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Kirtland airman is among up-and-comers at MMA card

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Darrell Macklind is one of 20 amateur fighters on Saturday's Jackson's MMA Series card. (Courtesy Of Will Fox/Thefoxidentity.Com)

Air Force Staff Sgt. Darrell Macklind is one of 20 amateur fighters on Saturday’s Jackson’s MMA Series card. (Courtesy Of Will Fox/Thefoxidentity.Com)

It took about a week for Staff Sgt. Darrell Macklind to walk without pain after his first workout at the Jackson-Winkeljohn professional gym in Southeast Albuquerque about a year ago.

The 29-year-old from Chicago, a member of the 377th Medical Group stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, got his welcome to big-time mixed-martial arts during a quick sparring session with UFC star Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

“I was nervous coming here the first time and next thing I know I’m going with ‘Cowboy’ and trying to land some jabs or whatever,” Macklind said. “It was nothing to him. He just kept getting me with these leg kicks. I was so sore for like a week. … That’s what’s great about training here. You look around and everyone here is so good. They make you better all the time.”

Such is life for those lucky enough to get the OK to train in the professional gym at Jackson’s, which is backing Saturday night’s 10-fight Jackson’s MMA Series “Protégés” event at the Rail Yards in the historic Barelas neighborhood near Downtown Albuquerque.

Macklind (2-0), one of 20 amateurs on the fight card, will fight Jose Cueto (4-1), who trains out of Roswell.

“I don’t know much about him, but I’m excited to be on this card,” Macklind said. “My last two fights have been out of town, so this allows an opportunity for the military people to come out and see me fight.”

Jackson-Winkeljohn’s general manager Ricky Kottenstette, who is setting up the event in the Rail Yards, says some fighters on Saturday’s card are on their way up the MMA ranks.

“I think there are some of these guys you might see go pro after this next fight,” Kottenstette said. “For some of them, this is just for us to see again what they look like and they’re close (to being ready to fight professionally) anyway. This could be the deciding factor, their performance on Saturday night.”

Macklind wrestled and played baseball in high school, but admits as a wrestler he “wasn’t very good.” He enlisted in the Air Force out of high school. Some 11 years later and two years ago, after learning jujitsu while being stationed in Mitsawa, Japan, he was assigned to Albuquerque. He had an interest in training at Jackson’s immediately.

He said fighters like Isaac Vallie-Flag and Joey Villasenor, in particular, have helped him along the way in recent months.

“(Villasenor), he’s taught me a lot,” Macklind said. “When I first got here, I didn’t know how to throw a punch. I couldn’t do anything. He’s kind of took me under his wing and he’s taught me a lot.”

Whether or not his training at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s turns into a professional career, Macklind said he has no plans to leave the military anytime soon.

He said it’s a safe bet many of his Kirtland colleagues and friends will show up to support him Saturday night. Many of those same supporters are the ones who have been giving him the hardest time in recent weeks training for the fight.

“They just said I better make weight. They’ve been giving me a hard time because they’ve been seeing me cutting back and eating real small portions,” Macklind said. “They’re used to seeing me eat, because I love to eat. They’ve been giving me a hard time – ‘You better make weight, fat boy.’ ”

Kottenstette said he anticipates selling out the 999-seat event Saturday. That capacity was established by the state fire marshal, he said. Tickets are available in advance at the Sunshine Theater Box Office or online at HoldMyTicket.com. On Saturday, tickets can be purchased at the Sunshine Theater.

He added free parking for the event is available and fans should use the parking lot entrance near First Street and Halzeldine Avenue.

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