While the eyes of the combative sports world were trained upon a boxing pay-per view featuring the pugilistic prowess of Manny Pacquiao and a SpikeTV broadcast of the best kickboxers in the world throwing down at Madison Square Garden, there was something going on in a cage in a podunk rec center in Queens, N.Y. And sure, it wasn’t quite as momentous in the grand fistic scheme of things as that boxing match and GLORY show, but sometimes the best battles fought are the ones that take place almost hidden from the watchful eyes of the general public.
Yes, the above paragraph is simply a fancy way of saying I went to the Golden MMA Championships in Corona, Queens last night – an event that was small, saw five fights go down in the cage, and at best had just a few hundred spectators taking in the action. But when the violence-to-skill ratio is just right, and those few hundred spectators gather around the cage rabid and frantic and shouting in tongues, there’s magic to be found. Of course, you never know for sure if that magic will manifest. When the night begins on a fight show – no matter how big or how small – you can only guess how it will all unfold.
Arrive two hours before the first fight and this is what you’ll see.
Sometimes the fighters will warm up in the cage. Or just goof around. It is their workspace, after all.
A local MMA show isn’t so much a sporting event as it’s an entertainment option for a particular neighborhood’s Saturday night. I once went to a small fight show in Newark (a New Jersey city with a sizable Brazilian population), and it was akin to what I imagine catching an event in Rio de Janeiro would be like (riot and all). For the Golden MMA Championships, that ‘hood is the Land of Arroz con Pollo and aspiring rappers singing in rapid-fire Spanish.
Obviously, the common denominator everywhere is what transpires in the cage. Here’s Rich Pabon making his trek to the cage to face a very tough Carlos Oquendo.
Watch out for the suplex, Carlos!
Remember that guy warming up with his four-year-old daughter? Here he is snapping opponent Nate Driskell’s arm.
You know what the best part about being a reporter at a local MMA show? You can go anywhere and ask anyone anything.
Oh look, another rapper.
Ken Sweeney brought a ton of supporters with him, but things didn’t quite go in his favor.
Meanwhile, Luis DeJesus and Mohamed Said Sarfarez battled it out for three rounds for the Golden MMA Championships inaugural light-heavyweight belt. I’d seen DeJesus fight twice before, and despite what you may assume when you look at him, the dude has cardio for days. Still, Sarfarez just would not quit. Here’s the last round:
DeJesus took the split decision. Want to know how much winning that belt meant to him? He literally was weeping with joy. Yeah, that was pretty cool to see.
Four hours, four fights, and now it’s the main event. Hooray!
Bernie Cano came to the cage repping Striking 101 (a school in Queens) and counting among his trainers jiu-jitsu studs Magno Gama and Marwin Roque. With a welterweight belt up for grabs and a very tough Ozzie Diaz standing at the opposite side of the cage, he needed all his skills – Diaz really took it to him.
And that was all she wrote. Five fights, two hard-fought championship bouts, and a crowd that seemed on the verge of hysteria. The Golden MMA Championships may have been small in stature compared to what was going on elsewhere on the world on Saturday night, but ultimately, it was worth the trip.