Al Fuentes and Thom Ortiz must be extremely proud this week. The inaugural event of their new fight promotion the World Fighting Federation set a strong tone Saturday night.
For a promotion that had never put on an event before it did not show. Battle for the Desert left everyone in the crowd asking one question: When is the next show going to be?
Fourteen fights, two decisions—that math equals a mesmerizing night of fights that had fans on their feet with regularity.
Overall, this was a promising display of the potential of MMA in the area, on all levels from promotion to talent. Oh, and of course the ring girls, they had plenty of potential too.
The event was a competition between Phoenix and Tucson fighters. The fights were held in Tucson, so the crowd was Tucson heavy, but everyone there knew someone fighting.
It made for an electricity that was unreal. The intensity when the two final wars were being waged was enormous; you could have cut it with a knife.
The first fight was between Joey Rivera and Jeff Horlacher. Joey, fighting out of Tucson, walked out and the crowd went absolutely insane. By the time he made it to the cage, the chant of "Jo-ey, Jo-ey" had begun. It was quite a display of appreciation for a very respected local fighter.
Horlacher, on the other hand, had a smaller but equally classy and loyal cheering section. In the end though, both the local fans and Rivera proved too much for Jeff and his supporters.
In a fight that mostly saw Rivera dominate Horlacher with body control and a seamless ground game, Rivera sunk a rear naked choke in the first round.
Horlacher clearly wanted to stand, but Rivera found a way to smother and frustrate him eventually holding him down, sinking the submission. Rivera was extremely impressive in his victory. Horlacher is a game fighter and surely will return stronger to fight another day.
The most memorable aspect of the fight was how the crowd exploded when the tap came. It might have been a small local venue but if you closed your eyes you could have swore you were at the UFC.
The final fight of the night, George "The Brown Bomber" Castro vs. Matt Howard, somehow created even more excitement. Apparently, George knows every one in Tucson because it seemed like they were all there when he walked to the cage.
Between the 2-Pac walk out music, and what seemed like a sea of Castro fans screaming, the noise was deafening. Once again, the electricity was explosive when the bell rang.
When the two engaged, it turned into a heated stand up battle with a few lulls up against the cage struggling for body control. Despite spirited efforts by Howard to get it down the fight was fought standing up.
It was quickly apparent this fight was ending early. Howard displayed what he calls his underrated stand up, and it shouldn't remain underrated for long after his showing in that cage.
Punches were flying and landing, and with every single one the crowd had a reaction. No one was sitting, and everyone was in that fight.
Howard gave Castro a strong run for his money, a lesser fighter would have folded under the pressure of some of Howard's punches. Castro did not.
His gameness was very apparent as he absorbed some good shots and continued to return the favor, as the two fighters went to war. Eventually "The Brown Bomber" landed a nasty shot that put Howard down and the place erupted.
First round; fight over!
People were rushing the cage, security was trying to sort it out; it was amazing. This place went absolutely nuts and fight fans knew right there, The WFF is here to stay.
There is not enough room in one article to talk about all the exciting fights that took place. They all deserve their due. These two though really stood out above the rest with regard to intensity and excitement.
There was one more fight that really stood out. This was the fight between Tucson and Phoenix. At the end of the day, there really is no other way to say it, Tucson dominated.
In particular, George Castro's Boxing Inc. really shined brightly. His gym was well represented. They didn't win them all but they showed tremendous talent.
In a recent interview with the WFF Castro stated, "This is a big fight for Tucson, I don't think Tucson gets the recognition." Mr. Castro, after Saturday night, fighters and fight fans alike know Tucson is on the map. Your gym did a lot to help earn that respect.
At the end of the day, it is WFF owners Mr. Fuentes and Mr. Ortiz who made this all possible with their efforts to bring a new flavor of MMA to fight fans in the desert. They did a fine job of it.
They brought together some amazing fighters, at a very classy outdoor venue, with some devastating fights. They really set the bar high and put on an extremely entertaining event. The next fight card can't happen soon enough.
Anyone who attended would tell you the same.
For more information about the WFF and their fighters visit their website.