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Vannata’s focus is on fight, but he’s sightseeing as well

Lando Vannata, left, is shown connecting in his knockout win over Chad Curry in 2012. Vannata meets England’s Mark Diakiese on Saturday in Copenhagen. (Eric David Herrera To The Journal)

Lando Vannata’s listed nickname is “Groovy,” although “Lando” – one “n” short of his given first name – is a nickname in and of itself.

Here, though, is another one that fits him like an MMA glove: “The Fighting Tourist.”

“We’re out exploring the city of Copenhagen,” the Albuquerque lightweight said by phone from the Danish capital on Wednesday, three days before his fight with England’s Marc Diakiese on a UFC Fight Night card at Royal Arena. “The roadways for bikes here are amazing, so we rented bikes and we’ve been riding everywhere.”

Some fighters, no doubt, would rather keep things simple when preparing for a fight in a foreign city: hotel to gym and back again, day after day, until finally it’s hotel to arena.

That’s not Vannata’s style. Some six months after enjoying the sights and sounds of Melbourne, Australia, where he defeated Brazil’s Marcos Mariano by first-round submission (kimura), he’s making the most of a week in Copenhagen.

“When I’m in a new city, I want to do the culture,” he said. “I want to explore. … I really enjoy that.”

Of Copenhagen, he said, “It’s really, really nice. It’s very clean, very old world, a lot of older buildings, castles.”

Meanwhile, he said, there is no language barrier.

“Just about everybody (speaks English),” he said. “We haven’t met anybody yet that doesn’t.”

None of the above should suggest Vannata (10-3-2) isn’t focused on Saturday’s fight against Diakiese (13-3), for whom the Albuquerque resident and New Jersey native has the utmost respect.

“He’s very explosive,” Vannata said. “He’s got very good knockout power, he’s dangerous, he’s creative. And he’s got very good conditioning and a ton of heart.”

If Diakiese has a weakness, Vannata said, it’s his technique. “It’s a little sloppy. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, but a little sloppy, a little erratic. But he’s grown a lot, too. We’ll see.”

For years a Jackson-Wink fighter, Vannata left the storied Albuquerque gym late last year and now trains at Jackson’s MMA Acoma, Jackson-Wink’s original home before its move to a new, more spacious location.

Vannata worked with Greg Jackson, the gym’s founder, before the Mariano fight but did not do so this time, working with a team headed by Jackson’s MMA Acoma co-owner Nick Urso. Wrestling coach Derek Garcia and judo coach Harry St. Leger complete Vannata’s team in Denmark.

“I’m probably not working with Greg in the future,” Vannata said. “For this camp, it was 100% at Jackson’s Acoma. I’m very happy. We’ve got a lot of good up-and-coming guys for training partners, the coaching staff is amazing, and it’s great to be back in our old facility.”

The task of making the 155-pound lightweight limit for Saturday’s fight has thus far prevented Vannata from sampling Danish food delights like Ribbensteg, Røget Laks, Rødspaete, etc. That, he said, is why he and his team aren’t returning until Monday.

“We fight Saturday, and then Saturday night and all day Sunday we’re gonna explore,” he said. “And I’m excited to try some of the local food.”

Before that, though, he’ll be trying to eat Diakiese’s lunch.

Diakiese, though, was a slight betting favorite – approximately 3-to-2 – as of Thursday evening.

SOUTHWEST MMA SERIES: Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino will host an 11-fight pro-am card Saturday, starting at 7 p.m.

The card consists almost entirely of fighters making their debuts, whether amateur or professional.

This is the former Jackson’s MMA Series. Promoter Ricky Kottenstette has changed the name to eliminate confusion with the Jackson-Wink Fight Night series promoted by Lenny Fresquez.

BOXING: Albuquerque’s Legacy Promotions will return to Tingley Coliseum on Nov. 9, it was announced this week.

Albuquerque welterweight Josh Torres (21-6-2, 12 knockouts) is expected to headline the card.

Among fighters also listed: Albuquerqueans José Luís Sanchez (10-1, four KOs), Aaron Angel Perez (9-0, five KOs), Matthew Griego (10-0, eight KOs), Las Cruces’ Amy Salinas (3-0) and El Paso’s Isaac Luna (5-1, one KO).

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