UPDATE: John Castañeda choked out Kevin Moreyra in the first round, defeated Marc Gomez Sariol in round two by unanimous decision, but lost a decision to Levy Saúl Marroquín Salazar in the finals last Saturday night. Castaneda was quick on his feet as he out struck his opponents. Castaneda appeared to win two out of three rounds against Salazar in the finals but the judges awarded Salazar’s aggressive style over Castaneda’s higher volume of scoring.
Minnesota’s John “The Sexi Mexi” Castaneda (14-2) of The Academy will face Peru’s Kevin “EL Frio” Moreyra (4-1) in the opening round of Saturday nights historic one night, eight man bantamweight tournament. Combate Americas presents the action which takes place in Cancun, Mexico and can be seen live on the NBC Sports Network and Telemundo.
Castaneda is cruising into tomorrow night’s tournament on a nine fight win streak. The flashy bantamweight ground out a three round unanimous decision over Hawaii’s then undefeated Cheyden Leialoha-Quiocho (6-1) this past August. Castaneda fell behind after the first round but dug deep to pound his Hawaiian opponent over the next two rounds. The fight was a featured bout on Dana White’s fourth installment of the UFC’s Contender Series. Many wondered, including Castaneda if a win would earn him a UFC contract.
“I was wondering myself if I had done enough to earn a contract” said Castaneda. “A lot of guys that have earned contracts finish fights. It’s rare to see a guy get a contract without a finish. I was happy enough to get the win. But leading up to that fight, four weeks out, I had an injury which kind took a toll on me mentally. And I guess physically because I wasn’t in the kind of shape that I normally am. I got really tired in that fight. Like I said, I had an injury four weeks out. After recuperating, two weeks out I had the same injury. It really put a damper on my training camp and on my conditioning. If you watch me fight, I’m never tired in the first round. But I got tired that first round. I was able to fight through the adversity and get the win. That is obviously the most important thing. So I don’t even think I earned a contract. Immediately following the fight, Combate Americas was reaching out. They offered me a contract that I am super happy with. Super good compensation that’s keeping me very active. I’ll be fighting once every 90 days. That’s very active. That’s just the minimum so possibly even more. So I am very happy with were I am right now.”
Castaneda is well prepared as he represents the United States in Copa Combate on Saturday night. Training camp appears to be top notch this time around. To win the cup and bring home the grand prize of $100,000, Castaneda’s skills and endurance will be put to the test. The winner will have won three fights by the end of the night. As Castaneda explained to Minnesota Fight News, the last time a mixed martial arts tournament like this took place was most likely back in 1993 when the Ultimate Fighting Championships held it’s first 8 man show.
“It’s basically like old school UFC” said Castaneda. “It’s super cool because we haven’t see anything like this in mixed martial arts in a really long time. I would say the last time this happened was back when the UFC put on the eight man tournaments. And actually Campbell McLaren, the CEO and founder of Copa Combate Americas was a co-founder of the UFC and also initiated those eight man tournaments back in the day. So I think it’s cool that he is looking to bring that back, and I think it’s going to work. It’s intriguing for not only fighters, but fight fans. There are eight fighters, each representing one Latin American country. To win the whole thing, you have to win three fights. The first fight is one, five minute round. The second round of fights is three, three minute rounds. The last fight is a regular three, five minute rounds. That’s almost thirty minutes of fighting if all three fights were to go the distance. I expect to win this tournament, and expect to win that $100,000 grand prize. But I don’t expect to fight for the full thirty minutes!”
Combate Americas recently released the brackets for the tournament. Castaneda will face Kevin ‘El Frio’ Moreyra (4-1) of Lima, Peru in his opening bout. Moreyra fought at featherweight (146) in his last bout and currently has a three fight win streak going. At the time of our interview, Castaneda did not know who he would be facing in the opening round but talked about a few of the other fighters he could be facing if he advances.
“I know that they have fighters from Argentina, Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and I’ll be representing the US. We had some promotional stuff that I attended so I’ve been able to meet some of the other guys. One fighter I know is Ricky Palacios, who’s also one of the guys who’s been with Combate Americas from the get go. He trails my win record by one fight in Combate Americas. I am 6-0 and he is 5-0. I’m on a 9 fight win streak and he is on a 7. Some other tough guys are Marc Gomez from Spain. And then Marcelo Rojo of Argentina. Those guys are top guys, top level talent. It’s going to be a tough tournament. I do know that I was seeded number one. So the top four guys are seeded and the other four will be wild card fighters will be picked out of a hat.”
“Tune in to Telemundo for all you Spanish speakers out there. And NBC Sports on November 11 in Cancun, Mexico. I want to give a huge shout out to my coaches here at The Academy. Coach Greg Nelson, Andy Grahn, Nat McIntyre. All my training partners here at The Academy for helping me prepare.”
The $100,000 tournament combatants:
John ‘Sexi Mexi’ Castaneda (14-2) of Mankato, Minnesota
Marcelo ‘Pitbull’ Rojo (12-4) of Cordoba, Argentina
Carlos ‘Lobo’ Rivera (10-2) of Mexico City, Mexico
Mikey ‘El Terrible’ Erosa (12-5) of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Marc ‘Lufo’ Gomez (20-10) of Barcelona, Spain
Andres ‘Doble A’ Ayala (11-4) of Bogota, Colombia
Kevin ‘El Frio’ Moreyra (4-1) of Lima, Peru
Ricky ‘El Gallero’ Palacios (9-1) of Mission, Texas