For some 20 years, fight cards promoted by Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA have served as a springboard to greater things.
Among those who performed on those cards who eventually made it to the UFC: Lando Vannata; Michelle Waterson-Gomez; Jodie Esquibel; Cortney Casey; Daniel Argueta; Damon Jackson; Joby Sanchez; Steve Garcia; Hanna Cifers.
Maybe Dwight “Akuma” Maters, Alexandro “Alex” Rodriguez and Quayshan Randelson will make it that far one day; maybe they won’t.
But on April 14, they’ll jump on that Jackson-Wink springboard.
After a few years’ hiatus, Jackson-Wink — in the person of gym co-founder Mike Winkeljohn — is getting back in the promotion business.
This time around, there’s a twist. The April 14 card will be staged not at a casino, not in a hotel ballroom, not in a city-owned arena, but at Jackson-Wink MMA Academy on the northeast corner of Broadway and Martin Luther King.
Winkeljohn said he’s planning seating for about 400 fans. The objective, he said at a news conference on Tuesday at Jackson-Wink, is the same as before.
“We want to give more of these guys the opportunity to keep going forward,” Winkeljohn said.
Maters, Rodriguez and Randelson were introduced at Tuesday’s news conference as three of “these guys” (there are no women listed on the April 14 card, but, remember, Jackson-Wink is Holly Holm’s MMA training base) with the potential to advance in the sport.
In terms of that advancement, though, Winkeljohn isn’t hesitating to match Jackson-Wink fighters against each other.
Maters, 1-0 as a professional boxer and listed on tapology.com with a 4-5 record as an MMA amateur, is scheduled to face fellow J-W heavyweight Shawn Morgan (listed as 1-0 as an amateur) in the April 14 main event.
A native of Oakland, California, Maters came to Albuquerque five years ago explicitly to train at Jackson-Wink. Of the opportunity to headline the upcoming card, he said, “It’s the biggest blessing in the world. I get to be here and knock somebody out in my own home, my own place.”
Randelson, a native of Alabama, has been training at Jackson-Wink for some 15 months. With a 1-0 record as an amateur, he’s scheduled to face Clovis’ Israel Sanchez (debut) at welterweight (170).
An MMA fan since he was 12, he came to Albuquerque, as did Maters, for the sole purpose of training at Jackson-Wink.
Rodriguez, 24, is an Albuquerque native and has been training at Jackson-Wink for about two years.
He’s scheduled to make his amateur MMA debut as a featherweight (145 pounds) on April 14, matched against fellow Jackson-Wink fighter Cody Noel (1-1).
A swimmer growing up, Rodriguez had spent a year studying Karate but had no MMA background beyond that before a chance meeting with UFC champion Jon Jones at a West Mesa swimming pool set him on a new path. He said he’s not just treading water.
“I want to make (MMA) a lifelong career,” he said. “I’m in it for the long run.
“I know there’s gonna be ups and downs, but I’m ready for the long game.”