Mixed Martial Arts makes MontBleu debut
Kickboxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu and boxing will collide Saturday in a Mixed Martial Arts showdown at MontBleu.
Amateur MMA will take center stage 8 p.m. Saturday at MontBleu Resort, Casino & Spa and the lineup is carrying a local punch. Five of the 11 amateur fights will feature locals. South Tahoe’s Cris Montenegro, Leo Rodelo, Chris Cocores and Tahoe native JJ Torres will all take a turn in the cage leading up to Ryan McCarthy’s headlining fight.
South Tahoe’s McCarthy will face off against Christian Cardona, a 2-3 fighter hailing from Las Vegas. Going into the fight, McCarthy boasts a 4-1 record and hasn’t lost since his first fight more than two years ago. He also has home-field advantage and a recent title win over Sean Shamrock, son of Hall of Fame UFC fighter Ken Shamrock.
“Ryan’s going to hold his hand up at the end of the night because he’s worked hard and earned it,” McCarthy’s trainer Cory Escobar said. “It’s as simple as that.”
It’s been two years since McCarthy has fought in Tahoe and during that time his technique has steadily improved under Escobar’s guidance. Escobar remembers when McCarthy walked into his training grounds as a wrestler with a desire to improve his stand-up fight skills and master other forms of martial arts.
It was a humble attitude and dedication to training that helped McCarthy build upon his ground fighting skills. Instead of thinking he’s tough, McCarthy thinks about how he can be better, the trainer said.
“He’s got a lot of will,” Escobar said. “For someone to beat Ryan they’d have to really, really hurt him.”
Saturday will mark McCarthy’s first fight since his dad died after a battle with cancer. The fighter said the memory of his father’s support over the years will be extra motivation in the cage.
“I think it’s going to be kind of a rude awakening for this kid,” McCarthy said. “I plan on putting this guy away and having the refs have to come in and save him.”
To get ready for the fight, McCarthy has taken full advantage of his locale by incorporating hiking, kayaking and outdoor sports into his routine. Living at high altitude is a huge advantage, McCarthy said, since amateur fighters don’t get the luxury of coming up two weeks ahead of time to acclimate.
Cardona arrived in Tahoe on Monday and immediately hit the trails to start the acclimation process. By Thursday the fighter said he could already feel the improvement in his lungs while running.
When Cardona found out he was fighting McCarthy he figured there would be booing, but when he learned it was the main event Cardona knew audience animosity would be taken to the next level.
McCarthy doesn’t agree with the booing, but Cardona said he’s mentally prepared for the racket and doesn’t think it will affect his fighting.
“I’m going to keep the pressure on this guy,” Cardona said. “I’m going to be throwing moves in every direction whether it’s standing up or lying down.”
Cardona trains with former local and fellow fighter JJ Torres, son of World Champion Juan Torres.
Torres’ fight against Jacob Westhoven (1-2) will precede Cardona and McCarthy’s bout. The younger Torres is making his debut in the same arena his dad fought at in 1995.
“They’ll see some of my dad up there, but I can’t wait to showcase my skills and show the world what I’m about,” Torres said. “People are in for a good show. It will be some new skills mixed with the old-school Torres’ kickboxing.”
Torres grew up in South Lake Tahoe and attended South Tahoe High School before moving to Las Vegas at age 20. He’s looking forward to fighting in front of his hometown.
“Hearing your friends and family shout your name, it ignites something inside of you.”
Torres, along with Cardona and fellow fighter Eddie Guerro, spent the week running and swimming in Desolation Wilderness. The guys even hit Angora Lake and did some cliff jumping.
“We’re ready to go through war,” Guerro said. “There is no way we lose these fights.”
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