MMA NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS from TalonMarks on Vimeo.
Bellator MMA fighter Tito Ortiz was looking to give back to Cerritos College and its wrestling team when he attended MMA fundraiser event, “Night of Champions” on Friday in the Cerritos College Falcons Gymnasium.
The event featured 15 fights, three of them championship fights, and other guests such as Rampage Jackson and Emmanuel Newton.
Ortiz said, “I’m here because of my love for wrestling and to give back to Cerritos College. That’s what it’s about, giving back.”
Hosted by former Cerritos College wrestler Antonio McKee, the MMA fundraiser for the wrestling team was teeming with people seated in the stands and ringside with tables and chairs, surrounding the octagon cage that was filled with amateur fighters.
The event got off to a quick start with the first match ending in submission and subsequent fights ending in unanimous decisions as former Cerritos College wrestlers and aspiring professional and amateur fighters entertained the crowd.
Former Cerritos College wrestler competing in the event, Tyler Smith, said, “I think this event is great. I think it’s a great way to make money.”
He said about competing, “I was a little nervous because I used to wrestle here and it’s hard to go out there and perform as well you normally would when your coaches and friends are watching, but I loved seeing everybody here.”
The fights were competitive as submissions were applied and jabs and kicks were unleashed with initiative.
Some fights ended in knockouts and one fight ended with one of the fighters being wheeled out on a stretcher.
Ortiz said that he enjoyed the atmosphere overall.
“The fights are good,” he said. “It’s good to see guys getting in there and putting on a show. Nobody in the world works harder than wrestlers.”
Cody Bollinger, another former Cerritos College wrestler, made an appearance at the event and will be featured in the upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
“I grew up in this gym and wrestled here in college,” Bollinger said. “It feels good to just relax here and have a good time. The fights are fun to watch.”
During intermission, Ortiz and Jackson addressed the crowd to further promote their upcoming Bellator fight Nov. 2, but ultimately it was Ortiz who shared a message on how wrestling saved his life.
“I actually came here to workout a lot after I graduated (from) college and get ready for my fights with the Cerritos College wrestling team and head coach Don Garriott,” Ortiz said.
“You see MMA now and far it has grown, you have to give love for wrestling. Wrestling is what got a lot of us like myself and Rampage (Jackson) to where we are today.”
As the event continued, the last match garnered mild attention from the crowd as the championship fight’s result had a last-minute decision change, as announcer McKee read the results incorrectly.
Undecided major Lily Leyva said, “A lot of people were actually mad, both on the winner’s side and the loser’s side because they were both really confused on what (was) going on, so the only reaction they had left was to be frustrated.
“A lot of people were afraid something was going to break out, but obviously nothing happened.”
Levya noted that the crowd overall responded positively to the night’s event and with herself being an MMA fan, she was excited about the night.
“When I first heard (about) it, I yelled out with excitement because MMA is a very big part of who I used to be and still am,” she said. “The fights were really good. I got to see the fights up close, so it was really amazing.”
Freshman wrestler Christian Sanders and sophomore wrestler Dylan Clarke both enjoyed the event and believe it will provide a boost for the wrestling program.
“It was definitely worth it to have a fundraiser for the team and do something really interesting and have people come,” Clarke said.
Sanders said, “I feel like more people will want to go to our (wrestling) events. I think it’s great that the money will help the team.”
After three years without a gym, coach Garriott says that fundraising abilities were limited and that this event will help with their finances.
In addition to the success that the event brought, there are plans to continue it in the future.
Garriott said, “We’re hoping we can try and run these maybe three times a year. Space it out and organize it a little differently and involve some of the other athletic programs on campus to sell tickets and make money.
“I could definitely see one happening in the spring and in the future get it down to maybe twice a semester.”
McKee added, “This was a success, we’ll absolutely do it again.”