Sunday, September 17, 2017

Akers rallies to stop Valentine in SteelFist retirement bout



In an exciting mixed martial arts bout Saturday night, Rowdy Akers withstood an early-bout surge from previously undefeated John Valentine to take charge in the final round, scoring a stoppage at 1.42 of round three. In the photo above, Valentine and Akers (back to cage) mix it up early in the bout)

The highly anticipated bout was billed as a retirement fight for both 40-something professionals, who have fought much of their careers with the promotion, SteelFist MMA.

In the 150-pound bout, Valentine (4-1) started aggressively, attempting to end the fight early via a submission or through ground and pound. Akers, fighting mostly on the defensive early, was successful in preventing Valentine from having an early night.

The fight started to turn in round 2, when Akers (5-4), after surviving another submission attempt, drove Valentine back with his own attack. Valentine fought back, scoring a takedown. However, by the end of the round Akers was gaining the upper hand.

In round three, Akers, who snapped a three-bout losing streak, took charge early, taking Valentine down and punishing him for a least a minute before the bout was stopped.

After the fight, Valentine congratulated Akers, saying "he was the better man tonight."

SteelFist promotion honored both fighters after the bout, presenting them with plaques and promotional belts.

An emotional Akers, his voice breaking at times, thanked a host of individuals, including Aldo Oreggia, owner of One Hit MMA, for all their support and assistance. "My God is good," Akers added, grateful for the MMA sport for helping lifting him up as an individual the past several years. (In the photo below, Akers, in green trunks, talks with Valentine after the bout)



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In the main professional bout, Jerry Shiparo (9-1), who fights out of Las Vegas, stopped Jai Santos (7-4), who fights out of Team Link Utah, in round one via rear naked choke. With the win Shiparo collected the SteelFist 135-pound pro title bout. (The main event result is courtesy of the Facebook page Fighting Out of Utah MMA News)

In the other professional bout, Idaho's William Dunkle (2-2) upset local favorite Josh Bateman (4-4) with a win via strikes in round one. After being taken down by Bateman early, Dunkle stunned his 170-pound opponent and pummeled him until the referee called it.

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The highlight of 11 amateur bouts was an extremely competitive bout between Thomas Prestriedge (8-6) (Absolute MMA) and Jordan Marshall (3-1) (Victory MMA) for the promotion's 125-pound amateur belt. Prestriedge, a skinny fighter whose frame masks quite a bit of talent and ring generalship, used experience and a strong jab to defeat his stronger, more aggressive opponent over five rounds.

Marshall nearly ended the bout early, scoring a knockdown, but Prestriedge fought off his opponent's follow-up attack and gradually gained confidence, keeping a boxing edge through the competitive match.

Other competitive amateur bouts included 135-pounded Clay Abrams ( 2-2, Victory MMA) scoring a decision over Braxton McBride (0-2, One Hit MMA), 140-pounder Morgan Colledge (2-0, Fusion MMA) decisioning Kaden Schick (0-1, Victory MMA), and 145-pounder Julian Ruiz (5-3, Fusion MMA) used his experience to take a decision over Gavin Weston 3-1, One Hit MMA).

The opening bout of the card had heavyweight Zephaniah Na'oupu (2-0) putting on the heat late in round two, pounding opponent Kingzlee Tabile (1-2). Tabile was unable to meet the bell for round three. In other bouts, that ended in the first round:

Matt Marshall stopped Jeff Isham, 175 pounds.

Justin Horsely stopped Dakota Culley, 140 pounds.

Jayden Marshall stopped Christian Gilford, 125 pounds.

Hayden Brown stopped Brian Reed, heavyweight.

Rico Valdez stopped Kieran Merton, 145 pounds.

And Jon Wixom stopped Tracy Hardy, 185 pounds.

The fights of SteelFist 52, Defend Your Honor, were in Salt Lake City at the Riverbend Sports Complex before a large crowd.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Akers motivated by family as he makes final journey in cage


This Saturday night SteelFist promotions will have an MMA fight card at Riverbend Sport Complex. The co-main matches John Valentine, 47, versus Rowdy Akers, 42. It's the final MMA bout for both. We interviewed John last week and today we follow with a chat with Rowdy, who trains at One Hit MMA in Layton. (Above, he's seen (on top) fighting in a SteelFist bout against Jeff Carson. Credit for the photo goes to SteelFist Fight Night's Amanda Lynn, sports photographer.)
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UFG: What's on your mind as you decide to step into the cage for the final time? What's your motivation?

AKERS: My motivation is my son and my new son; I just found out recently that I have a 23-year-old son. I (also) have custody of my ten-year-old son. It's time for me to move on and to create a career for myself and my family. My motivation to step into the cage is to prove to everybody that all my hard work was worth something in our lives. Fighting has taught me the lessons that are supposed to be learned. I have a lot on my mind satisfying the fans, making my coaches proud, my children proud and (finally) walking away from something that I've been doing for a decade.

UFG: What are the best things about being an MMA fighter? What were some of the lows or challenges? What advice would you give to youngsters starting out?

AKERS: It has been a journey, a hell of a learning experience. I have learned a lot and made a lot of great friends. One of the the best things about being an MMA fighter is keeping my body in tip-top shape. Another is making lifelong memories with friends. A key challenge is always pushing yourself. I have been injured quite a bit in training. That's got to be one of the lows in the sport. To youngsters starting out, first, find a gym; make it a home, put in the work, get involved in the classes and market yourself. Your amateur career is important. You have to get everybody to look at you and to notice you so when you're ready for sponsorship, you are marketable. One more piece of advice for all youngsters that are starting out: work hard, forget about the image. People honor hard work a lot more than they honor image.



UFC: Who in the gym, trainers, gym-mates, sponsors, have had a big impact on your career? Who is helping you for this bout?

AKERS: I train out of One Hit MMA in Layton. Aldo, Bruno, LJ, Crystal and Jordan Smith, Gustavo Rodriguez and so many more. All my teammates are so important. They have been there for me; they have sacrificed their time, their bodies, everything to push each other.

UFGWhat do you know about John Valentine? How are you training for him? What are your strengths and weaknesses against him?

AKERS: I know John as part of the promotion for SteelFist. He conducted interviews and he did interviews with me for previous fights. I know that he has a very good ground game and he is very fit. I am training like I would train for any fight, definitely working more on defense because I don't really want to go to the ground with him. My strengths are probably my cardio and pressure. A weakness is probably going to be getting away from him on the ground.

UFG: What are your plans after MMA? Will you stay active in gyms, training, help with promotions, work with fighters?
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AKERS: I plan to go to work full time and to be a father. I will stay active in the gym and help my teammates when they need it. I plan to pursue Jiu-Jitsu and not stop training. I will help with the promotion of SteelFist fight night and continue to be the production foreman. I am in charge of the cage, the lights, the sound, the fighters' entrance. I build and fight for the promotion and I tear it down when I'm done. I've had a lot of sponsorships throughout my career. My current sponsors include Vapor Mania, Breaking Bad Bail Bonds, the Spider Web tattoo, Rockwell watches, Trammell Construction, Black Label MMA apparel, Those are the people that are walking with me into the fight. I thank every sponsor that has ever sponsored me and every teammate that has ever been there for me. It has been an ongoing learning experience for a decade and I have came a long ways from a guy that had two left feet when he started. 

Thanks for chatting with us, Rowdy, and good luck on Saturday in Salt Lake City.

(Below, in a photo from SteelFist Fight Night's Amanda Lynn, sports photographer, Akers fights MMA pro Kyle Herrera (in green trunks).



A few more things: A couple of weeks ago we interviewed MMA amateur Destiny McCubbin, who was scheduled to fight in Mesquite on Sept. 16. Unfortunately, Destiny's opponent pulled out of the bout. Destiny is training daily in Las Vegas and we're sure she'll be ion the cage soon.

Also, Ogden's Steven Siler, who most most recently fought on an MMA card with the World Series of Fighting, announced he's fighting on Nov. 2 with the Professional Fighters League, which is the name of the revamped WSOF. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Valentine readies for his final pro MMA bout



On Saturday, Sept. 16 in Salt Lake City, two 40-something mixed martial artists will meet in their final pro match. Undefeated JohnValentine, 47, (above) who lives in Las Vegas but has been a fixture in Northern Utah mixed martial arts for a long while not just as a professional athlete but as a an MMA coach, female MMA matchmaker and television cageside commentator. He meets Rowdy Akers, 42, who trains out of One Hit MMA in Layton. It's the co-main event for the SteelFist MMA card at the Riverbend Sports Complex.

We chatted with Valentine, who was given the moniker "The Machine," recently, talking with him about preparations for the bout. (Next week we'll have a chat with Akers.) (The pair are seen below in the past with Valentine, as a commentator with SteelFist, interviewing Akers).



"It's been a challenge, but I've probably trained harder for this fight than other fight," says Valentine, who works full time as an Area Manager in Bio Therapeutics medical industry helping doctors diagnose and treat rare diseases. The medical field is something John knows well as he holds a bachelors degree in science in molecular biology with minor in organic chemistry.

"Contrary to what everyone thinks this fight's not about Rowdy. ... I'm fighting myself," Valentine adds. Pushing himself, trying to be the best he can be, is the goal. That involves dieting, weight lifting, several miles of roadwork a day and long sessions at the gym after work is over. For his final fight he wanted it to be at SteelFist, where he started his pro career.



"(Really), my time is over (in MMA)," he said. His goal is helping his kids, who have their own sports to work hard at. He wants to help them improve. His sons have already competed, and succeeded, at North American Grappling Association (NAGA) wrestling tournaments and in gymnastics and have one at the highest levels his youngest securing the national championship in jujitsu at 6 years old. Their names are JT, Kyle, Cody, and Austin. (In the picture above, from left, Kyle, Cody and JT show wrestling medals. Austin is involved in gymnastics.)

When he looks at his boys, he thinks about why he must give them his attention and support. John grew up in poverty with a 16-year-old single mom who was kicked out of her home when she became pregnant with him. Alone and on their own his mom never quit and worked hard for the family and a stepdad who later entered their life and made it better, and eventually legally adopting John who now carries his last name.

"My parents are Jim Valentine and Kathy Valentine. "My mom was a amazing waitress, my dad a hardworking warehouseman. My mom had me when she was very very young and My step-father at the time gave us hope and love and legally adopted me. Jim a Vietnam veteran, worked two jobs to give us a better life. I only use stepfather in the context of the article as he is the only father that I've ever known and I love him. On September 16 you will feel his influence as When my father first came into my life we would sit alone in a room as a child and I would watch him play 'Simple Man' on the guitar. It was a reminder to chase your dreams but stay true to who you are as a person and live and love in a simple way," Valentine shared.

"That song is what I walk out to before every fight. It reminds me of who I am, where I came from and what I must do as I enter the cage," Valentine said. 



Jim his father (seen with John before a fight above) has always walked behind him when he enters the cage and rarely misses an event, he added and will be there doing the same for this final chapter.

Valentine, a decorated wrestler since age 6, has accomplished a lot. After over 11 years of Trainjng he's a four-stripe brown belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu under renowned world champion and UFC veteran Robert Drysdale, he is a Kru in Muay Thai under Sakasem Kanthawong, of Salt Lake City. He holds an Idaho judo state championship and has earned dozens of grappling medals and title belts. He's a world class competitor, earning a bronze medal this year in jiu jitsu at the Pan American Games and winning major International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) tournaments such as the Las Vegas Open just a few months back, doing so while competing against opponents that were two weight classes larger. 

While he's retiring he will still be competing in the cage in "Submission Only" grappling events. The next is scheduled for November 11 hosted by UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture's event to benefit his military charity foundation. Last year John was one of the schedule super fights and won in less than 90 seconds unfortunately sending his opponent to the hospital via an inverted heel hook submission. He was asked back and like last year it is expected it will also be televised on NBC Sports.

But back to the bout against Akers. Drysdale, is a daily influence as chief trainer. "Every day I get a text from him, checking on how I'm doing and he's in an amazing, loyal and dedicated coach to his students and team," He says. Valentine, at 47, is aware of how important training is, of getting his cardio as strong as possible."because I have only had to go into the second round one time in my fights does not mean I don't have good cardio....I train anticipating always a three round battle which allows me to be both patient and explosive when need be." he adds.



And preparing for this fight like many others John (seen above in a previous bout) assembles what he calls a "dream team" of trainers. Others working to get Valentine ready are world and Pan American champ Moises Antonio Lopez whose responsible for developing John's leg lock training. Striking coaches are UFC coach Ken Hahn (responsible for working with the likes of Frank Mir UFC champ) and Kyle Reyes, an MMA standout. On wrestling, Valentine benefits from the expertise of French MMA superstar Bendy Casimir. Also, Ju jitsu ace Chase Shafter and finally Chris Bateman, a fighter from Idaho, and is a valued coach always ready to help, Valentine adds.

The centerpiece and the glue that puts it all together will be none other than Utah resident , Brazilian jujitsu black belt Brandon Guzzo, a friend and coach, who has trained likes of UFC vets Court McGee and Steven Siler, also trains Valentine and will be in his corner. "Brandon helps calm me down. he simplifies things,". "We have been friends for 31 years and competed and grew up together as children. No other coach, friend or man alive knows my motivators, my fears, my demons, and what it takes for me to be the best on fight night and I am honored to have them in my corner that night for my final chapter." Valentine added

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Valentine always gives back to different charities for his fights and events. One of his efforts as the fight approaches is Kimonos forKai, an effort to better understand and prevent teen suicide. John does not make any money in the sale of his T-shirts and all of the money raised goes to the foundation, named after Kai, a victim of suicide, and son to James Wright who is a long time high school friend. Kai was a combat sports athlete, and his dad keeps his memory alive to help others, something that Valentine really admires.



"He was an amazing kid and Jiu Jitsu practitioner. Also, (please contact) his father and my friend, James Wright, to learn how to help and he can give you talking points for you to discuss with your children," Valentine added. (Photo above shows Kai and his father James Wright.)

Another pre-fight effort initiated by Valentine is raising money to help persons who can't afford to attend the fights be able to be there. To date a lot was raised and many people who usually couldn't afford the fights will be there on Sept. 16 thanks to the donations. He mentions his friend Christine Dennis, a partner in Tapp Fitness, as one of the valued sponsors.

It's a dual retirement fight for Valentine and Akers. For Valentine, he'll carry on in grappling and jiu jitsu, training with his sons in the endeavors they choose to pursue, and like any proud parent, getting the most satisfaction from their achievements.

As John notes, watching them succeed reminds him of two hard-working role models, a mom and dad who worked hard to make sure a young boy was able to achieve his dreams and taught him always to Believe and that I could accomplish anything. “It’s time for me to step away and help make them the best versions of themselves as athletes and young men." (Photo below shows Valentine (at right) forcing a tap out in a recent bout.)


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More events: Remember that Louie's Boxing Gym Fundraiser is Sept. 10 at Jordan Park (1060 S. 900 West, SW Pavilion) in Salt Lake City from noon to 5 p.m. From 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. boxing champ Jose Haro will meet and greet fans.

Also, on Saturday, Sept. 9 Lights Out Boxing gym in Clearfield will have a yard sale and plate fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1548E 925 South in Clearfield. It's an effort to raise funds prior to the gym's planned move to the Clearfield Aquatic Center. There will also be a raffle ($5) for a bounce house ticket.

Finally, local MMA pro Mike Jones' scheduled bout with LFA promotions this month is off as his opponent pulled out.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Interview with MMA amateur Destiny McCubbin



Mixed martial artist Destiny McCubbin, formerly of West Haven, has been in Las Vegas a while, training very hard as she pursues her goals in the cage. (She's seen above training in the Rich Castro photo and in the two mat photos below she's training with Dewey Cooper) On Saturday, Sept. 16, in Mesquite, Nevada, she's part of a TuffNUff card at the CasaBlanca. McCubbin, whose moniker is "My Time," faces Cindie Torango.

I recently interviewed the Northern Utah fighter:
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UTAH FIGHT GAME: Destiny, relate some about your experience training in Las Vegas? The gym, your gym mates, your trainers, how has it improved your skills and cardio and strength? 

DESTINY: Hey Doug! My experience thus far training in Vegas has been everything I expected and more. I knew it was going to be straight grind mode day in and day out once I stepped foot through those doors. It's different here. This is all people have it's all we do. Train, Eat, Rest, Repeat. Xtreme Couture is great. It is a big gym with big names. Lol I went from being a big fish in a small pond, to a tiny fish in a huge lake. Awesome coaches full of so much knowledge, and they've all seen and done it all. My head coach is Dennis Davis, a vet of our sport. Dewey Cooper is my striking coach - Black Kobra Striking Systems. He's amazing. Also a vet. I'm his only amateur, and although he trains fighters such as Kevin Lee (UFC), Raquel Pa'Aluhi (Invicta FC) and tons of great boxers , he still puts the time and effort into me. Both of my coaches are very dedicated to coaching and being the best, I'm definitely blessed to be apart of their team. Miesha Tate works with me a lot as well whenever she is in which is awesome because she's such a vet. It's cool to see her still care so much about helping WMMA grow even though she is retired. 

Not only great coaches, but I'm surrounded by teammates who are hungry and grind day in and day out. They push me way passed my limits, Making me dig deep. (They) give me the beatings I need in the gym so we have a nice day come fight night! My two main training partners are Cheyenne Vlismas and Gina Mazany. Cheyenne is getting ready to turn pro. If you haven't watched her check her out. She is actually who inspired me to move to Vegas. I used to tell Josh (Morales, Destiny's friend, and a pro boxer), one day I'm going to train with her - just wait. Now she's my main partner and has helped me so much. Gina recently signed under the UFC. That girl has taken me under her wing and is always there to remind me who I am whenever doubts kick in. She's helped a lot with my wrestling and has made me fall in love with it. 

As far as for me, it's made me so much stronger. My body is starting to change into the body of an athlete. My skills have leveled up so much! I'm stoked about my next fight to see where I stand in this sport now. Something tells me I'm going to shock everybody, including myself. Since I've been here I've been training full time. It's hard training full time as well as working full time, so sometimes it's a struggle staying above water. And it's not like there's not money to be made, it's Vegas. There's money all over the place at the tip of my fingers. But I didn't come here to work a ton of hours at a hotel serving cocktails (lol), or sit and work a 9-5 at a desk. I came here to grind, and grow and chase this crazy dream of mine. So that is what I will do, no matter what it takes. I miss my family and they help me so much whenever they can so I've been blessed with them.



UTAH FIGHT GAME: What do you know about your opponent?

DESTINY: I know she has some slick hands and she's a 4 stripe blue belt in Jiu Jitsu from Missouri with a record of 5-1. I think she's going to bring a good fight for sure but I know there isn't any situation that the fight can go to that I haven't been in during my training. It's funny, everybody asks "Is she tough?" or "So is she good?" Lol , yes of course she is. At this point in my career, even as an amateur, they are all going to be good with the sport evolving like it has everybody is pretty well rounded. And even if she's not, as far as I'm concerned she's the best in the world and I have to train to go out there and beat the best in the world. 



UTAH FIGHT GAME: What do you think your main cage strength is?

DESTINY: Four months ago I would have said stand up, mostly boxing with that "pull the trigger" demeanor. Now I feel so much more well rounded in my wrestling, and ground game. Dennis has tons of cool, dirty tricks up his sleeve that I can't wait to use! My stand up isn't just a boxing stand up anymore either after working with Dewey. He's showing me how to use all of the weapons I have. "No hesitation with the combination " as he always says. I've only been with him about 2 months now, but I'm very excited to see where my striking is at in 6 months.

Thanks so much for sharing time with us, Destiny, and good luck on Sept. 16. 
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Some tidbits: Former Davis County prep athlete Court McGee, now well-known as a UFC veteran, returns to the Octagon on Nov. 11, where he'll meet Sean Strickland in Norfolk, Va., as part of UFC Fight Night 120.

Fierce Fighting Championships is unveiling its card in Tooele on Sept. 30. Main event matches Trever Carlson versus Antonio Arroyo. Another pro match that seems very interesting matches veteran Tanner Cowan against Nate Kearsley.

MMA pro Mike Jones, who often fights locally, will compete against Adam Vigil at Legacy Fighting Alliance 22 on Sept. 8 in Broomfield, Colo.

Next week the blog will interview MMA pro John Valentine on his upcoming SteelFist bout on Sept. 16 against Rowdy Akers. The week after we should have an interview with Akers. It's the final pro bout for both.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Updates, my take on Mayweather versus McGregor



Some news tidbits that we've heard.

Thomas Hughes (above right) , who won his pro MMA debut earlier this month, is planning to fight on a SteelFist card in October. Hughes also plans to train in Las Vegas.

MMA pro Francisco Cisco Alcantara has plans to get back in the cage. There are reports he will fight Carson Gregory on a SteelFist card soon.

Also planning to fight again on a SteelFist card is Ogden MMA pro AJ Garcia.

We interviewed amateur MMA fighter Bryce Edminister recently. He fought undefeated Kellen VanCamp in Boise last weekend. Two excellent prospects fought three hard rounds with Edminister, who trains out of The Garage, losing a decision.

We'll be interviewing 40-something MMA pros John Valentine and Rowdy Akers, who are squaring off in a farewell bout Sept. 16 in SLC at SteelFist.

UPCOMING EVENTS:  Here are upcoming events courtesy of the state athletic commission. I have rumors of a boxing card in October but so far it's not listed. In September, besides SteelFist we have Fierce Fighting Championships on Sept. 30.

MY TAKE ON MAYWEATHER VERSUS MCGREGOR: Tomorrow night, Floyd Mayweather, a semi-retired boxing legend (49-0) will meet Conor McGregor (21-3), the most celebrated current UFC MMA champ. It's a boxing match, albeit with 8 ounce gloves, usually boxers fight with 10 ounce gloves.

Floyd Mayweather has beaten everyone placed in front of him. As he gets older (and frankly, I doubt Mayweather has the power to KO a featherweight contender at this point in his career) the chances increase that he humiliates himself with a loss. McGregor is not a qualified boxing opponent for him. He has some amateur experience, that is it. (Let me just add that if this was an MMA fight I'd say the same about Floyd.)

What Mayweather has is incredible, Hall of Fame defensive skills. Even the best boxers have trouble hitting him when he's in a corner covering up. I can't see McGregor landing more than a couple of punches a round. It's easy for me to see Mayweather landing jabs and medium shots all night against McGregor's aggression.

Allow me to point to a preliminary boxing bout roughly 20 months ago in Davis County between a young boxing prospect named George Vigil and Ogden's Pat Reeves, one of my favorite MMA fighters (he's now retired). In the cage, Reeves would beat Vigil. In the ring, Reeves was very aggressive, threw lots of punches and landed occasionally. But he missed many of his shots as the boxer Vigil would land counter shots and jabs through the entire fight. Reeves was game, but it wasn't his combat sport. The ring, and specific rules of boxing, favored the boxer, of course.

I understand I am comparing a preliminary boxing bout to a superfight between the best boxer and best MMA fighter. But it's my belief that the fight will follow the lines of Vigil versus Reeves, with an aggressive McGregor throwing lots of punches at Mayweather, landing once in a while, but missing most. Mayweather will outbox him, counter effectively. I don't believe he will knock out Conor, who will tire in the final half of the bout while Floyd will stay on automatic. An easy unanimous decision for Mayweather.

BOXING

Louie's Boxing gym is having a fundraiser on Sept. 10. Jose Haro will be there to gtreet fans. All the info is in the photo below.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Photo gallery from Horn's Elite MMA card at Weber County Fair

From the very talented Katie Aurich, Utah Fight Game blog presents a a photo essay of the Aug. 11 MMA card from Jeremy Horn's Elite Fight Night at the Weber County Fair in Ogden. Go here for results. Your blogger is busy so no time today to do captions but we'll try our best over the weekend. Some info: Thomas Hughes, who won his pro MMA debut, plans to fight again in Salt Lake City in October. Also, Utah fight fans, here's an ESPN feature on new U.S. boxing champ Jose Haro.

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