Updated: Oct 28, 2021
We mentioned earlier this week that the next ten days will quite possibly be the busiest week and a half in New England MMA history. With five, count em, five fight cards scheduled between tomorrow night; Combat Zone 74, Firday October 29th and CES 65 Sunday November 7th over 100 fighters, from seasoned professionals to aspiring debuters will grace New England's MMA cages over the next two weekends. Kicking off the fantasy week for New England MMA fans will be Combat Zone 74, Firday October 29th in Manchester, New Hampshire. UFC Featherweight contender; Calvin Kattar's Combat Zone MMA will make their first go around since the pandemic this Friday night from the Double Tree in downtown Manchester.
As Combat Zone 74 fight week began to approach we heard rumors that six of Friday evening's combatants all train under the same roof. Well that got the ole Full Contact Writer and Lars Borssen pretty intrigued, so we packed the car with computers, cameras and tripods and took the 90 minute journey from Southern Maine to Chestnut Street in Nashua, New Hampshire where New England MMA veterans Walter Smith-Cotito (5-6) and Joey Gomez (6-2) are currently housing the next breed of New England combat sports athletes at their gym Karasu Tengu Academy in the cities downtown.
We arrived at the conclusion of the evenings Kids Gi BJJ class, which quickly assured us that we were in the right spot, as we were met in the elevator by two gi clad mini warriors. We were greeted at the gym's door by Walter, with who we exchanged pleasantries as the mats began to fill up with athletes, looking to put the finishing touches on their Combat Zone 74 fight camps. We set up shop in the far corner of the gym and as the round timer began to sound and the sweat began to pour our cameras began to roll as we were able to capture the final moments of fight camp and a word with each of their Combat Zone 74 participants.
First off the mats and ready to make her second appearance inside the Combat Zone cage Friday night was Amateur Kickboxer Amanda Ferreira (1-0, Amateur Kickboxing). Amanda looks to follow up her debut Split-Decision over Sarah Lee Sudol at Combat Zone 70 in 2019 when she welcomes Carol Linn Powell (0-2 Amateur MMA, Nostos MMA) to the Combat Zone cage for the first time. This match up may sound familiar to some as these girls were set to throwdown in 2020 before the Pandemic hit. Amanda talked about her progression since the shut down and what it means to her to get back in the cage and show off all the hard work she has put in since the last time she entered the cage, just six weeks following the birth of her son.
Next we spoke with 20 year old debuting Amateur Kickboxing rookie Joe Peters (Amateur Debut), who after just over a year of training under the tutelage of Smith and Gomez will be making his first appearance inside the cage at Combat Zone 74. Peters welcomes fellow debuter Daniel Honeywell (Amateur Debut, Triumph BJJ) to the cage at a fight weight of 200 pounds this Friday night. Peters discusses testing his skills in all disciplines before hopefully making his MMA debut in the near future.
We then caught up with Jeff Reynolds (2-1) is he was wrapping up a sweat session to cut come extra pounds before his middleweight bout on Friday night against a very game Jideofor Ojukwu (2-1). Reynolds is currently the 3rd ranked amateur middleweight in the region in our most recent polls, and Reynolds is looking to continue climbing the rankings as he progresses towards his professional debut. Two big themes for Reynolds when we talked to him were "learning" and "growing". He's confident he'll have his hand raised at the end of his bout Friday night, but that will just be the icing on the cake, as he is more interested in challenging himself and becoming a better fighter when it's all said and done.
In one of the more entertaining interviews of the night, Connor "Buckets" Morrill (amateur debut) told us about his journey from first meeting Smith-Cotito at 250 pounds 3 years ago, to now making his amateur debut at 145 pounds. He talks about the familial atmosphere of the KTA gym, and how Walter, Joey, and his teammates have completed changed his life for the positive. Morrill went on to say that he "felt like he woke up and won the lottery", as it pertains to the coaches and teammates that entered his life. He may have a massive head tattoo, but Connor Morrill is a really chill dude that has a pretty special perspective on life.
Josh Sweeney will also be making his amateur kickboxing debut on Friday night when he takes on Salem, Massachusetts' Michael Ksander at 170 pounds. Sweeney has been fighting all his life, but have his skills groomed by professionals like Walter and Joey have put some framework to his pension for violence.
The last of the 6 fighters from KTA who will be stepping into the cage on Friday night at Combat Zone 74 will be Michael Jolicouer. He'll also be making his amateur kickboxing debut, as he takes on fellow debutant, Liam McNeil.
We'd be remised to not get a word with the founder of KTA before we left, so we grabbed Walter Smith-Cotito after he was done grappling with Julian Menjivar, who'll be making his amateur debut at NEF 45 in a week. Never short for words, Smith-Cotito talked about the evolution of his gym from a year ago when he had a handful of students, to now having 60+ in his stable. With the growth in students comes a demand for more space, and KTA has plans to move a few floors up in the same building to a 5,000 square foot space that will provide the adequate space for his understudies to train.
Smith-Cotito and Gomez have built a pretty special gym in Nashua, and you can tell they are doing something right after speaking with a handful of members from their fight team. There's was an energy in the room that was palpable, and we are truly excited to see the fruits of their labor come to fruition Friday night at Combat Zone 74. NEMMA will have all of your live play-by-play updates from the event, so make sure you check back.
You can find Karasu Tengu Academy at 1 Chestnut St in Nashua, New Hampshire. Check out their website, and make sure you swing in for a class or two when you're in the area. Tell them NEMMA sent you.