Five fighters from American Top Team-Beaumont will travel to Humble on Friday to compete in Cage Combat 9 Mixed Martial Arts at the Humble Civic Center. The first of 14 amateur fights are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Just a few tickets remain, and they can be purchased online at garciapromotions.com. For those who cannot make the trip, the fights will be streamed live online, and free of charge, on the Facebook page of The Cagesiders.
Of the five Beaumont fighters, one will fight for the last time as an amateur and one will make his cage debut.
The 20-year-old Ryan Spann (3-1) will headline the Cage Combat 9 card and fight Jared Perez (4-1) for the 170-pound Cage Combat title. This will also be Spann’s final amateur fight as he prepares to make his pro debut on July 7 in IXFA at Delta Downs.
“Ryan’s last two wins were really quick, so we were hoping to get him one good test before he turns pro,” said American Top Team-Beaumont head trainer Mike Berryhill. “His skill set has gone up, and this will be his first fight at 170 pounds. He’s super talented, so it’s time to test the waters.”
Making his fighting debut will be Greg Diaz, who is a partner and director of MRI at Radiology Associates. Diaz, 43, will fight someone who is 22 years younger and has an experience edge in Laville Simpson (4-3).
“I envy this guy,” said Berryhill about Diaz. “This is something he’s always wanted to do in his life. He’s put a ton of effort into training camp and even did extra one-on-one work. He’s very confident and has a competitive experience that many fighters lack.”
Diaz began wrestling at the age of 8 and carried the love of the sport into high school where he won a state title in freestyle wrestling and was named to the all-state team. He then attended Grand Valley State and competed for the wrestling team until it was disbanded after Title IX was implemented.
“First and foremost, my wife Kim has been very supportive,” said Diaz. “She was my high school sweetheart, but without her permission, I wouldn’t have begun this process to fight. She’s been a trooper. I did have some questions to ask myself before I dedicated myself to the fight. Was I too old? Would my body handle training camp? Can I find a good sponsor? Could I pass a physical and all the tests the state commission requires? And what promoter would take a 43-year-old guy and give him a fight? All those were answered and kudos to Eric Garcia of Garcia Promotions for giving me a chance.”
Diaz went on to mention his weight cut to 155 pounds hasn’t been tough. “When I was younger, it was last minute,” he said. “I have been on a very strict diet and had two months or so to prepare for it. It’s been a little tough to juggle business with my gym practices, but it all worked out.”
Diaz said he wasn’t concerned about stepping into the cage for the first time despite being untested in MMA. “I’ve been in high level stress scenarios,” said Diaz. “It’s a disadvantage for my opponent because he doesn’t know what I am going to do. I’ve seen several fight videos on him, so I know his tendencies.”
Josh Cooper, 32, will step back into the cage after nearly a year layoff with 1-1 record to fight Mike Dunn (0-1) at 135 pounds.“It’s good to see Josh back training hard and focused,” said Berryhill. “He’s been through a lot lately. Josh is a strong fighter who has explosive strength.”
Martin Walker looks to snap a two-fight losing streak and will take on undefeated Kody Williams (2-0), who is also a wrestling coach, at 145 pounds.
“This is Martin’s third opponent for this card because the first two guys pulled out,” said Berryhill. “Martin got into some trouble in his last fight, and he knows he’s his own worst enemy. If he just keeps it simple, good things will happen.”
Also fighting will be Tony Stolfa (1-0), who faces Edgar Juarez (2-1) at 145 pounds. “Tony has come along way,” added Berryhill. “He’s a very technical fighter with great kicks.”
Berryhill noted his American Top Team-Beaumont fighters will be competing against five different schools from Houston including 4 oz, Gracie Barra – The Woodlands, Paradigm, Twin Wolves and American Revolution.
“It’s us against them,” he said. “We want our guys to use their training and give it their best, and we hope to return to Beaumont 5-0.”