By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer
Ending his class at American Karate Studios, Markanthony Baca charges his students to display good sportsmanship and to stay out of trouble during the upcoming cage fight Saturday night at the Curry County Fairgrounds.
Part of the proceeds from the fight will go to Clovis’ American Red Cross. This will be the fifth fight Baca has hosted in Clovis.
“Every time I do a show, I always give back to the community, whether it be a youth-development program, American Red Cross,” Baca said. “I do these for my fighters to raise funds for our training, but also for non-profit organizations in the community.”
The fights are made up of three three-minute rounds and mix multiple martial arts, including boxing, kickboxing, grappling, karate, tae kwon do and jujitsu.
“People think it’s a brutal, harsh, uncontrolled sport,” Baca said. “In reality, it’s a very controlled, highly structured, organized sport. This is the only avenue that I found I can reach out to troubled youth or young adults to help channel their energy in a positive manner.”
Baca said many of his students and fighters used to be involved in gangs, but must stay out of trouble with the law to stay in the studio.
Willie “Shadow” Scott, a former gang member and one of the fighters, has been training six nights a week for eight months at either the studio or its branch in Muleshoe.
“This school taught me discipline, shows you how to respect people,” Scott said. “Everybody brings something to the table.”
During the fights, the cage fighters wear four-ounce gloves, mouthpieces and groin protectors.
Although Baca has students younger than 18, they cannot fight without parental consent. Several minors have fought previously before state laws prohibited them from fighting.
“When I first got in, I was only 16 for my first fight,” said 17-year-old Dennis Meaes, Baca’s top student.
Meaes has participated in two of the fights, but had to stop six months ago because of the new laws. Meaes also teaches at the studios in Clovis and Muleshoe.
Baca said 24 fighters from out of town will participate. Doors open on Saturday at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $20 at the studio or $25 at the door.
“I’ve heard from many people many times that were skeptical about cage fighting, but when they come to our show (they) come tell me how impressed they were with the fighters and what the show was about,” Baca said.