By Ray Hamill — A record number of local MMA fighters will be on hand on Saturday night, as Bear River gets set to host its second fight night of 2022.
A total of 12 fights are scheduled, with a local fighter involved in almost of all them.
“It’s a big card,” fight promoter Brian Wilson of Hard Fought Productions said. “And we’ve got a lot of locals.”
The growing number of local fighters on the card is reflective of how the sport has grown here on the North Coast in recent years, and in particular how Wilson’s Lost Boys Gym in Arcata has grown in stature in recent years, with 10 of their fighters on Saturday’s card.
“As a team, we’ve had good attendance. The guys are working very hard,” Wilson said. “This is as many fighters as Lost Boys has ever had on a card. This is a big showing.
“It’s good to see how much the sport is growing locally. And we’re kind of hitting every part of the county.”
Andrew Guisa (170 pounds) will headline Saturday’s card in his second pro fight after winning his debut in March at the first local fight night in two years.
His teammate Ross Lopez was supposed to make his pro debut this weekend, but his fight got canceled at the last minute as is the nature of the sport sometimes.
Lopez will have to wait for his pro MMA debut, but he will compete in one of three kick boxing fights this Saturday.
Sean Stock, out of Southern Humboldt, will also be in action in a 170-pound fight as he looks to go to 2-0 after winning on a second-round TKO in his fight debut back in March.
“He’s really an exceptional submission specialist,” Wilson said of Stock. “And he’s looking to have another good showing.”
Teammate Paige Caito will also compete on Saturday, making her North Coast fight debut at 135 pounds.
Caito is 1-0 in the cage and Wilson sees a bright future for her.
“She’s an amazing athlete,” he said. “She has a great work ethic. She is a really well-rounded fighter, but a submission specialist.
“She’s an ace on the ground, but she has many ways she can win a fight. I think it’s going to be a good fight.”
Nicholas Farro from McKinleyville will make his fight debut at 170 pounds and is also expected to have an immediate impact.
“He’s a jiu Jitsu bulldog,” Wilson said. “And I think he’s going to put on a good debut.”
Another Lost Boys fighter, Nate Cruz, will also debut in the cage at 125 pounds and has “improved a ton,” according to Wilson, while Alistair Shirazi will debut at 145 pounds.
“He’s another guy who is fantastic Jiu Jitsu fighter,” Wilson said of Shirazi, who is a purple belt. “And he’s got great conditioning. This debut is a long time coming.”
Another McKinleyville fighter, Noah Robinson, will compete in one of the kick boxing bouts at 155 pounds.
“He’s been working really hard, and he’s a tough, young athletic guy,” Wilson said.
Rounding out a big night for local fighters, Eureka’s Austin Chase will compete in a light heavyweight fight and Tyler Watkins will fight at 145.
In addition to the 12 scheduled fights, the night will also feature a grappling match, and Wilson plans on hosting a grappling tournament at Bear River in September.
“I think we would have a good turnout, and we’re excited about it,” Wilson said. “This will be for all the local gyms and affiliations. We welcome the competition. The area has never really had (a grappling tournament).”
Saturday will be the 14th fight night at the local casino, and the partnership between Hard Fought Productions and Bear River is one that continues to benefit local fight fans, with the fight nights usually selling out.
“The casino does a great job, and the tribe is very supportive, and that makes it easy,” Wilson said.
Doors open at 5 p.m. and the fights get under way at 6:30.