Mixed Martial Arts: Jemez Pueblo fighter to make pro debut Saturday

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By Mike Cote

From the deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to the cage, the past few weeks has been something of a whirlwind for Victor Masayesva.

Masayesva, originally from Jemez Pueblo, will make his mixed martial arts debut Saturday at the Rage in the Cage.

The Rage in the Cage, which takes place at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, has 19 MMA fights scheduled for Saturday night. Bouts start at 7:30 p.m.

Masayesva is on the undercard. He will face Albuquerque’s Jesse Jallamio in the 145-pound weight class.

Masayesva flew into Albuquerque Thursday night from Norfolk, Va., home port of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“I feel pretty good,” Masayesva said. “This is my first fight. I got back from deployment. I spent most of my deployment in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Masayesva, who entered the United States Navy in 2006, got involved in MMA training during his time aboard the Eisenhower, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier that’s one of the largest warships in the world.

“It has always interested me, but I didn’t start doing any training until 2007,” Masayesva said. “I liked the training.”

His training aboard the vessel started mostly as a way to stay busy during his downtime, learning the art of Muay Thai. He eventually started studying Brazilian Ju Jitsu, which he said “was a big stress reliever.”

His studying and training went well enough for him to start considering taking part in an actual MMA bout.

Physical sports have long been an interest for Masayesva. He started wrestling his freshman year of high school at Jemez Valley.

Eventually, Masayesva would move on to Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, where he continued wrestling at the prep level. He graduated from Del Norte in 2005.

Masayesva doesn’t know much about his opponent Jallamio. Only about a month ago did Masayesva even learn his opponent’s name.

The competition isn’t his biggest concern heading into Saturday’s bout, though.

“I want to win, but I want the experience,” he said. “I want to see what it’s like to fight. It will give me something to look back on…This fight is for the experience right now.”

Masayesva’s naval commitment will end in early 2010.

At that time, he said, he should have a better idea if he wants to pursue MMA more fully as a gainful employment option.

He should have a decent cheering section for himself Saturday. About 10 of his friends and family members are planning on attending his fight and another five or six have expressed interest in going as well.

Despite his service in the Persian Gulf, Masayesva admits he’s starting to feel some jitters heading into Saturday’s event.

“I wasn’t nervous until my family and friends starting talking about it,” he said. “Last week, it finally hit me that ‘wow, I’ve got a fight next week.’”

The Rage in the Cage will have co-main events Saturday, with Freddy Sandoval Jr. of Albuquerque taking on Ultimate Fighting Championship circuit veteran Drew Fickett at 185 pounds and Albuquerque’s Eric McElroy taking on UFC’s Edwin Dewees at 215 pounds.

Several New Mexico fighters will take on fighters from Arizona Saturday in featured bouts. The event is being billed as a regional championship between the two states.