Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Fierce Fighting Championship’s first show in Tooele on Saturday.
The card, billed as the “Thrilla in Tooele,” drew a large crowd to the Deseret Peak Complex for its 10 fights. And, perhaps best of all, the three fighters from Tooele Martial Arts Academy — Andrew “Boomer” Arellano, Austin Strehle and Zac Cavender — all won impressively in front of their hometown fans.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing,” Strehle said. “It’s probably the best feeling I’ve had since winning my home (wrestling) tournament at Tooele High School. Boy, does it feel amazing.”
Strehle overcame an early knockdown to beat St. George fighter Dusty McLeod by unanimous decision in their amateur bout.
“I knew he was going to be throwing haymakers and overhand rights,” Strehle said. “It’s the survival of the fittest. Whatever he was going to throw at me, I just had to adapt to it.”
Strehle said he will be moving to Las Vegas to train with some of the top professional MMA fighters in the world.
“There’s really not many people in Utah to fight me,” Strehle said. “Vegas is a bigger fishbowl for people to fight me, and I fight for a living, so if I don’t fight, I don’t eat. It’s a tough ballgame for me, so I have to find a way to keep eating and keep living.”
Arellano, making his mixed martial arts debut after winning the state Brazilian jiu-jitsu championship, was impressive in his victory over Johnny Gallardo, winning by rear naked choke at the 2:24 mark of the first round.
“There was a lot of energy out there,” Arellano said. “It was awesome having my family there to support me.”
Cavender captured the FFC’s 205-pound amateur championship belt with a devastating victory over Logan-based fighter Justin Oswald, with the fight coming to a half 2:52 into the first round. Cavender got Oswald up against the chain-link lining the inside of the octagon and delivered several crushing kicks, including one that caught Oswald low and caused a brief delay as trainers attended to him. Once Oswald recovered enough to continue the fight, Cavender continued his onslaught.
“It was a lot of pressure, but it was nice seeing everyone I’m close to, whether it’s at work, at home or at the gym,” Cavender said. “It was a really surreal feeling. Everything went exactly to plan.”
Cavender said after the hard work that went into training for his first hometown fight, he is looking forward to taking some time off.
“I was at (training) as much as I was at work or I was at home,” Cavender said. “It was an expectation to bring the belt home. It wasn’t a maybe — it was go out there and get your belt. I’m going to take the winter off, eat some nice food and be at home for once.”
The professional card was highlighted by Antonio Arroyo’s head kick that knocked out Trevor Carlson just 19 seconds into the main event. David Putvin beat Cy Nelson by submission at the 1:30 mark of the first round of the co-main event, while Nate Kearsley defeated former Utah Valley University wrestling teammate Tanner Cowan by majority decision — one judge scored the bout a 29-29 draw while the other two scored it 29-28 in Kearsley’s favor.
In the other amateur bouts, Dominico Salas stopped Mark Watson at the 2:25 mark. Spencer Olson beat Jeff Turville by TKO 17 seconds into their fight, while Marc Chavez beat Gauthier Vimbert by unanimous decision. Aaron Thomson stopped Ali Farkar in their amateur title bout.