Munoz wins battle of hometown fighters
     2016-02-26      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Gering native Joey Munoz triumphs over Mitch ‘DaMachine’ Peterson in MMA action at the Scotts Bluff  
Mitch “DaMachine” Peterson and Joey Munoz were two hometown fighters trying to tear each other’s head off Saturday night at the Scotts Bluff Fairgrounds Event Center.

Too bad there had to be a winner and loser in this Mixed Martial Arts match of 155-pounders. The deafening cheers made it difficult to tell who had more fans among the hundreds who bought $20-$30 tickets. In the end, within in a few minutes of the second of a scheduled five-round match (five minutes per round) to be precise, the referee raised Munoz’s hand after he got Peterson to submit. The culprit? A rear naked chokehold, said Peterson, who admitted making a few split-second errors leading up to the final moments.

“I did some things great and wrong,” Peterson said. “I did things I don’t normally do. I planned to stay relaxed and stay off the ground, and not let him gain control on his feet or on the ground.... When everything is going a hundred miles, mistakes add up.”

Technically the fight wasn’t a fight, but instead, a main event exhibition. Munoz weighed in at one pound over on Friday, a day ahead of the match, willing to incur justice meted out by the Legion Combat Sports, including vacating the title. Still, Peterson, who was 154.2 pounds at weigh-in, accepted the match unwilling to disappoint fans who waited months for the two to finally come together.

Their paths had crossed before, while at training camps, and when Peterson had gone to see Munoz’s pro debut.

Both are still trying to prove themselves in LCS, comparable to like organizations with smaller pools of fighters who are not necessarily divided by states or regions, though states in some instances, apply different rules. Nebraska, for example, allows knees and elbows to the head, but only while the fighters are on their feet. Some of the fighters on the 14-bout card Saturday travelled from as far as New York, Florida, and New Mexico. It’s a long road to joining other fighters among the nationally ranked folk heroes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC and Legion Combat is as good a place to start as any.

Peterson, 29, whose record as a professional is now 2-3 (21-8 overall) fights out of the Panhandle MMA gym on East Overland in Scottsbluff.
“I fought at 145, 155, and 170 pounds, but I’m most comfortable at 155,” Peterson said. “Finding the right weight was trial and error. I had to cut down to 145. Spent a lot of time and work, instead of training.
People cut 20-30 pounds, you have two events. One day you have to beat the scale, and the next day, you’re trying to beat the guy.”

In October, Peterson grappled overseas in Turkey, failing to earn a Team USA tourney title in international competition. Admittedly, for the match against Munoz, he said he was shaking off some cage rust. “A lot of the techniques are different on the ground,” he said. “Making some moves aren’t worth it.”

Meanwhile, Munoz who will be 24 on June 25, improved his record to 6-1 in professional fights, and 18-2 overall. A 2010 graduate of Gering High School, he wrestled for four years, mostly under coach Jimmie Rhodes, who is now the athletic director and head football coach for Mitchell High School.

Munoz trains out of Final Round Athletics on Broadway in Scottsbluff since his introduction to MMA in 2010. He won his first professional bout over Joey Guerra from Denver, Colo., in March 2013, when he wrested the 145-pound weight class belt from Guerra after a unanimous decision.

On Saturday, Munoz felt confident. He said he prepared for the fight like he would any other. “We were able to counter anything,” he said. “Though, I was a little lapse in training camp, I could have worked harder. I learned from my mistake. … (The match) went how I thought it would go. I feel I can beat most of my opponents. I felt good. I had heard they (Peterson’s camp) were really working on jiu-jitsu. It felt good to beat them in their strong suit.”

Right now, Munoz plans to take off a few months before he gets back to training. He said he has his sights set on a few opponents, and he’d like to schedule a fight as soon as possible, but it’s a matter of talking to promoters. “I’m looking to get back to Colorado, where I can expand more,” he said.

Planning for an event in Casper, Wyo., this May, Legion Combat organizers and local businessmen Geno Bolger, Shawn Heil, and Jason Marlin are unique promotors according to Peterson. “They reinvest in their product,” said Peterson, who is looking to get back to the gym in mere weeks, and would like to get on the card in Casper.

Peterson recalls a LCS-sanctioned fight in a gym 10 years ago when someone was flipping the light switches to create a strobe effect. These days, spotlights and strobes, along with top-notch sounds systems blasting classic rock and percussion filled club music fill the atmosphere. “Legion has changed it into a show,” Peterson said.

The local draw Saturday filled the event center to capacity. “This was a new experience,” Munoz said. “This type of event makes more people want to come out. The fight was talked about for a long time. Now that it finally happened, it helps the community. Competition is great for this valley. It breathes life into it again.”

Saying he is grateful for the undying support of his family and friends, Peterson added, “For me, I think it’s because everybody knows everybody else in this community. When you see somebody putting time in the gym. You see them around town. You see all that work come together in one night. We know each other. That’s what separates west Nebraskans from other fans.”

The match was announced in January, and according to organizers sold out within a matter of a few weeks.

“We have dedicated fans. People love the sport. The bigger the show, the more people are going to see it,” Peterson said.

There was talk of this fight years ago. Munoz and Peterson were on different paths climbing up the ranks in Colorado.

“I would love to see him again. We also need to figure that out,” Peterson said. “It’s a little more personal. I don’t like to lose. There’s always someone big, and badder, but I don’t think it’s him. I love winning, and learning. I learned Saturday. I didn’t get beat, but I lost.”

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