ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ricky Esquibel feels right at home headlining tonight’s Jackson’s MMA Series “Protégés” fight card in the Albuquerque Rail Yards.
Not only will the 2008 Rio Rancho High graduate and current University of New Mexico student be fighting in front of plenty of local family and friends, he feels fortunate enough to carry the title of protégé – the theme of the night for the fight card – of one of the top pound-for-pound, and certainly one of the most exciting, fighters in the mixed-martial arts game.
“John Dodson is the guy I try to emulate,” Esquibel told the Journal of his fighting icon. “He’s the one I try to copy and fight like, because I think he’s the No. 1 fighter in my weight class.”
It isn’t every day a 23-year-old amateur in the fight game not only gets to train in a world-class setting like Jackson-Winkeljohn’s MMA gym, but also alongside his idol.
“He’ll be in my corner, and I learn much from him every time I train,” Esquibel said. “I’m confident. I’m already training with the best fighters in the world. I know what to expect at the highest level.”
Esquibel hopes tonight and maybe one or two more amateur fights puts him in a position to be ready to tackle a professional career.
His mentor Dodson, who will be in the corner of several Jackson-Winkeljohn-trained fighters tonight and is fighting on the June 7 UFC “Fight Night” card at Tingley Coliseum, thinks Esquibel is close to being ready for that professional leap.
“Ricky’s a hard worker,” Dodson said. “… He works efficiently. Every time he’s in the gym, he’s making sure he learns the strikes we give him, adding more to his jujitsu and trying to combine everything to make himself a complete martial artist.”
Dodson admitted he gets more nervous as a coach than as a fighter.
“My heart’s going to be racing,” Dodson said. “My own fight, I feel I can control a little more. It’s whatever I do. If I lose, it’s mine. When I’m coaching, it’s hard not having all the control sometime.”
Both Dodson and Esquibel said they’re excited to be a part of the first-ever fight card at the Rail Yards.
“It’s a cool venue – has some historical significance for Albuquerque,” Esquibel said. “The Barelas Neighborhood goes way back in Albuquerque. It’s pretty cool we get to do this event there.”
Jackson-Winkeljon general manager Ricky Kottenstette, who is setting up the event, said he hopes to hold future fight cards, even if the amount of work setting this one up has been a bit of a chore.
Leasing the property from the city of Albuquerque, Kottenstette said he is responsible not only for providing such things as the cage for the fighters, but also seating for fans, trash cans, tents for the locker rooms, cleaning crews and more.
Kottenstette said he anticipates selling out the 999-seat venue.
Tickets are available in advance at the Sunshine Theater Box Office or online at HoldMyTicket.com.
Kottenstette said free parking for the event is available and fans should use the parking lot entrance near First Street and Halzeldine Avenue.