BURBANK, CALIF.-The world’s best kickboxers led by Tyrone Spong and Ray Sefo are bringing mixed martial arts to Southern California.
Yes, you heard it right. MMA.
A roundtable of fighters gathered in Burbank on Tuesday, literally right next door to the studios were President Barack Obama was visiting. The World Series of Fighting organization scheduled a lunch but had no idea the most powerful man in the world was barreling through with an army of Secret Service agents and law enforcement officials.
Sefo, Spong, Nick Newell and famed Cuban boxing trainer Pedro Diaz arrived at Morton’s Steakhouse in Burbank to discuss WSOF 4 that’s taking place Saturday Aug. 10, at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario. NBC will televise.
It was an informal gathering of fight writers and fighters at the famous eatery where ironically UFC holds a lot of their press luncheons.
Spong, the multi-talented fighter in various combat styles spoke at length about his interest in not only MMA and kickboxing, but also in professional boxing. He’s now being tutored in boxing by the great Cuban trainer who also works with world champion junior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux and heavyweight contender Odlanier Diaz.
One of the fight writers called Thong “the Bo Jackson” of combat sports because of his ability to participate and excel in various fight regimens.
“I consider it a real honor,” said Spong about the label. “I want to accomplish something that I think is special.”
Spong (1-0) is tangling with Angel Deanda (11-2) an MMA fighter from Northern California. Don’t be confused by his record. The fighter from Suriname has more than 70 fights and more than one world title.
Growing up with several sisters and his mom, Spong was forced to be the protector of the family though he was quite young and small. Then he grew.
“Cause I was so small, I took no s*** . I had pretty sisters. I was defending their honor,” said Spong who now weighs more than 200 pounds.
Now Spong lives in Boca Raton, Florida and trains in every aspect of fighting. The different fighting sports do not confuse him.
“I’m a good actor,” Spong said. “I can see something and copy it.”
Despite a language barrier Diaz and Spong work daily on his boxing.
“He’s the best boxing trainer in the world,” says the kickboxing champion. “He’s a perfectionist.”
There’s only one drawback…getting up at 5 a.m. every morning is a Diaz requirement.
Ironically, one of his heroes growing up was Sefo who was well aware of Spong even before he was a champion.
“When I first met him (Soong) in Holland it was an honor for me,” Sefo said. “I only heard good thing about him. He was 18 or 19 then.”
Sefo is the president of WSOF but he stepped down to prepare for his 101st and final fight in the U.S.
“To be honest, the first four weeks of training were really tough,” said Sefo who dropped nearly 20 pounds since training began. “Anything can happen no matter how ready you are. I put in the time and put in the sacrifices.”
Opposing the multi-champion and member of the Hall of Fame will be Dave Huckaba (20-5), an MMA fighter with a reputation for striking.
“We’ll play it by ear,” Sefo (2-1) says.
Newell, a former wrestling standout, will also be on the card and is anxious to perform against Keon Caldwell, a former The Ultimate Fighter participant.
“I watched every show,” Newell said.
And speaking of the President. Newell says he once spoke to the Chief.
“Well, I got a text from him,” Newell said.
Others on the fight card are Tyson Griffin vs. Gesias Calvalcante, Jorge Santiago vs. Gerald Harris, Marlon Moraes vs. Brandon Hempleman, and several other bouts.
Doors open Saturday at 4 p.m. at Citizens Business Bank Arena with ticket prices all $29.