By Ray Hamill — Fight night returns to the Bear River Casino and Resort in two weeks, kickstarting what should be a bumper year for local MMA, with more fights on tap for fans, and more opportunities for a growing pool of North Coast fighters.
This year will feature four fight nights at the local casino, up from the three events held in each of the past couple of years, with an added twist promoter Brian Wilson believes will be a popular addition.
“This time we’re going to have a kick boxing fight,” said Wilson, whose company Hard Fought Productions runs the event. “We’re doing it as a trial to see how it takes off. But we’re really excited about it. People always love to see stand-up striking.”
The first kick boxing showdown will be included at the Feb. 9 event, between Shlomo Guetta and Tim Hayden.
Shlomo, known as the “Hebrew Hammer,” fights out of the Lost Boys Gym in Arcata, which is also run by Wilson, while Hayden fights out of Redwood Muay Thai in Fortuna, which the promoter describes as “the only true Muay Thai gym in the area.”
“We’re very excited to have them,” the promoter said.
Wilson added he would like to see three or four kick boxing fights at every event, and believes it’s something the fans will take to.
“We think it’s going to be very successful,” he said. “And if we can grow that, it would be great for guys in this area.”
The first fight night of 2019 will be a busy one, with two pro fights headlining the night, as well as three title fights.
The main event features former Lost Boys member Jay Pulliam, who now fights out of the Sacramento area, and Bakersfield’s Trey Branch.
Pulliam comes into the 135-pound showdown with a record of 2-2, while Branch is 1-2.
A second pro fight at 135 pounds will feature Frederick Doherty out of the Dragon House club in San Francisco and Shane Sargent out of Salem, Oregon, with each of them making his pro debut.
Three title fights
The three title fights will feature a couple of local favorites from the Lost Boys.
At 145, Tyler Watkins (5-1) will defend his belt against Darius Ayers (4-3), out of Dragon House, while at 170, Andrew Guisa (5-2) will fight Kaes Ishun (5-3) for an open belt.
Ishun also fights out of the Dragon House club, which has become a big part of the local fight nights, sending several fighters up each time.
“They have over 60 fighters that train at their gym,” Wilson said. “And they’re very dependable. They show up, they make weight.”
The third title fight will feature a pair of undefeated fighters, with Ulysses Molina (4-0), out of Dragon House, challenging holder Nate Montano (3-0), out of the Mendo Training Center in Ukiah.
Other locals in action include the experienced Ross Lopez, who is 4-1 and will fight at 155, as well as two fighters making their debuts.
David Little will debut in a super heavyweight showdown, while Thomas Mlakar out of the Lost Boys will debut at 195.
Wilfred Ferris (0-1) who represents the Pik-Ship Fight Team out of Hoopa Valley, will try to get his first win in a heavyweight showdown, as will Willow Creek’s Walter Craig (0-1) at 145.
Tickets for the event, which usually sells out before the night, are available through the casino website or at the hotel front desk.
More than 1,000 are expected to be on hand.
“We always have a big turnout,” Wilson said. “We sell out almost every show.”
A total of 13 fights are currently scheduled.