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.
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Talk about a pioneer in the sport of Texas MMA. Nick Gonzalez is of the hand full of those that have been involved in MMA since the beginning. He has fought for several (now defunct) promotions. One being RENEGADES out of Houston,Texas (first time I saw him fight). Love him or hate him…The guy’s always smiling! Here we go!
sPidA: First off, what has kept you motivated in competition all these years bro?
Gonzales: I enjoy fighting, the competition, just throwing down and challenging myself. I’ve been at it awhile but I’m far from being done.
sPidA: This year alone you’ve had quite a few fights get canceled, what’s the worst part when something like this happens?
Gonzales: Not doing what I’m set out to do for weeks at a time!! It’s a big emotional let down to be getting ready for something and NOT having the chance to complete what you set out to do. More recently the worst part is the run around Im getting from promoters in Texas, It’s pretty sad because when I lived in San Diego I was so proud of MMA in Texas. Shows, fighters etc that this year has left me with a lot of disappointment. UWF, STFC, Legacy, KOK, and whatever that lady in New Braunfels calls her show. I wanna fight and stay busy, not get the run around. I’d rather the promoter be honest then bullshit me. I miss the Renegade days when Saul Soliz called you and had a fight, either you fought or he just moved on to the next person that would fight.
sPidA: You’ve competed in a lot of great promotions as well as every promotion in Austin, Texas…Which has been your favorite and why?
Gonzales: The FFC, which was out in Biloxi, Ms. It was my first legit title I won and that’s a memory I will never forget. It was also my favorite because I got the “fight of the nite award” winning the title after breaking my hand in the 2 round!!!
sPidA:This year you’ve also competed in a pro boxing event and done commentary for the UWF promotion in Corpus Christi, are these outlets staying active in the scene?
Gonzales: Yeah for sure, and to make make some extra money! Commentary work would be something fun to do after I retire so it was a way to start and I really enjoy watching fights too!! And I boxed on ESPN Friday night fights for the opportunity but also because two MMA fights fell thru so it kept me busy.
sPidA: You have a big following in your hometown of Austin,Texas, ever thought of starting your own promotion down the road?
Gonzales: Absolutely! I feel with my MMA experience and being around for so long that I’d be able to promote good shows! By seeing a lot of them come and go, I sit back and watch what they did wrong and by seeing the mistakes I know what not to do. Like LEGACY for example. UWF, not so much. It’s about building a product and crawling before you walk. No throwing money away thinking just cause you do an MMA show the flood gates will open and you will be successful.
sPidA: Your next fight is against a tough guy Chas Skelly, known as a strong grappler, will this be a grappler vs striker or are you thinking he will try and stand up with you?
Gonzales: No, he won’t because he can’t. He’s a good grappler and that is his hand to play right now. He is still not developed into a full on MMA fighter but his wrestling is his go to thing to win. I do call it striker vs grappler but I’m a lot more developed as an MMA fighter. I just have more tools in my bag right now. I have been able to shut people down and don’t really seem to have much “stand up” but with his wrestling resume I’m gonna have to use my tools!
sPidA: You’ve had some great wins and some unfortunate losses, which have you learned more from?
Gonzales: The losses. Every fighter should. It’s part of the game. It helps you grow as a fighter and as a person.
sPidA: For the longest time people have always wanted Mixed Martial Arts to have its T.V. time and it’s blown up since 2000. Is there such a thing as overkill?
Gonzales: Not overkill but for sure a quality kill. Like the ultimate fighter. 16 guys every season. There are really only 4 to 5 that can compete in the UFC. The others are “casted” for entertainment which can leave a bad impression on a casual viewer.
sPidA: You have some great kids that I’ve seen at some of the Austin events you’ve fought in, how do they feel about you competing or being involved in fighting?
Gonzales: They love it!! I really enjoy having ’em around at fights when I can. It makes them proud and I want them to see that anything is possible. You can achieve your dreams and beat the odds!!!
sPidA: We hope to be there covering this event come September 22nd, best of luck to you bro. Anything you’d like to end with?
Gonzales: Thank your for all the support! Thanks to all the fans. Thank you to Onnit for sponsoring me!! Look for an exciting fight come 9/22, I always bring it…Balls Big, Hands Swinging!! Puro Fantasma!!
Premiere Combat Group has done it once more. Bringing a great fight card and a night of great Mixed Martial Arts action. Being the longest running promotion in San Antonio, PCG has definitely turned itself into a legit business. Thank you both Trevor Bird and Jennifer Ray for making San Antonio your home! Here is the fight card as of May 9th. Don’t wait to long as these shows have been selling out…..SEE YOU THERE!
Bout 1: Daniel Ownes /1-2/ ALIVE MMA -vs- James Lenten / 0-1/Victoria MMA (185lbs)
Bout 2: Max Trevino /0-0 / LAREDO MMA -vs- Pablo Ramos /0-0/ XTREME MMA (205lbs)
Bout 3: Brent Edlemen /0-0/ Marra Senki -vs- Steven Trevino /1-1/ Rodrigo Pinheiro (170lbs
Bout: 4 Chris Jackson /1-0/ South Austin Gym -vs- Kevin Troyer /1-0/ Vandry BJJ (145lbs)
Bout 5: Aaron Gomez /1-2 / Weapons at Hand -vs- Alfredo Vargas /1-0 / Texas Fighting Syndicate (125lbs)
Bout 6: Eric Hallier /0-0 / Marra Senki -vs- Tommy Guerrero /1-0/ PARAGON BJJ (155lbs)
Bout 7:Josh Lazarte /2-1 / Weapons at Hand -vs- Phillip Gomez /2-3 / BRUTAL MMA (135lbs)
Bout 8: Luis de los Santos /Submission Concepts /0-0/ -vs- Tyler Keen /2-0/ New Braunfels Brawlers (145lbs)
Bout 9 (MAIN EVENT)
Jessica Prado LAREDO MMA / 0-0 / -vs- Katherine Roy /0-0 / WARRIORS EDGE (125lbs)
sPidA: Tell us what gym you train out of and what all can one expect from training there?
Brooks: I train out of Austin Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu. Training here anyone can expect good tough training, man whether someone is there for competition, fitness or just to learn ,make them beasts in every aspect!
You will be fighting for a title going into Cage Quest, what were you expecting to get out of the show?
Brooks: To be honest I wasn’t really sure what to expect out of Cage Quest, I just wanted show people what we’ve got over here at Austin Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu and win a title! This whole thing has been an experience, that’s for sure!
sPidA: I’ve noticed personally a lot of fighters are shy and get nervous while doing interviews, had being on T.V made you nervous or is the fighting just that much distracting?
Brooks: Nah man I don’t think to much about the cameras, I always stay more focused on performing well and winning!
sPidA: I’ve noticed a lot of top level fighters going through the Austin Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu Academy, can you give us a few names of those that have stopped by there at one time or another?
Brooks: Yeah there have been some good guys come through the gym and train! A few of the pro guys we have there everyday are Tim Kennedy, Drew Pendelton, Adam Schindler, Jon Hester, Derek Campos and these guys are animals! Guys like Tom Lawler, Eves Edwards, Dustin Poirier, Bubba Jenkins and others have come in and out of town and we’ve had the pleasure of them coming in to train with us, it’s awesome, everyday is tough!
sPidA: With the level of guys training there, does this motivate you guys?
Brooks: Yeah training with these guys definitely keeps everyone motivated! It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are someone will always one up you at something or dang near die trying. Everyone on our team is very supportive of one another, we are a tight knit family and push each other a lot. That makes it even easier to stay motivated, it’s awesome!
sPidA: How would you describe your style, do you try and emulate to anyone or would you say its your own?
Brooks: I’m a striker and a grappler pretty evenly, I would say it’s my own style for the most part. There are some guys in the gym that are always putting it on me when we train and I do try to pick up the things that they do to me, like Tim Kennedy, I try to learn and do a lot of the stuff he does!
sPidA: How were you guys approached about Cage Quest? Was this something you wanted to jump on immediately?
Brooks: We were approached by a couple of our teammates that have fought for Kickass in the past and then told us about it. I wanted in on it from the start, I knew it would be a good way to get Austin Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu’s name out there.
sPidA: The show has quite a bit of Central Texas Top Pro fighters coaching, having that experience, has it helped your game that much more?
Brooks: Yeah man they had a few Black Belt instructors come in and show us some cool stuff! I appreciate the effort all of those guys put in, no matter what anyone has told them!
sPidA: How has being on the show Cage Quest been treating you guys, have you noticed the publicity at all?(with the public?)
Brooks: Not so far man, the show airs on a San Antonio based network and I live in North Austin so no one around me directly gets to see it. Maybe the next time I go to San Antonio someone will recognize me, ha-ha, we’ll see!
sPidA: The finalist will be competing May 5th in New Braunfels , will you guys be going Pro right after or continue to get more experience?
Brooks: I won’t be going pro yet, I’m going to keep fighting amateur for now. There is a lot to be learned via experience and amateur competition is the place for a lot of that learning to take place. Plus I want to win a few titles first, not just in mma but in Muay Thai and Boxing too. After I have done that I will start thinking about what’s next for me.
sPidA: Its all business when you step inside the Cage but outside the cage, do you guys notice respect from others in the Mixed Martial Arts scene?
Brooks: Everyone that I have met is pretty respectful around the Mixed Martial Arts scene. I respect everyone unless given a reason not to, that seams like a pretty common outlook. Of coarse, there are always those people out there telling lies and trying to start trouble for whatever reason, not necessarily competitors but just people on the scene.
sPidA: Best MMA moment and worst?
Brooks: Winning is always the best moment! Worst would have to have been dislocating my elbow in training! Man that was no fun between rehab and being out of the gym for the whole healing process!
sPidA: Thank you for taking time for this,much appreciated, any last words bro?
Brooks: Thank you Spida for taking the time for this interview and for what you do for all the local Texas fighters and gyms and thank you to all of my trainers and teammates at Austin Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu!