training camp and I’m pumped because he should be at his best with no excuses. It should be a very entertaining fight. He may want to make it a jiu-jitsu match but I hope he worked on his stand up cuz I’m coming at him hard!
Anyone you’d like to thank, any shout outs?
I would like to thank GOD for my blessing with him anything is possible. My big brother Jeff Bonugli, my family, LX BJJ, Green Ghost Academy, all my sparring partners, Vitamin Shack and shake, H&B fitness, Charlie Clark Nissan, Phatboy racing, and all my sponsors, and fans. – Ricky Palacios – El Galleros Den
El Gallero’s Highlight Reel
At 6’3, 205 pounds, 29 year old Aaron Rosa is in his prime. Fighting out of Rodrigo Pinheiro’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Rosa has the benefit of working on his ground game with one of the best jiu jitsu practitioners in the world. Here Rosa can also count on excellent sparring partners, one of them being Muay Thai specialist, Pete Spratt.
At the very beginning of his professional mixed martial arts career, Rosa racked up ten straight wins, fighting for various promotions. He is currently 17-5 and is a veteran of UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce, and EliteXC. His wins include six KO’s, four submissions, and seven by decision.
Rosa will be facing Tony Melton in the premier fight for the “Orgullo del Valle” MMA event in Pharr, Texas on March 16. The 31 year old Melton is currently 7-3. Six of those wins came by KO, and one by decision. While Melton appears to be the underdog in this event, Rosa is experienced enough to know that Melton, with at least a thirty pound weight advantage, and six KO’s under his belt can be dangerous.
Immediately before the main event, Cody “Wolverine” Williams, 4-4, fighting out of the Texas Karate Academy in Beaumont, Texas will meet the Valley’s (McAllen) Randy “the Hurricane” Fuentes, who is currently 5-3. Fuentes has been augmenting his training by throwing his hat into the boxing ring, where he won his first pro fight by unanimous decision in the Valley’s “Border Brawl” in September of 2011, and at this date is 4-0 as a professional boxer.
Although not a main event fight, the grudge match between Ricardo “El Gallero” Palacios and Leroy “Guapo” Martinez, promises to be a scorcher. Palacios and Martinez own schools separated by only a few miles in Mission, and each has a substantial following. In the weeks leading up to March 16, there have been insults and substantial “smack” talk traded between the two camps. If there is a war in the offing, we can expect it between these two fighters. Seven prelim matches will come prior to those listed above, with plenty of action promised.
After 8 shows put on by JC Productions over a two year period, promoter Jeff Bonugli, with the support of Valley Nissan dealer Charlie Clark, will be signing 5 fighters onto contracts worth $50,000. Yes sir, the fight game is coming to the Rio Grande Valley in a very big way.