ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A century ago, construction began on the Albuquerque Rail Yards in the Barelas neighborhood south of Downtown.
On May 10, the old blacksmith shop at the long-abandoned Rail Yards will play host to a 21st-century sport: an all-amateur card staged by Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts.
Ricky Kottenstette, Jackson’s general manager, said he first envisioned a card at the Rail Yards when he attended the grand opening of the renovated blacksmith shop in September.
The city of Albuquerque purchased the Rail Yards for $8.5 million in 2007. Renovation and development of the sprawling, 27-acre property is part of Mayor Richard Berry’s “ABQ The Plan,” which he submitted in 2010.
“A light switch went off,” Kottenstette said Tuesday at a news conference, “(seeing) that this facility was super unique and super cool. So, it only made sense to throw a fight in there, with the history of it.”
Kottenstette plans seating for 1,000 fans, not enough for an installment of Jackson’s MMA Series. Those events typically have had amateur fights, as well as pro fights, but Kottenstette said fighters have been turning pro faster than new athletes can be introduced into the sport.
Thus, the Protégés Series was conceived. The May 10 event will be the first; Kottenstette said he’s planning to stage another at the same venue in the fall.
“We’re really working on the next level of guys, to get them ready (for the professional ranks),” he said. “That’s what the Protégés Series is all about.”
The main event matches Albuquerque’s Ricky Esquibel against Chris Brewer of Alamosa, Colo., in a rematch of a fight won by Esquibel by first-round submission on a Jackson MMA Series card in 2012.
Tickets ($35-$75, plus service fee) are available at holdmyticket.com.
TUF STUFF: Who doesn’t like a good grudge match?
Tonight’s The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale in Quebec City has one of the best.
Austin, Texas, middleweight Tim Kennedy, who trains in Albuquerque at Jackson-Winkeljohn, faces Englishman Michael Bisping in the main event.
The two don’t get along.
Yes, you could say that.
At a news conference Monday, Bisping (24-5) went nose to nose with Kennedy and launched a tirade that, while inaudible, appeared to include a series of expletives. Kennedy (17-4), who said little in reply, appeared to find the exchange amusing.
“He ain’t going to be (bleeping) laughing Wednesday night,” Bisping shouted.
Later, on his Twitter feed, Bisping posted the following: “So (Kennedy) talks all this (expletive) on the Internet but doesn’t have the (courage) to say a single word to my face.#keyboardwarrior.”
Well, he’s a YouTube warrior, too.
Kennedy has posted an animated cartoon portraying himself as a pirate about to storm Bisping’s castle.
“Incoherent and bitter and slimy is he,” the pirate says of Bisping. “He’ll spit on your corner and hits like a bitch. … Scratches your eyes, he’s a meat-biscuit dish.”
All in good fun, right?
If Kennedy was trying to get Bisping really, really mad, he appears to have succeeded. But Bisping is an angry fighter to begin with, having taken 14 of his 24 career victories via knockout or TKO.
“He’s going to eat my left hand all night long,” Bisping told mmajunkie. “… I’m going to knee him in the face, I’m going to kick him in the face, and I’m going (to) knock that smug look off his face.”
If anything fazes Kennedy, a former U.S. Army Ranger, it doesn’t show.
“I fight emotionless,” he told mmajunkie. “When we’re in the cage, I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do.
“I’m going to hit hard, always look for the takedown and always look for the submission.”
The two again exchanged unpleasantries at Tuesday’s weigh-in. This time, Kennedy appeared to match Bisping trash talk for trash talk – but never lost that smile.
Australian welterweight Kyle Noke (20-6-1), Kennedy’s Jackson-Winkeljohn teammate, faces Quebec’s Patrick Cote (19-8) on tonight’s card.