This is Part 2 of a 3-Part Series Exploring the growth of MMA in the Coachella Valley
By Julie Buehler
On July 20th, The Show at Agua Caliente played host to the biggest MMA fight card in the Coachella Valley. The Up ‘N Comers, or UPC, showcased local talent and budding stars, from first-time pro and Palm Desert High School graduate, Jamie Sierra, to Everett Cummings, both of whom were victorious in their UPC debuts.
UPC president, Jason Weiner, sees a future for more MMA shows at The Show and recognizes the value of having local talent featured as well as the explosive growth of the sport bringing much needed revenue to the valley.
“I think it’s great for the local area,” Weiner said. “Here you have someone close to the community competing in their own community… The type of facility is what drew me (to the desert). Agua is a first-class facility.”
And while it’s easy to see the impact a larger show like UPC has on the local economy, from hotel sales, to food sales and all the tourism dollars, it’s even easier to see the impact the sport has on individual lives it touches.
Everett Cummings fought in UPC 16 at Agua, but his sister, Sunshine Galindo, fights daily to leave a recent divorce in her past. Galindo takes classes from Tru MMA in Indio and owner Mike Mirelez because she found her training not only helped her cardiovascular endurance, but also her heart mend. “It’s great stress relief,” Galindo said. “I love it. I know I can take it all out on the bag.”
While Galindo found MMA to relieve stress early in her process, 27-year-old Alex Natividad took a little longer to find the sport.
Natividad was 5’5” 250 pounds. His mom called him a balloon with arms, but the former Army vet who spent a year in Sadr City, Iraq was languishing in depression and anger and couldn’t find a way to cope. When an attempted suicide was unsuccessful, a caring friend told him to give MMA a try, to release his inner angst. Alex found Tru MMA and did just that. He’s now fighting at 155 pounds, has a 4-2 record and says not only did MMA save his life, but it gave him one.
“MMA gave me direction, passion, emotionally, physically,” Natividad said. “It boosted my confidence. I want others to see the same.”
His most recent fight was on that same Up N Comers card that battled on July 20. It could be his final amateur fight as he makes his decision to move forward in the sport or he may take some time to continue learning, regardless, Alex is living a dream of his and thankful for being alive, “I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing,” he said.
I walked into Tru MMA, owned by Mirelez and UFC fighter Cub Swanson, on a warm weeknight to find 11 kids practicing their Jiu Jitsu. 3 little girls and 8 little guys. The dad of 10-year-old Ellisa, Ricardo Jimenez, said this training has been a valuable learning process for his daughter and as a long-time MMA fan, he recognizes the impact it can have on her future.
“It’s good for her to develop skills, self-defense, discipline… and she can shield herself from danger later on in life,” Jimenez said. “When she goes to college, she’s already protected.”
Whether it’s saving lives, sculpting lives or helping kids develop positive life skills, the growth of MMA is no wonder, and in many ways, simply wonderful.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 1-4 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 1-4 pst at www.team1010.com or watch the show on Ustream.