Maybe it's the outdoor venue, maybe it's the opportunity to meet Cain Velasquez, maybe it's the riveting fights, maybe it's the frenzied fans, but whatever it is there is something very unique about the World Fighting Federation.
It all starts with the vision of two class acts in Al Fuentes and Thom Ortiz. They strive for not only excellence in their events, but in supporting their athletes, their Cage Girls, and also their community.
Their efforts in the community were rewarded by the local military as they were provided with a lithograph of an AH-64 Apache helicopter signed by local service men and women. This was a show of appreciation in return for Al and Thom committing a portion of their proceeds to local military families in need.
Quite an honorable gesture rewarded with a classy show of respect.
One thing that really stood out at this event was how deep the crowd was on Sat., April 24. Surely this was a direct result of their explosive inaugural event held last year. They put on a great night of fights that fans remembered and it showed in fan support and an obviously very high gate.
Last time out was a tough act to follow but the WFF did a fine job of matching not only the quality but the intensity of their previous show. While all the fights were entertaining, there were more than a few that really stood out, one of which took place between the always game Andrew Perez and Sean Scott. Perez has always shown a true grit when competing locally. This kid takes his lumps but finds a way to grind through fights.
Sean Scott pulled multiple submission attempts during grappling exchanges early in the fight, and blistered Perez with body shots from the clinch while standing. Scott really looked to be dominating Perez in the opening stanzas, even dropping Perez with a knee at one point.
All heart is all anyone can say when they see this kid Perez out of Apex MMA fight. Battered and bloody he returned to the second round and found his way into the mount over Scott and went to work on him doing enough to pull out the round.
By the third, these two had everyone on their feet watching them go back and forth. Cain Velesquez couldn't even stay in his seat this one was so good.
Perez maintained dominant position and some how pulled out a split decision win. An amazing feat considering how deep the waters were for him in the opening round. It's not the first time he has gone to war to win a tough fight, his reputation is building as a game local fighter.
Speaking of fighters building a reputation, Nate Vorel is really leaving his mark on local fight fans. Making his pro debut Vorel came to make a statement and that's exactly what he did.
With precision and dynamic striking which he hones at Boxing Inc., Vorel slaughtered his opponent with lightning fast hands and feet that kept his adversary off balance the entire first round up until Vorel knocked him out with a vicious combination.
We are talking hands, feet, knees, and heart flying with reckless abandon until the ref stopped him, Vorel is cold and very real in this game.
There is something very special about watching a fighter who is experiencing that definitive moment where he realizes just how good he might actually be.
You could read it all over Vorel's face, he was feeling it, so was everyone watching, he's on his way.
Another intense battle was between the crafty Corey Edwards and Jose Diaz. This one didn't last long but the statement was made, Edwards tapped Diaz out very early in the first by nasty triangle choke.
It had a lot to do with talent but some might tell you it was also good karma for Edwards as he took a lot of time out to interact with children in attendance surely making MMA fans for life out of many of them. Edwards was good on so many levels, the WFF is fortunate to have him on board.
Making his second consecutive impressive performance for the WFF, Arizona Combat Sport's Chris Remsen showed his elite training under the Lally brothers. His domination and TKO of Jeff Fletcher was most impressive. His take downs and throws were flawless leading him to maintain dominant position and TKO Fletcher in the second.
All that folks was just the lead up to the co-main and main events.
First of which saw local favorite Joey "Boom Boom" Rivera show exactly why his gym Apex MMA puts out some of the best fighters in the southwest.
Joey, followed by an entourage of local champions, marched to the cage and prepared to put in his work against MMA veteran R.J. Gamez.
Put in work he did, a Gamez opening take down was ended with a vicious upper cut in the first exchange and it was all down hill for the MMA vet after that. Rivera got him down and in a matter of seconds he pushed and pushed waiting for Gamez to resist and as soon as he did, Rivera took his back and sunk in a deadly rear naked choke.
When the ref stopped the fight Rivera calmly got up, circled the cage for a moment spoke his piece and exited as though nothing ever happened. Rivera did not look like a man who had just won a WFF title. It was just another day at the office that took Rivera's record to a perfect 5-0.
Then came the thunder. There is no way to describe George Castro other than local celebrity. Representing Boxing Inc. Castro brought what seemed to be the entire population of the Old Pueblo with him Saturday night.
For his opponent Esteves Jones that was not the case. With only a small army of family and friends who traveled to see him compete with Castro for the WFF HW title, bottom line is both Jones and his fan club were deep behind enemy lines. As fate would have it this was not much of a deterrent.
Esteves Jones walked to the cage under a storm cloud of boos. His focus never wavered, even as the local hero Castro made his long walk to the cage.
His focus didn't waiver through the announcements, or the opening exchanges when the fight started.
It was apparent early that Jones was the general dictating the pace and intensity of this fight. Castro threw his hands with bad intentions, especially his right hook. He had his moments but it was Jones that was in charge from start to finish.
Speaking of the finish it was a strong right by Jones that floored the local favorite prompting the referee to step in and stop the fight in the first round. Jones shocked not only Castro but the army of fans behind him.
As a writer who was fortunate enough to sit cage-side, I found myself in a sea of shocked Castro fans with the occasional elated Jones fan sprinkled in cage side as the loyal supporters rushed the cage to speak their piece and congratulate or console their fighter.
As the announcements of victory were made, I looked to my right at a man beaming yet not saying a thing, drinking it all in. I said, "You must be one of the brave few Jones fans, your man did very well tonight."
He looked me in the eye, smiled from ear to ear and said to me, "That is my son in there." I extended my palm and congratulated him and offered the praise of both a fan and a writer who was impressed on both levels.
Esteves Jones, if you are out there reading this, I assure you, papa was very proud of you and all you overcame to become a champion Saturday night, you earned it and made him beam like a sunset across ocean waters. Hats off to you.
And hats off to Al Fuentes and Thom Ortiz for bringing such an amazing event together. As said before, there is something very different about attending these fights. The atmosphere, the fighters, the cage girls, and the fights were all a cut above.
The entire evening was enjoyable from front to back which was indicated by a UFC HW superstar like Cain Velasquez using his shoes more so than his chair for more than one battle.
For a man who is involved at the most elite levels of the sport to be so entertained by a regional event is very telling of the quality Fuentes and Ortiz have brought together, the next event can't come soon enough.
Any Tucson fight fan would tell you the same.