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MMA: Montoya focused on himself ahead of Cullum rematch

The result of their first fight didn’t exactly scream “rematch.”

Eight years ago, Abel Cullum needed just 1 minute, 38 seconds of the first round to choke out Josh Montoya on a King of the Cage card at the Inn of the Mountain Gods.

Yet, are the MMA gods not fickle enough to allow for a totally different outcome the second time around?

Cullum (20-6), of Tucumcari, and Montoya (11-9), of Santa Fe, will face each other in the cage again Saturday night. The rematch is the main event of an 11-fight Fresquez Productions/Jackson-Wink Fight Night card at Isleta Resort & Casino.

All the data seems to favor Cullum, a former KOTC champion. But it’s not unheard of in MMA that a fighter, having been beaten soundly by an opponent, gets a rematch and takes full advantage. (See Michael Bisping-Luke Rockhold II, Rampage Jackson-Wanderlei Silva III).

Cullum, coming off a 3½-year layoff, said his May 2010 victory over Montoya has no bearing on tonight’s encounter – other than to sharpen Montoya’s focus.

“The last time, I did come out with the victory,” Cullum said Wednesday at a news conference. “I do know that (Montoya) wants to get that redemption. He wants to make up for that loss.

“But I’m still on my journey. This is my career, this is where I want my future to be.”

Redemption? Sure. Montoya, though, said revenge is the farthest thing from his mind. He and Cullum have expressed so much mutual respect during the buildup to the fight that Conor McGregor, master of trash talk and thrower of hand carts, probably would have been appalled.

“Abel Cullum,” Montoya told his opponent during the news conference, “I have a lot of respect for you and I can’t wait to talk after and catch up.”

Catching up with Cullum in the cage is another matter, but Montoya said his focus is not on his opponent but on himself.

“A dangerous Josh Montoya is when he’s happy and he’s living life and just having fun,” Montoya said. “That’s what I’m doing now.

“It’s not even about Abel. It has nothing to do with Abel. It has to do with myself and just living in the moment.”

Cullum weighed in Friday at 135.2 pounds, an allowable two-tenths of a pound above the bantamweight limit. Montoya weighed 135 on the nose.

THE CARD: Saturday night’s show features six pro fights and five amateur fights. The semi-main event is a featherweight fight between Jackson-Wink’s Steve Garcia (7-2) and Aalon Cruz (5-2) of Tampa, Fla.

In the collegial atmosphere that prevailed during Wednesday’s news conference and Friday’s weigh-in, the only thing approximating hostility came from Jackson-Wink’s Chris Brown (1-0) and Tampa’s Blake Smith (3-1), who’ll meet tonight in a lightweight fight. The two appeared to talk some trash, though inaudible to others in attendance, during their “pose-down” at the weigh-in.

FROM CHINA, WITH SALSA: Pengshuai Liu, a Chinese flyweight with a 4-3 record, will make his U.S. debut Saturday night against Belen’s Gene Perez (4-8).

Pengshuai made the acquaintance of Nick Gonzalez, a Jackson-Wink fighter, while Gonzalez was teaching in China and opted to come train in Albuquerque.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Pengshuai said his English is limited at this point. He did, however, clearly and articulately express his love for tacos – to enthusiastic applause.

ESQUIBEL FIGHT IS OFF: Jackson-Wink’s Jodie Esquibel, who was scheduled to face Houston’s Jessica Aguilar Friday on a UFC card in Utica, N.Y., had her fight scrubbed by the New York State Athletic Commission because of an undisclosed medical issue involving Aguilar.

According to online reports, Aguilar was asked to get medical clearance and did so. Nevertheless, the NYSAC canceled the fight.

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