ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — John, Eric escaped rough surroundings to find pleasure in MMA cage
Esperanza Montemayer wanted her boys out of the war zone.
Now both love to fight.
In the late 1990s, she moved them from a crime-riddled southeast Albuquerque neighborhood to the Edgewood area, telling them the wide-open space would be good for them.
Now one makes his living in a cage and the other hopes to do the same.
And the million-dollar smiles always plastered on the faces of Eric Dodson, who fights on the undercard of Saturday’s Jackson’s MMA Series XI card at Tingley Coliseum, and brother John Dodson, a top-ranked UFC flyweight fighter, will tell you long before their words can that it was the best move that ever happened to their family.
“She said she enjoyed the open space, but really she wanted to bring us up a little different because there were gangs and stuff like that,” Eric Dodson, 27, said. “You could hear drive-bys and guns shots down where we lived. She didn’t want us getting into anything like that. It was good for us.”
The high-energy brothers – 28-year-old John is 18 months older than the 27-year-old Eric – enrolled at Moriarity High School and joined the wrestling team. They always looked out for one another, which hasn’t changed even now as both fight out of Albuquerque’s world-renowned Jackson-Winkejohn MMA gym.
John Dodson has gained worldwide celebrity in the mixed martial arts game, perhaps most notably for winning Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter in 2011. That propelled him onto the UFC stage, where he headlined in January the UFC on Fox 6 card. John lost a decision to flyweight champion Demetrius Johnson.
Eric Dodson, meanwhile, says he didn’t start getting serious about MMA until about three years ago, but he loves the sport. He’s 2-0 in a pair of amateur fights with his brother serving as his main coach, workout partner and mentor.
Saturday night against Thomas Mills (2-1), who fights with Perez Fighting Systems out of Belen, the younger Dodson is hoping to take the next step in the MMA world. As for when he turns pro, however, he’ll defer to the experts at Jackson-Winkeljohn.
“I’m leaving that in the hands of everyone else right now,” Eric said. “They see things I can’t see. They know when I need to work on this or that, and they know when I’m ready for a certain fight.”
To older brother John, who also coaches at Jackson’s between UFC fights (he’s eagerly awaiting word from UFC President Dana White about when he gets to fight again), it’s only a matter of time before younger brother joins him on the big stage.
“My brother wants our names in the same fight venue one day – like him fighting for the title and me on the same card fighting,” Eric said. “There’s a couple of brothers who are big names in the UFC. He wants the next ones to be the Dodson brothers.”
Says John, “I can see it happening – having both of us holding titles on a main event/co-main event deal. That’d be sick.”
That is if they don’t kill each other in training first.
“When we spar, we go at it,” John said. “It’s a fight. Everyone here gets around the cage and watches like it’s a pay-per-view.”
And throughout the workout, no matter how many strikes either lands or how rough it gets between the two – and it does get rough – you can never wipe the smile off either fighter’s face.
“Why not?” Eric fired back when asked why he’s always smiling. “It’s not like a facade or anything, it’s just something we do. It probably goes back to my mom trying not to let us know about troubled times – she’s a you-can’t-cry-over-spilled-milk type of woman, so you just laugh it off.
“And besides, you’re not expecting someone to punch you when they’re smiling.”
But there is one thing older brother says will wipe the smile off his face, and he said it better not happen Saturday night.
“If my brother ever loses, I’d go out there and beat the crap out of my brother and the dude who won,” John said. “My brother because he made me look bad, because I help him get ready for his fights. And the other dude because nobody beats up my brother besides me. That’s just how it is.”
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WHAT: Jackson’s MMA Series XI (12 fights (six professional, six amateur)
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Tingley Coliseum
TICKETS: Tickets available at box office or at holdmyticket.com ($20-$125)
ONLINE: Jackson’s MMA Series (link)