Fighters/coaches’ thoughts after Dennis Warner’s Muaythai show in San Diego

At the conclusion of the “Fight of the Night”, a bout featuring Travis Clay taking on Joe Gogo, Travis Clay’s Mom, on cloud nine, was permitted to enter the ring to give her son a congratulatory hug. Photo: Jim Wyatt

With the reintroduction of Dennis Warner’s WCK Full Rules Muaythai live fights on Saturday evening at the Four Points By Sheraton Hotel in San Diego, the sell-out crowd became totally vested in what turned out to be an exciting show with more than a few twists and turns you can’t fully appreciate as a TV viewer.


In Bout #6, the “Fight of the Night”, it was Joe “The Iran Assassin” Gogo (8-0, 3 KOs) of the Parusa Training Team from the UFC Gym in Point Loma taking on Travis Clay (4-0) from Sitan Muay Thai out of Chandler, Arizona.

At the prior day’s weigh-ins, the affable Mr. Clay gave no indication he was a force to be reckoned with. If you were to compare Clay to his opponent, Clay looked slim and as one coach mentioned, “Up against Gogo with all his muscle, Clay looks almost frail. To have any chance, he’s going to have to control the distance and keep pelting Gogo with his long and powerful left leg kicks.”

On Saturday night, as Clay made his trek around the ring, you couldn’t help notice how much taller he was than Gogo, his more muscular opponent. Plus Clay’s legs were like tree stumps, wider and stronger. In the opening round, we saw Gogo go after Clay in an attempt to finish the fight early. In boxing, this is just what a pure boxer loves to see, a brawler who resembles a middle linebacker, throwing the full windup, all or nothing punches that have the crowd excited, perhaps on their feet cheering. There may even be a flash knockdown as there was on Saturday night. But as a result, the guy throwing all these punches gets himself winded and the opponent can rebound. This is what happened to Gogo who in round two slowed his pace just enough to allow Clay back in the contest.

The tide soon changed and it was Travis Clay who was impressing the judges with his kicks and straight lefts and hooks to the side of Gogo’s head.

After awhile it seemed everything Travis Clay tried worked. The southpaw started to dominate with the harder kicks, straight left hands and elbows that at times portend of a possible calamitous ending for Gogo.

(top) Perhaps a bit of overconfidence settled in as Joe Gogo had Travis Clay take a seat on the canvas. Surely Gogo would fight to the bitter end.

As Clay entered the final round, his job was to finish strong and he did. Awaiting the judges’ scores, we see Clay and his coach hoping for good news.

Imagine the glee felt by both the coach and his student after the announcer Chris Gregory bellowed out the positive, unanimous decision scores.

In the end, the unanimous decision went to the warrior who’s hard work plus ingenious gameplan got him the victory.

In Bout #1, they had Ryan Rahimpour from the Steve Frye Muaythai team who trains at Victory MMA going up against Elvis Castillo from Double Dose Muaythai, Fontana, Calif. With it being the debut for both, both young men were hyped and went at it nonstop. In the end, the decision went to Rahimpour who simply outworked Castillo.

Ryan Rahimpour and Elvis Castillo’s  kicks were so high and so quick, the audience started to believe they were watching a high-wire circus act.

On Monday, Ryan Rahimpour (left) was right back in the gym leading an exercise class. The reward for defeating Elvis Castillo? Receiving all those congratulations from everyone in that exercise class.

In Bout #2 it was “Sweet Baby James” Gregory (37-years-old) from the Art of 8 Training Center in Kearney Mesa taking on Ismail “Maniac” Zizi (27-years-old) from San Diego by way of Nice, France who trains with the Parusa Muaythai team at the UFC Gym Point Loma. Who better to give us a rundown on this fight but the winner James Gregory: “I felt clear and focused. Coach Mel told me exactly what to do and I did my best to do it.”James Gregory: “He said my opponent (Ismail Zizi in the black trunks) would come out swinging hard, and for me (blue trunks, white trim) to cover and defend, let him tire, and then pick it up. I ended up giving him the entire first round, but from the second round on, I could see he was spent and that my clinch was working. So I stayed with it.”

James Gregory: “Clinch fighting is exhausting, and I was tired after the second round, but I knew it was only two more minutes and I needed the last round to get the win. I took the fight two rounds to one (29-28) on all the scorecards.”

Before “Sweet Baby James” Gregory could return to the dressing area, we caught up with him to ask for one last photo. With Gregory are his coaches, Melchor Menor (r) and Mike Lemaire (l) from the Art of 8 Training Center.

James Gregory: “I understand as well as anyone that winning isn’t everything, but of course, it still felt good to win, especially after so long. But I was even happier for my teammates’ wins, having spent so much time in the gym training and holding pads for them. Brian Cunningham (Bout #4) absolutely ran through his opponent, Andrew Gori. I bought a white competition headgear specifically to get blood stains on, and it was covered in his opponent’s blood at the end of the fight which he won by a second round stoppage. He was dominant, exactly how I always knew he could fight. I was running around screaming like a crazy person when his arm was raised.”

Just seconds after the fighters, Andrew Gori (left) and Brian Cunningham (top, right) were introduced, the fists and elbows went flying and Gori became a gory mess after the blood started streaming down his face.

When referee Dan “Bam Bam” Stell stopped the bout they had only gone :17 seconds into round #2. With the win, Brian Cunningham (l) improves his record to 1-2, while Andre Gori (r) goes to (0-1) after losing in his debut.

James Gregory: “In Monica Teran’s fight, Bout #11, she hit the perfect balance of activity, selectivity, and vision. In my eyes, she took all three rounds with great combinations, excellent ring control, and one of the best push kicks I’ve ever seen that sent her opponent Shanna Newton to the canvas.” 

Bout #11 was a three-round IAMTF Women’s Flyweight Ranking Bout, in which Monica Teran from the Art of 8 Training Center gained a unanimous decision over the tough Shanna Newton from The Boxing Club, La Jolla, CA.”

Shanna Newton from The Boxing Club, La Jolla, Calif. looks unassumingly across the ring as her opponent, Monica Teran makes her entrance.

There was no doubt about it, the young ladies were trading a lot of hard punches and kicks. The fact that Monica Teran’s punches and push kicks were straighter and had more force behind them helped her gain the victory.

(top) The young ladies showed good sportsmanship by shaking hands at the end of their match. At the conclusion of Bout #11, it was Monica Teran (left) having her arm raised in victory by veteran referee Dan “Bam Bam” Stell.

James Gregory: “The happiness you feel when the things you work on in the gym come out perfectly in the fight is indescribable and very personal, something you share with your teammates and coaches on an intimate level because you are the only ones who truly know what went into it. For the Art of Eight to get the sweep, going 3-0 on the night, and to do it in front of your entire gym, the people you train and work with every day, on our home turf in front of a packed house, made it the best night of fighting I’ve experienced since I started eight years ago. You get in the ring alone, but you also get in the ring together.”

Bout #3 had Jose “El Chile” Lopez from the Predator Muaythai Team who trains at Steel MMA in the Tierrasanta neighborhood of San Diego, going up against Antonio “Esqueleto” Arango from Valor Muaythai, on San Diego’s Highland Ave. in a WCK Muaythai Welterweight bout. From the outset, Arango used his experience to deliver these damaging elbows to the head. The photo below (top, right) shows how Arango used his elbow to slice and dice his opponent until the referee had to call for the early stoppage at 1:26 of round #2.

In Bout #3 it was Antonio Arango from Vargas Muay Thai (left) going up against Jose Lopez (r) from Predator Muay Thai who trains at Steel MMA. Photo (top right) shows Arango delivering the right elbow to Lopez’s head, the one that opened up the nasty cut just over Lopez’s left eyebrow.

Once that cut was made, Antonio Arango worked like a surgeon to increase its size and therefore have the fight doctor stop the bout.

Between rounds, Lopez’s corner was able to stop the bleeding. This helped Lopez return to form and give a good account of himself.

After his victory over Jose Lopez, Antonio Arango was joined by the Valor Muay Thai coaching staff of Enrique Kiki Diaz (l) and John Vargas (r).

Bout #5 featured Alyshia Madison who trains at Victory MMA and is coached by Steven Frye going up against Amanda De Rosa from the Bullet Hole Training Center, Victorville, Calif. in a five round bout for the IAMTF Women’s California Featherweight Title. Not to disparage De Rosa’s unanimous decision victory but Madison was ill from food poisoning (Sushi) and had been throwing up continually any and all liquids right up until five a.m. on the morning of the fight. In her own twisted but honorable way, Madison refused her coaches plea to cancel the fight, backed away from going to emergency care and prior to her bout was still void of any liquids in her body. She told her coach, “My opponent has worked too hard for this night. She certainly deserves the opportunity.”

Madison’s comment after the one-sided fight: “The better person won. Congrats to my opponent on her victory. We will be back in March, right here in San Diego for a rematch. Also, thank you to everyone at Victory MMA for your continued support, it really means a lot!”

On Saturday evening, the combatants in Bout #5 for the IAMTF Women’s Featherweight California State Title, Alyshia Madison (r) and Amanda De Rosa (l) have their names announced to the capacity crowd.

Recorded for posterity, the Fox Sports West broadcast of Alyshia Madison’s loss to Amanda De Rosa. It appears veteran referee Vichai Supkitpol is ready to interrogate Madison after her lackluster performance. In the background on the right, we see the promoter Dennis Warner discussing something with Sarinda Chaney. Everyone seemed mystified by Madison’s performance.

Bout #7 had Selina Flores of The Compound MMA going up against Ana “Anaconda” Flores from USKO Riverside in a five-rounder for the IAMTF Women’s California Atomweight Title. Let’s put it this way, if you were to play back the video of this fight, you would be hard pressed to find the miscues of this up and comer. Selina was masterful and for almost the entirety of the fight and had her opponent fighting off her back foot and thus without any real power.

Flores’ support group of her parents, coach John Schultes, gym owner Sean Loeffler and fellow coaches at The Compound MMA gym are second to none.

Selina Flores’ comments: “This belt belongs to The Compound and everyone in it. That gym is my home and the people in it are my family. I wouldn’t be where I am without my coaches who have dedicated endless hours to prepare me. You guys believed in a 15-year-old eye-rolling cheerleader who hated fighting and turned me into this. I am so grateful for you both and what you have done for me in this first stage of my fighting career. This is just the beginning, I see a shiny 2017. Also, a huge thank you to all of my friends and family who bought tickets and came out to support me, so thankful for everyone.”

Bout #8 had Landon Simmons visiting from Cooper’s Gym, Detroit, Michigan to defend his WBC Muay Thai Super Welterweight (154 lbs.) USA Title against the hometown favorite, Francisco Garcia, from Valor Muay Thai, San Diego. After Garcia failed to make the required 154-pound weight, the bout turned into a middleweight bout with no title on the line. With Garcia’s dramatic weight cut from 180 pounds to 157 lbs. in just 30 days, he appeared in no condition to compete at his best or go the full five rounds. Not to belittle Simmons’ performance but it has been a long, long time since Garcia weighed 154 lbs. Photos from Saturday’s battle show Garcia hitting the canvas on numerous occasions.

Before his bout with Francisco Garcia, the confident Landon Simmons does the ceremonial Ram Muay dance to honor his gym and coach. It also doubles as a meditation and warm-up stretch to help him fill the ring with his aura.

In the end, we see veteran referee Vichai Supkitpol raising the arm of the victorious Landon Simmons.

Bout #9 featured Chad Berry of 8 Tribe Muay Thai who trains at the Undisputed Downtown Gym going up against Ivan Juarez of the Parusa Muay Thai Team which trains at the Point Loma UFC Gym battling in an IAMTF Super Welterweight Ranking Bout. From the opening round, Berry went on the attack and never let up. By the 1:41 point of round three the carnage had been stopped and the 35-year-old Berry had himself a TKO victory in his debut.

Bout #9 turned out to be another fast and furious bout won by the 35-year-old rookie Chad Berry of the 8 Tribe Muay Thai team. Photos: Jim Wyatt

Bout #10 featured Andrew Nguyen from Buhawe Muay Thai, Fresno, Calif. going up against David Pacheco from USKO Riverside, Calif. in a four-round WCK Muaythai Super middleweight bout. At first, this bout was super competitive as both men traded blow after blow and kick after kick. Then, as they entered the second round, Pacheco’s punches and elbows started to have more sting and you could see their effect on Nguyen’s face.

Pacheco’s postscript: “I scored that 2nd round KO victory against a tough and respectable opponent. When you surround yourself with warriors, surround yourself with fighters, surround yourself with winners… then hopefully over time you will learn their ways. I look up to both of these men (Pacheco’s brothers) and try to follow in their path.”

Bout #12 was a match between the short guy and the giant, evoking images of David Haye looking up at “the Russian Giant” Nikolay Valuev or perhaps David versus Goliath. The short guy, 5’11” Mario Ramirez, from Sarkissian Muay Thai, Moreno Valley, Calif., without a slingshot, was commissioned to fight 6’6” Oscar Castro from Valor Muay Thai, Stockton, Calif. As you might imagine, this one was over in a hurry.

After Oscar Castro’s hard knee to Mario Ramirez’s forehead, the bells were ringing. Alert referee, Vichai Supkitpol, knew it was time to stop the fight.

It took Oscar Castro (r) just one minute and 38 seconds to dishearten/crush the shorter challenger, Mario Ramirez, with punches, knees and leg kicks.

So, after the 11 well-matched contests, the patrons left the building with just one clunker. Eleven out of 12 is considered an exceptional night for any matchmaker. At the end of that final bout, ring announcer Chris Gregory announced the date of the next show, March 11, 2017, at the very same venue. 

Oscar Castro’s coach, Patrick Valor Rivera’s summation of that final bout: “Oscar won by a First Round stoppage. Great job Oscar!” Then came his departure from the normal coaching verbiage: “On our trip from Stockton, I am guilty of being a “Foodie” and I admit it! Started the weekend with Filipino food in South San Diego (National City). Then, had some Vietnamese food in North County (San Marcos) and finished our trip in Central San Diego, on Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa with some Bomb Diggity Japanese food after Oscar’s win. We accidentally stumbled upon this place and as it turns out it is highly rated, recognized for being in the Top 10 hottest restaurants! I had their Signature Ramen, Coach Clifton had the Curry Ramen and Oscar’s white self-ordered chicken teriyaki! Ahahaha! I also ordered Chicken Karaage, Roasted Garlic Edamame, and Frosted Kirin Beer! This place has the best Ramen I have EVER had! Also, Convoy has other awesome Asian spots: my kids made me drive back twice during our trip to “Square Bar” because they said it was absolutely the BEST Boba Tea spot ever! Manna Korean BBQ is also down the street.”

If the adventurous food critic above, Coach Patrick Valor Rivera, doesn’t already have Master Chef Gordon Ramsey on speed dial, we hope to connect the two for Coach Rivera’s return visit to our fair city. Ramsey said he needs just one day to poke holes in everything the coach said.

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