South Shore’s Castillo is the ultimate champ |

South Shore’s Castillo is the ultimate champ

Steve Yingling

So have you taken the time to congratulate South Lake Tahoe’s world champion?

Yes, that’s right, there is a world champion fighter in this tourist-driven community of only 20,000. And he’s the ultimate champion.

Gil Castillo recently captured the King of the Cage world middleweight championship at Colusa Casino in Colusa, Calif. In a battle of unbeatens, Castillo won the title from Joe Hurley with a three-round decision.

In a sport beset with misconceptions, Castillo has become one of the primary fighters sellout crowds come to see.

“Whether it’s 3,000 or 8,000 people, they seem to sell out every time they have one,” Castillo said.

Contrary to belief, the 175-pound Castillo’s livelihood isn’t illegal. They also don’t carry fighters out of the 20-foot-wide, 7-foot-high cage in body bags.

“The only place they’ve been having these fights is on Indian reservations, which is exempt from (common) laws,” Castillo said. “Before we had anything like that, I was fighting guys 250 pounds. They were no-rule events, that were a bit rough.”

But there are a few rules. Four of them to be exact. No eye-gouging and no biting. Fighters are also required to wear fingered gloves and they can’t elbow their opponent in the spine or neck.

“It’s still a total street fight,” Castillo said. “People think it’s an absolute brawl that’s crazy. Until they see it, they don’t realize how much skill and technique is involved.

“I’ve fought pro boxers in there and beaten them because they’re not as skilled in other areas.”

Castillo wrestled nine years, making it as far as the Olympic Trials, before Jiu Jitsu Gracie, a Bay Area martial arts company, turned Castillo on to ultimate fighting five years ago.

“I was kind of scared of it, that’s why I did it,” Castillo said.

A wrestling background has served Castillo well during his unblemished 15-fight pro career.

“My general technique is on the ground and not so much boxing,” Castillo said. “That’s why I have been working with (local boxing trainers) Hector and Juan Torres so much.”

In his championship-seizing victory over Hurley on April 29, Castillo steered clear of Hurley’s reputed knockout power and controlled the bout with his superior wrestling skills. Castillo’s double leg and guard pass maneuvers were too much for Hurley on that night.

“I’m getting calls from everywhere to do fights,” said Castillo, who earned $2,000 for his championship fight. “If I can keep my record undefeated for a while, I’ll be making a lot of money.”

There also is talk of the Nevada and California athletic commissions stepping in and governing the rogue sport.

“The sport is pretty popular and some thought it would go away. The athletic commissions see that it’s not, and they can put in some rules to take care of everybody,” Castillo said.

“The rumors are that our sport is too dangerous, but in our opinion and what the athletic commissions are starting to realize, is boxing is much more dangerous. Boxers get hit in the head 300 or 400 times a night. The last time I fought I got hit maybe seven or eight times to the head.”

An ultimate night, for an ultimate champion.

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