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Barahona has come a long way via MMA

If you ask Brittany Barahona, Saturday night won’t be much of a contest in the main event of the 10-fight Jackson’s MMA Series XXV card at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Pojoaque.

How could it be? Her husband, Henry, is one half of the headlining bout in the fight card.

“To her, I am the best fighter around,” Henry Barahona joked. “That might not be true, but it’s great to have someone see you like that.”

The truth is, Barahona (2-2 as a professional mixed martial artist) knows what he’s facing in highly regarded and Santa Fe fighter Jess Martinez (3-0) in their 145-pound, featherweight main event. Martinez, the four-time (2009-12) state wrestling champion at St. Michael’s High and six-time international Brazilian Jiujitsu champion, is quietly putting together one heck of a résumé.

“He’s completely dominated these guys he’s fought,” said Barahona, 23, who hasn’t fought since January 2017 while focusing on getting married and his job as an instructor at Wink’s Gym in northeast Albuquerque. “It’s not a fight I expected to have so soon after the layoff, but it is a fight I wanted and it is an opportunity I’m going to take advantage of. I love to strike and I know he isn’t comfortable striking. So, let’s make him uncomfortable. I’m a mixed martial artist, so I can go wherever the fight takes me.”

Make no mistake, “the plan is to go get a knockout,” he said, but where MMA has already taken Barahona makes the outcome of Saturday’s fight very much secondary.

Barahona was born in Phoenix. He and his mother moved around a lot as he grew up, he says, with stops in Pasadena, Calif., Houston, Georgia, New York and Mexico before settling in Albuquerque when he was 10.

By age 14, he dropped out of the eighth grade.

“I just got into a deep depression,” Barahona said. “I was constantly getting into trouble at school. I just didn’t care about anything. I just stopped going.”

Several years later, he had to try something to find some focus in his life.

“When I first started MMA, I was 17,” Barahona said. “I was just a kid trying to find something to do. I was lazy. I needed something to motivate me. I fell in love instantly with MMA. I lost a lot of weight. I was at 265 pounds when I started and I fight now at 145.”

At Wink’s Gym, he is teaching the sport that saved him. He’s met his best friend and fellow fighter, Daniel Nieto, and his wife, Brittany, through MMA. It’s something he wishes he had found sooner in life, but is more than happy it’s a part of his life now.

“Martial Arts is a huge discipline,” Barahona said. “It would have kept me more disciplined with all things – school, studies, whatever else when I was growing up. It’s something I regret now, not going to school back then. My goal now is to start going back to school while training and working. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without it.”

25 AND COUNTING: It was June 5, 2010, at what was then known as the Hard Rock Casino. An MMA event was set up to highlight, primarily, fighters from around New Mexico.

Over the next 24 Jackson’s MMA Series events – Saturday is No. 25 in the series – numerous fighters who would end up in the UFC participated in the event that continues to be spearheaded by Ricky Kottenstette.

Among them: John Dodson, Michelle Waterson, Cortney Casey, Julie Kedzie, Lando Vannata, Jodie Esquibel, Anthony Birchak, Diego Brandao, Buddy Roberts and Joey Villasenor.

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