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Fights at the Rail Yards, tonight!

Jackson's MMA Series

Watching some fights down by the railroad tracks just got a lot less ghetto.

The newly refurbished Rail Yards, just south of downtown, is now the go-to spot for hipster points, and will be hosting its second weekly community market mere hours after they pack up the cage. But tonight the old blacksmith shop belongs to the fighting community, as an all-amateur card of fighters will strip to the waist and try to use each other as stepping-stones as they climb the mountain of glory.

The nine-fight Jackson’s MMA Series card, Protégé, starts at 7, at 1100 2nd St SW, and will feature Albuquerque fighters from local gyms taking on comers from elsewhere in state. Tickets to this uniquely-set event are available at Hold My Ticket.

At the top of the card is a fighter whose career I’ve followed ever since he won the Jackson’s Edge Challenge in 2011. Ricky Esquibel, of the Jackson-Winkeljohn camp here in Albuquerque, battles Chris Brewer of Alamosa in a main event battle that should have been a 125 lbs (flyweight), had Brewer not missed weight by 2 and a half pounds.

To see some rare footage from Esquibel’s first fight—in which he impressively got out of a tight spot by picking up his opponent, slamming him, and strangling him—please refer to this blog post I wrote at the time.

Ari LeVaux


Travis Browne and Donald Cerrone Fight tonight

Local transplants hope to light up UFC on Fox 11

Travis Browne and Donald Cerrone, two Jackson-Winkeljohn prospects, grace the UFC on Fox card tonight, with the main card starting at 6pm.

Here's a recent interview I did with Travis Browne, in my capacity as a reporter for, about this fight and other topics, like the violent elbows he lands on people who try to take him down. The interview happened behind the Rt. 66 casino the night of Holly Holm's recent fight, on April 4.

Sorry for the hum during the interview! The ambulance behind us was running, which did something weird to my camera's audio.

As far as why the video is stuck in the right hand margin behind some ads, I have no idea. [UPDATE: Fixed. Sorry about that.] So here's a link to my story on Bloody Elbow.


Holly Holm fights tonight

Will it go to the ground?

The Holly Holm train is pulling into the Route 66 Casino tonight where the legendary boxer will face her seventh opponent in chain-link cage, as she continues her new MMA career. Holm has been courted by the UFC in recent weeks, though her management supposedly pissed off Dana White, presumably for asking for too much money (though it should be noted that White gets pissed if the wind blows).

The last time Holm fought, I had recommended that you go see her because it may be your last chance to see her fight in Albuquerque, before she gets swept up by the UFC. But this time, it seems like the opposite is true. If Holm continues to circle outside the UFC, she’ll probably be back at the 66 for at least another fight. If she joins the show and signs with the UFC, it might be in time for the June 7 card, headlined by Diego Sanchez vs Ross Pearson.

Such speculation, of course, is dependent on her winning tonight, which is a safe bet. But things will get interesting if the fight goes to the mat, where Holm is much less comfortable and experienced.

Holm may not want to go to the ground, but that’s what the world needs to see—if not this fight, then some other future fight—before she can be taken seriously as a threat to the UFC Bantamweight title held by Ronda Rousey. The champ has won most of her fights by arm bar, and would look to do the same against the Duke City striker. The best thing that could happen for Holly in this fight would be to slam Werner to the mat and submit her, preferably by arm bar. If she does that and calls out Rousey, Dana White would pee, a little bit anyway, in his pants.

But should Holm win, there is another high-profile fight that will be on her more immediate horizon: Christiana “Cyborg” Justino, the only other female MMA fighter outside the UFC who generates a buzz on par with Holm’s. According to her trainer Mike Winkeljohn, they will be trying to make this happen should Holly win.

I'm just saying: if Holly wins, her vs Cyborg on the June 7th card would tear the roof off of Tingly Coliseum, dontcha think?

Several teammates of "The Preacher's Daughter" will be on the card tonight, including Jackson-Winkeljohn products Clint Roberts and Nick Urso, two homegrown beasts you want on your side. Jesse Tafoya of Wink’s Gym, where Holm teaches and trains, is on the preliminary card.

The main card starts at 9 pm, and takes place at the Rt. 66 Casino on I 40. It will also be on AXSTV. The preliminary card starts at 7:30, and can only be witnessed live.

See you there, so look for the drunk guy in the Hawaiian shirt, and come say "hi."

Will Fox


Holly Holm fights Friday

and it could be the last time you watch her fight in Burque

Sure, it’s a damn shame that the UFC may never do a show in Albuquerque. After all, Duke City has some of the most committed fight fans on earth. On the flipside, we’ve got some of the best fighters as well, with both home-grown talent and fighters hat have immigrated here to train at Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA, as well as some of the other gyms, like FIT NHB. That adds up to local Mixed Martial Arts events stacked with top caliber talent, fighters that may very soon be competing at the sport’s highest level.

Case in point: Friday, Dec. 6, at the Route 66 Casino, the Fresquez Productions’ “Havoc” fight card, featuring Holly Holm vs Angela Hayes at bantamweight (135 lbs). The UFC has already expressed interest in Holm, and UFC president Dana White has acknowledge to being pestered to the point of desperation with questions about when the organization will sign her. Holm is being touted by many fans and media as a potential solution to Ronda Rousey's dominance.

Thus far, no opponent has escaped the first round without tapping to an armbar, much less beaten the UFC champion. Holm, a world champion boxer, and, according to her coach Mike Winkeljohn a “better kickboxer” is a fearsome striker, who has never been taken down or threatened on the ground in five professional MMA fights. But five of her opponent’s six wins are by submission, which means this could finally be the time Holm is tested on the ground. And we have the opportunity to see what happens, live. As soon as Holm gets picked up by the UFC, you might not be able to see her fight in Albuquerque ever again, so take advantage!

Also on the card, flyweight Nick Urso, a Jackson/Winkeljohn product like Holm. SouthWestFightNews notes, “Urso’s combination of speed, technique and natural talent has placed his name front-and-center in the discussion of who is New Mexico’s best fighter not-signed by a major MMA promotion.”

Urso will be fighting Jesus Urbina of Bushido MMA in El Paso. Again, SouthWestFightNews: “Urbina is very tough in all areas of MMA as he can trade punches in and outside of the pocket, he is very good at scrambling in his defensive grappling and he can finish fights when he gets top position on the mat. All of those compliments only accent his respected wrestling game; Urbina in fact has a collegiate wrestling background. “

Another fighter on the card we should be exited to see is Jackson/Winkeljohn welterweight (170 lbs) Clint Roberts, who will fight Eddie Gamboa, also of El Paso’s Bushido MMA. Roberts is a powerful, well-rounded fighter who would likely be making big waves by now if he didn’t keep getting injured. Most recently: a broken hand suffered in his last fight. It the knockout win, he ended up breaking his hand on his opponents’ head.

Many other local prospects will be fighting as well, including Cody East, Chuck Pieritz, Gabriel Benitez, Ricky Esquibel, and Mike Benefiel. The six-bout main card is preceded by a five-fight amateur undercard, which starts at seven. The public is invited to attend the weigh-in on Thursday at 2 pm, at the Route 66 Casino.

Tickets can be purchased online. For info, call 505-884-7484, or visit the Fresquez Productions website.

She's not playing around.


Smart Girl Self Defense

Helping women tap into their animal brains

You know that little feeling that something isn’t quite right? More than just a funny feeling, it’s actually your brain processing several conscious and unconscious cues, and arriving at the conclusion that something isn’t cool, explained Heather Winkeljohn, co-instructor of the Smart Girl Self Defense course being taught at Wink’s Gym.

“Women are conditioned to ignore that feeling that something’s wrong. Maybe they don’t want to rock the boat, or come across as a bitch, so they go along with a situation, even though they’re scared.”

Winkeljohn roped her husband Mike in to help teach the course, which is focused on paying attention to the conscious and subconscious cues that can help people avoid danger, if they know how to listen. An expert on victim psychology, Heather has done research on intuition, fear and other emotions that have offered survival advantages through the ages, and the main focus of the course is to identify and tap into these emotions, listen to them and derive power from them if necessary. The course is all about avoiding dangerous situations, but for times when that is not possible, Mike Winkeljohn will teach the women how to throw down when necessary, and make the perpetrator wish he’d chosen another victim.

Mike Winkeljohn is a former world champion kickboxer, and striking coach at the Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA academy, where many of the world’s top pro fighters come to train. He handles the physical self-defense side of the course, teaching the skills needed to survive, and win, a physical encounter. He told me that if the women who take this course never have to use the techniques he teaches them, then he’d consider the course to be a success.

The course looks at the biological basis of fight-or-flight reflex and focuses on how to make best use of intuition and gut feelings, which are the domain of our “animal brain,” as distinct from the “logic brain.”

Heather says that all too often the logic brain can overthink situations, thanks in part to societal expectations that women internalize which can jeopardize their safety.

“Unfortunately, the logic brain can override the animal brain when you’re in danger. Say you’re about to get into an elevator with a creepy looking person. It's the difference between deciding not to get in and convincing yourself against your better judgment that it will be OK. Intuition is kind of like a smoke detector. It could be a false alarm, but you’re better off listening to it.”

This kind of information is augmented by an analysis of common traits of survivors, many of which came to light via psychologist Al Seibert’s 50-year career studying survivors. “Survivors follow their hunches and use their intuition, and they never give up," Winkeljohn said.

The same can be said for good fighters, like Mike Winkeljohn’s protégé Jon “Bones” Jones, who survived serious adversity at UFC 165 last weekend and gutted out a victory against Alexander Gustafson to defend his light heavyweight title. We admire qualities like heart and perseverance in fighters, in part because we recognize these traits are the same traits of survivors. These are good qualities to have on the sometimes mean streets of Albuquerque.

For more info on the course, call Wink’s Gym, at 822-6326.

Will Fox


Jackson's MMA Series XI, tonight

Homegrown MMA at Tingly

Jackson’s MMA Series XI is set to rock Tingly Colliseum tonight. The first bout of the amateur undercard starts at 7 pm. The undercard features one of my favorite amateurs to watch, Eric Dodson, younger brother of UFC Flyweight contender John Dodson.

The main card is headlined by a Featherweight contest between Conrad Padilla of Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA and Nick Rhoads, who makes the trip from Tucson into hostile territory.

Also on the under, Jackson/Winkeljohn product Nick Urso takes on Ronnie White of Lovato Fitness in Albuquerque, in what should be an exciting cross-town rivalry in the Flyweight division. Urso is just a win or two away from a shot at the UFC, according to his striking coach Mike Winkeljohn.

If you’ve never been to a Jackson’s MMA Series event in Tingly, it’s worth a trip. The flashing lights and bone-shaking sound system are on par with the big shows, like UFC and Bellator, and the caliber of fights usually are too. If you’re stuck at home, like I’ll be, you can stream it live.

Go to [link] for info on streaming and tickets.

courtesy of Bellator FC


Bellator 97: two dominant champs dominate

Michael Chandler and Ben Askren did what they do

Funky is Ben Askren’s official knickname. I might suggest "Glue." Or better yet, "Velcro." His tight curly hair looks like one half of that material, and he has a way of sticking to his opponents. He need only make contact with a single point of his opponent, and then he doesn’t let go. He leans on them, tangles them, applies his weight to the exact leverage points to make them work their hardest. He holds them down and hits them.

Askren won the first round while inflicting little damage, but in subsequent rounds he ratcheted up the pressure, eventually out-striking his opponent 293-3 in what seemed like a foregone conclusion. Askren attempted a few submissions, but gave them up when they opened up opportunities to improve his position. Koreshkov came out at the beginning of each subsequent round looking more and more terrified of being taken down. All Askren had to do was fake a takedown and he’d jump backwards. Koreshkov fought gamely at first, but seemed to lose his will.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment was at the beginning of Round 3, when Koreshkov caught Askren with a knee as he shot in for a double leg. It was a good knee, and such a knee is a potential Achilles heel to any wrestler. But if the knee hurt Askren, it wasn’t apparent. He continued doing his thing, which was basically what a cat does to a living mouse. Askren toyed with Koreshkov until he gave up and stopped fighting back, and Askren was awarded the finish by TKO.

“Snap crackle pop,” is how he described his treatment of Koreshkov afterwards, in his post-fight interview with color commentator Jimmy Smith.

It was unarguably a brilliant, dominating performance, but the crowd hadn’t liked it. This is Duke City, after all, and they hadn’t come to watch a wrestling match. During the fight there had been a few half-hearted chants of USA, USA, USA—Koreshkov was, after all, a foreigner—but these were soon drowned by in a sea of boos. This hadn’t been the only wrestling match of the evening. Mohamed “King Mo” Lawal had also dry-humpted his way to a tko victory due to ground strikes.

Perhaps, in hindsight, feeding a wrestler-heavy card to an Albuquerque crowd, following a prelim card that consisted of squash matches where local lambs were sacrificed to Bellator prospects to pad their records and their highlight reels, wasn’t the best idea. And the crowd wasn’t MMA-nerdy enough to appreciate the surprise announcement of Rampage Jackson vs Tito Ortiz, on a November 2nd Pay-per-view. But then, this was a card designed for television. The ABQ fight fans were there to fill the place up, and 3,000 + showed up.

In his post-fight interview, Askren called the crowd communists for booing him, and announced that he’s the best fighter in the world. Ten minutes later, freshly showered, Askren pranced around the cage-side VIP area, completely unmarked, taking thumps-up photos.

The fisticuffs-craving crowd got what it wanted in the final fight, as Michael Chandler quickly and ferociously knocked out David Rickels in 42 seconds to defend his belt. Not much more to say, as it was so quick, except that even in that short window of a performance, it’s clear that Michael Chandler is an explosive, impressive athlete. After the fight Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney called Chandler the best lightweight in the world. One reason he didn’t say the same about Askren is that he hadn’t just signed Askren to a multi-fight contract, as he had Chandler. Askren, in fact, had just fought his final fight on his current contract.

Askren and Chandler. Two different fighters, two different but dominant performances. Two Bellator champions that could give their UFC counterparts runs for their money.


Bellator 97 is tonight

Diehard fans are already calling this the best card in the promotion's history

Albuquerque MMA fans are in for a treat today, as Bellator 97 is going down at the Star Center in Rio Rancho. This is the promotion’s second trip to the 505 this year, and diehard MMA nerds are calling this the best card in the promotion’s history.

At the top of the card, Bellator Lightweight (155lb) champ Michael Chandler will attempt to defend his belt against David “The Caveman” Rickels, who I recently interviewed for the Alibi. This should be a fast-paced war between two relentless fighters. Before that, Bellator Welterweight Champ Ben Askren defends his strap against undefeated Russian import Andre Koreschkov. And Mohammed “King Mo” Lawal will try to back up weeks of smack talk against Jacob Noe in a light heavyweight bout.

Tickets are still available, and several local fighters are on the undercard, which kicks off at 3:30 this afternoon. Starting at 5 the fights will be broadcast live on Spike TV. These local warriors include: Cris Leyva (Farmington), Mike Barreras (Albuquerque) and Frank Baca (Albuquerque).

Following the championship bouts there will be four additional “feature” fights that will include more local fighters: Adrian Cruz (Rio Rancho), Russell Wilson (Albuquerque), Richard Jacques (Albuquerque), Felipe Chavez, (Albuquerque), and Donald Sanchez (Albuquerque).

The Alibi will be on-scene, posting updates to the blog. Stay tuned. Or show up yourself and see what all this fuss is about.


Girls Kicking Ass, intelligently

Smart Girl Self Defense class, this Saturday at Wink's Gym

This thoroughly enjoyable video from a surveillance camera in Moscow is only satisfying, unfortunately, because women are typically vulnerable to the boundless assholishness of men.

In an attempt to counteract this sad reality, a very cool class is being taught this Saturday, August 3rd, at Wink’s Gym in the Northeast Heights (7610 Carmel, near Wyoming and Paseo). The class, Smart Girl Self-Defense, combines fighting skills with mental tactics on how to think on your feet and derive power from fear. It’s taught by husband and wife team Mike and Heather Winkeljohn.

Mike is the striking coach at Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA, where many of the world’s top fighters come to train. Heather has a degree in psychology with an emphasis on the psychology of abuse.

Together, they’ve put together a course that teaches women to use their brains to stay out of trouble, and defending themselves if a physical confrontation is unavoidable.

Saturday’s course is part of a two-part series. Signing up or completing the other portion is a prerequisite for Saturday’s class. Call 505-822-6326 for more details.

courtesy of Bellator FC


The Caveman Cometh

Bellator Fighting Championship returns to Rio Rancho next week

When David “The Caveman” Rickels got the call to face Michael Chandler for the lightweight—155 lb—title at Bellator 97 in Rio Rancho, he weighed 205 lbs. That was in early June. Faced with a 50 pound weight cut, Rickels had to dig deep into his caveman roots. His training regime is based on the paleo approach. Not just the paleo diet, but he actually has a set of metal clubs that he swings around like the savage he claims to be.

“It’s a great workout swinging those clubs. Hitting tires. You can swing them around, above the head, between the legs, like a kettle bell swing. The way you hold them, because of the way the weight is distributed, if you hold it at the end it makes everything way harder. It’s just a different workout. It totally satisfy’s a man’s need to bash on things.”

I asked Rickels if the paleo diet had anything to do with him blowing up to 205 between fights.

“During training, my diet is 95% paleo. Whatever a caveman could walk out and pick up. I don’t do grains, obviously. It’s mostly fruit, vegetables and meat. I do a lot of juicing, too. The cavemen didn’t really have juicers, but that’s where we’ve one-upped them.”

So you train in the paleo era, but when you’re blowing up to 205 you’re more of a Neolithic man?

“I’m basically a paleo eater during training, and then I’m a scavenger, like a great white shark would be, eating anything that I can find, preferably chocolate stuff and fried cream cheese. I really do enjoy my naughty food as much as my healthy kicks.”

When you’re in scavenger mode, eating whatever you can between fights, are there any paleo foods you can’t give up, even when you’re allowed to eat at the Chinese Buffet?

“I love beef jerky, I find it to be a great snack food. Beef jerky and nuts. I really like almonds. That kind of stuff for me is awesome snackage. Nuts bring in a lot of calories so I can’t eat too many of those when I’m training, but that’s something I enjoy. Peanut butter, holy crap, that is the bees’ knees.”

How did you decide that paleo diet would be good for a caveman fighter?

“A couple of my buddies had fights going up, and they were dropping down to lower weight classes. And the paleo diet really worked for them. I was fighting at 170 lbs at the time [welterweight], and I wasn’t really cutting that much weight, so I didn’t pay much mind to it. But when I started dropping down to 155 lbs, I had to cut a lot more weight. That made things different. I was like ‘hey, let me try out this paleo diet, blah blah blah.’ Those first couple cuts I had were really good. I just stick with what works, and it works really well for me.”

Just after he signed on to fight the Bellator champion, Michael Chandler, Rickels found out his girlfriend was pregnant. I asked him what it was like evolving into a family man.

“I used my money from the Bellator tournament to buy a house. We just closed the deal on a house yesterday. I’m really excited about it. It will be where I raise a family. Man, Caveman the family guy. That’s something strange to think about.”

This unexpected development caused Rickels to cancel plans to move his training camp to American Kickboxing Academy in California, in favor of keeping his new family, and his training, closer to home.

“I train at Combative Sports Center in Manhattan Kansas. We have a lot of tough guys in that room. A lot of good wrestlers from Kansas. It’s a good room.”

How is the fight going to play out, July 31st in Rio Rancho?

“I’m gonna do a backflip and kick him him in the face and knock him out in the first ten seconds.”

“Honestly, I think it’s going to be a back and forth war. He’s a really tenatious guy. He doesn’t hold back. Neither to I. One of the things that I do better than a lot of people is I think I’m really good at rising to the occasion. If someone’s pushing me I’ll push back. This is a really interesting fight and I think it’s going to be great one.”

And how does he thank that Michael Chandler will prepare for the Caveman?

“Man I don’t know. He’s been pitching the first pitch at the Padres game, going to Comic Con, doing the VMA thing, the BET video awards, I don’t know what he’s been doing.”

Are you suggesting Chandler might be looking past you?

“I mean maybe. I don’t know. He doesn’t want to lose. He’s got a lot on the line, being the face of Bellator. I mean, I hope he’s looking past me, because when that first punch lands he’ll know he’s in a fist fight.”