James Terry takes a solid knee to the head but was able to come back and defeat Josh Hinkle for the
Welter Weight Championship belt in cage fighting action saturday night at the San Mateo Fairgrounds.
Two years ago, Ky Hollenbeck walked across the stage to pick up his high school diploma.
On Saturday, he walked into an entirely different arena — the San Mateo Event Center, which was hosting a Mixed Martial arts (MMA) event for the first time in city history. Fighting in the third match of Cage Combat Fighting’s "Undefeated,” a nine-card event, Hollenbeck looked impressive in a win over John Preston of San Mateo in the 170-pound weigh class. Hollenbeck, a Capuchino High graduate, won after making Preston tap out after placing an arm bar, pulling Preston’s left arm parallel to his body while placing both legs on top of Preston’s neck.
The submission came at 2 minutes, 8 seconds into the first round. Both fighters were making their pro debut. Once the referee signaled the match was over, a jubilant Hollenbeck jumped to his feet before climbing the fence and posing by flexing his biceps. The burly 5-foot-8 Hollenbeck felt like he was on top of the world.
"It’s kind of surreal,” he said. "I loved every bit of it. You feel real nervous entering the ring until it hits you that you’re doing what you love to do. When you hear everyone roaring and making noise, I couldn’t get the grin off my face.”
Other match winners included Evan Esgurrea, Daly City’s Kyle Rideau, Damien Douglas, Dominique Robinson, Joey Armstrong, Pacifica’s Bobby Slack, James Terry and Rolando Velasco, who defeated El Camino High and Skyline College product Darren Uyenoyama for the bantamweight (135 pound) championship.
Hollenbeck’s workplace isn’t for the faint of heart. Flanked by teammates and trainers, with music blaring over seven loudspeakers, Hollenbeck entered the octagon-shaped cage ring in front of a couple of hundred blood-thirsty fans looking for action. As he looks across the ring he stares at a man intent on beating the living daylights out of him. There are several people with cameras and camcorders standing on ladders on top of the ring recording Hollenbeck’s every move.
And once the fighters are ready to go, their teammates and trainers leave the stage, locking the door in the process. It’s two fighters and a referee in a Gladiator-type environment. Hollenbeck never thought he’d be in a place where all eyes were on him. Like millions of people across the world, Hollenbeck has been a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts for a while. Only recently has the sport exploded in popularity in the states, and that’s when Hollenbeck decided he wanted to give it a try.
After graduating from Capuchino in 2005, he spent a year at the University of Hawaii before the allure of MMA brought him back home. He trains at World Team U.S.A. in San Francisco and still lives in San Bruno. Hollenbeck, 20, has an impressive athletic pedigree.
He was an all-league linebacker and wrestler at Capuchino, took up kickboxing his sophomore year and Ju-Jitsu shortly thereafter. With his hair braided in corn rows and a couple of tattoos on his body, Hollenbeck has made a physical transformation as well. "A little tubby” in his teenage years, Hollenbeck has sculpted his body to look like a bodybuilder. He did it through rigorous training and strict dieting.
"You never get to eat what you want to eat,” he said. "If I have cheeseburger, I have to add some broccoli. That’s just the way it goes. But tonight makes all the hard work worth it.”
Hollenbeck describes himself as a standup fighter. He said it was only coincidence that his match was spent mostly on the ground.
"Sometimes that’s the way it works out,” he said. "It’s good because I want to make my ground game stronger.”
A minute into the match, Hollenbeck slammed Preston to the floor, and moments later, put in the arm bar to deliver the submission. As his arm was raised and his name was announced as the winner, Hollenbeck was in a haze. Once he got back to the locker room, he ran across the hall, jumping up and down, before calling one of his best friends in Idaho.
"I’m on cloud nine,” he said. "I feel like I’m in a dream.”
He was. Living one.