EL PASO — A bead of sweat hits the mat. Adrenaline is pumping through every vein in my body as I am trying to choke out my opponent with rear naked choke. Looking for an arm bar, rear naked choke, guillotine, or kamora, any opening that my opponent gives me I will take.
This practice, like almost every other one has been tough, exhausting, and a little painful but I know failure to prepare is preparing to fail. Having wrestled since I was young, contact sports like mixed martial arts (MMA), grappling, and boxing have intrigued me. There is no other rush like knowing your going to get hit and to avoid getting hit you must react and defend yourself.
Although hand-to-hand combat and sport has been around practically since the dawn of human history MMA is relatively new to the United States and the world as a sport. UFC, the first big MMA fighting organization, was founded in 1993 out of Las Vegas Nevada and has grown into a world-wide sport with fighters from all over, with many different backgrounds fighting in submission wrestling, muay thai, boxing, kickboxing, sambo, and Jiu Jitsu to name a few.
My experience with the mixed martial arts scene here in El Paso has been great. Some of the toughest guys I have ever known and gone up against live here in the borderland.
MMA here in the borderland is a relatively popular sport and tournaments are held every few months. Locally the next MMA tournament will be King of the Cage, held at the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero, NM on November 28th. Some of the contestants are names like Charles “Crazy Horse” Bennett, Richard Montando, and Tim Means.
Organizations like fighters Physique, Burshido, Sub Grappling District and many other local organizations train some of the best local talent. Another local fighter here in the borderland, Isaac Nanez, is trying to break away from the pack and get national recognition. Getting involved in MMA about four years ago Isaac has been kickboxing since he was 14 years old. Isaac is still waiting for his pro fight card with a record of five wins and two losses with his next fight happening November 7th in Deming NM.
Isaac is trying to get noticed by bigger promoters, all for the dream of fighting at the next level but, like he said in my interview with him, “Getting noticed by the fight world is as hard as getting drafted by the NFL. Talent here in El Paso is great but getting exposure is really hard. Promoters seem to overlook El Paso and its fighters for whatever reasons.”
Although getting recognition is hard, one fighter that seems to be making headlines is Darrill Schoonover. At 24 years of age and weighing in at 218 lbs, native El Pasoan, Darrill Schoonover will be starring in the hit TV series Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. Fighters like Darrill and boxer Antonio Escalante are bringing fight sports closer to home and putting El Paso on the martial arts map in ways it has never been.