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Samurai MMA Pro debut show draws fans and celebrities alike

Jamie Yager used his takedown skills to good effect. Photos: Mike Colón.

After its successful Samurai Pro Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament debut last Spring, Samurai Pro Sports held its first MMA show, The Samurai MMA Pro 2011, last Friday, October 21 at the Culver City Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, and it was a huge success.

The seven-bout fight card was an exciting one, with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alumnus Jamie “The Chosyn 1” Yager, headlining the event and tearing up his opposition, Mozzy Arfa, in the cage. With Big John McCarthy referring their match, Jamie had some really nice takedowns but as the first round was ending, he knew he had to close out the fight. “He’s a tough guy,” he says of Mozzy, “I saw in his eyes that he thought he was going to make it to the second round and I had to stop that.”

Jamie had no intention of letting Mozzy get to the second round, so he took him down and began his ruthless ground and pound. “He went down… I got mount,” he says, “we rolled and I took his back and got the choke. He let go. He couldn’t hang on. He thought we were in the same class, but I outclassed him. I just listened to my corner and when I heard them yell to continue with the elbows, that’s what I did.”

Beginning of the end

Jamie says when he first came out of TUF, he was viewed as a striker only. He’s looking to change that perspective and wants to continue to showcase his ground work and his cardio. “I haven’t had one fight go the distance,” he says of his recent fights, “I subbed two opponents and tonight I got the TKO. I want to show the fans that I’m not one-dimensional.”

Jamie trains under Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA, and says it’s made all the difference in his game. “My hard work is paying off,” he says. He’s now looking to pick up some more fights, with the eventual goal of getting into the UFC. “Whatever opportunities come my way, I’m open to taking advantage of them,” he says, “I have my training camp dialed in and I’m doing it the right way. I believe in the system.”

A couple other fighters stood out on the fight card. Fernando Bettega of Kings MMA won the split decision in his match against Gareth Joseph. Gareth coincidentally fought on the Strikefore: Fedor vs Werdum card, but lost to Yancy Medeiros. Fernando also fought in Strikeforce: Henderson vs Babalu II, but lost in a split decision to Wayne Phillips. He was happy to have the fight against Gareth go his way.

The fight was well matched and the two had a war. “He is a tough guy,” Fernando says, “We were at the same level. I played my game. He didn’t give me the right moment to finish with a knockout or guillotine.” Fernando, who is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, says having his level of Jiu-Jitsu is not always an advantage. “When the punch comes, it changes everything,” he says. Fernando is now going to go back and train his wrestling and cardio more. “I feel so good,” he says, “I’m so relaxed when I’m in the cage. I’m mentally strong.”

Another Kings MMA fighter who really showcased his skills was Beneil Dariush, who also trains at Ralph Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Beneil took out his opponent, Dominic Gutierrez in a minute and a half with a rear-naked choke. “I punched and kneed him and then got in a good kick to the head,” Beneil says, “He went down, I got mount. Then we rolled and I took his back and got the choke.”

Beneil readies the fight-ending rear-naked choke.

Beneil wants to make a name for himself on the MMA circuit. He took out his last opponent on the ground in 45 seconds and this time he wanted to show off some of his stand up skills, which he did. “I was able to connect this time,” he says modestly.

Beneil, who is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu, doesn’t know when his next fight will be, but he’s going to the No Gi Worlds in November. “I won my division last year as a brown belt,” he says, “I came in second in the absolute. I’d only had my brown belt for one month. This year I’m going for double gold.”

The Samurai MMA Pro crowd looked like something seen at a UFC or Strikeforce fight. Many MMA celebrities were there, including MMA legend Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum, Jose Aldo, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Kings MMA head coach Rafael Cordeiro, Kamal Shalorus, and Jared Hamman, to name a few, as well as a real Hollywood celebrity, Jason “Wee Man” Acuna, of “Jack Ass” fame, who could be seen sitting in the front row, watching the fights with a big smile on his face.

Jason Acuna (left) gets his first taste of live MMA.

It was Wee Man’s first MMA show, but the star wasn’t fazed since his whole reality TV lifestyle is similar to a MMA fight without the cage. He received the Samurai MMA Pro tickets as a gift from a friend at Southbay BMW and says he came to the show because it’s “something to do, something to see.” Asked how he endures his own “ground-and-pound” lifestyle on the set of “Jack Ass” he laughs, “I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I fell out of a shopping cart at five, cracked my head open and bled all over my mom’s white suede vest. Then I started skateboarding, had an accident and broke my femur. I have an 11-inch titanium rod in my leg.”

From his chair he points to the cage in front of him and says, “I’m glad to be on this side of it,” he smiles, “But pain is temporary… victory is forever!” Up next for “Wee Man” is his upcoming TV show “Monster Man,” which airs in February. He starred and directed it and is excited for its release. “It’s really cool,” he says, “You have to watch it. I don’t want to give too much away!”

Yager poses for photo with Rafael Cordeiro (front), Wanderlei (right) and crew.

Back stage, after the fights, legendary UFC and PRIDE star Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva was mobbed and hugged by many fans and fighters alike. The fighter took it all in stride, being the gracious man he is outside the cage. His fighter, Michael Madrid, defeated Waachiim Spirit Wolf in a splendid display of high kicks and athleticism. “He has a lot of good skills,” Wand says of his student.

Wand helped put the Samurai MMA Pro together with founder and CEO Lucas Pires, who is a champion Jiu-Jitsu competitor and also runs Werdum Combat Team in Marina Del Rey. Wand says it was “a beautiful event” and he was very happy to take part in it.

As for his upcoming fight against Cung Le, Wand says he hasn’t changed his game. He travels back and forth between California and Vegas, training one week at his gym in Las Vegas and one week at Rafael Cordeiro’s Kings MMA in Huntington Beach. He’s been training hard and is ready for the fight. “I haven’t been training anything in particular,” he says, “I’ve just been doing my usual all-around training. I feel good. It will be a good fight… a great show.”

Asked how long he is going to keep fighting, the legend says, “I want to fight as long as I can.” Wand wants to thank everyone for their support. “I hope to make everyone happy with my fight.”

Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum

Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum was also milling around the crowd, taking in the show and hanging out with the other MMA fighters. He was his usual gregarious self, signing autographs, cracking jokes, and generally enjoying himself with his friends and fans.

Fabricio is contracted for four more fights with Strikeforce. He’s been hearing all the talk about him getting picked up by the UFC, but says those are just rumors. “I haven’t talked to anyone in the UFC,” he says, “It’s just a rumor, but it’s the best division in the world and I want to fight the top talent in the world.” He says he thinks his next fight will be in December but he’s not sure. “They’ll tell me who I’m fighting,” he says, “I have no idea, but I’m prepared to fight every day. It’s my life.”

As for his last fight against Alistair Overeem, Fabricio waives his hand and shakes his head in disappointment, “I don’t like the last fight,” he says, “It’s MMA… on the ground or in stand up. He wouldn’t come to the ground with me when I said, ‘Come on!’ If they say to me, ‘Stand up,’ I do it. I ended up pulling guard a lot and I don’t like that.” Fabricio says that loss really hurt him but he’s preparing his mind for December. “I want to fight,” he says, “I’m hungry.”

Lucas Pires says the Samurai MMA Pro was such a success, he and his team have already decided to do it again. “Get ready!” he says, “December 9th we are going to do it again!”

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