BY RICARDO MIXCO – To be blessed with the opportunity to travel overseas and fight in a foreign country to represent my team Crazy 88 MMA and the U.S in a world tournament will always be a memory I will never forget. It’s an experience that most people will not have in their lifetime and for that, I am beyond grateful!
Just to give a little background… I competed in the National Tournament ran by WKA in March 2015 held in Richmond, VA. With all my hard work, determination, and dedicated coaches, I won the national title. A few weeks later I received an invitation email from the WKA president Brian Crenshaw. I was asked to join the US TEAM to fight at the World Unified Championship in Benidorm, Spain. Words cannot even begin to describe the excitement I felt. My head coach Jomal Hargrove had expressed his confidence in me winning the world championship and before you know it I was ready to put in the work to get out there but the trip itself would cost about $3,000.
I started taking donations, doing 1 on 1 private sessions at my gym, and saving up money from every paycheck to meet the goal. I started running 5 miles EVERY day in the morning along with strength and conditioning and training every night; sometimes 7 days a week. I was dealing with a lot of personal issues during my fight camp but I did not let this stop me from training and always remained POSITIVE!
After months of devoted training, it was time. My mother and my fiancé Janay dropped me off at JFK Airport in New York (all the competitors had to leave from one airport). Once I was there I made my way inside and saw some familiar faces from the National tournament. Everybody stuck with their team/coaches initially so it was a bit awkward. On top of us all cutting weight, a lot of us knew there was a possibility that team USA would have to fight each other to make it to the top. But with this sport, that is a chance you have to be willing to take.
The flight was about 7 ½ hours from New York to Madrid. We then we took another flight from Madrid to Alicante. Once in Alicante we had an hour bus ride to Benidorm. At this point people started to get comfortable with each other so it made things a little easier for me.
Once we arrived at the hotel everyone including myself was anxious to get to their room and rest. I was assigned a room with teammate John Forrestal. We instantly became friends and had a connection with one another since we both flew out there by ourselves and had no one.
That night was weight cutting night! I was only about 4 pounds away from fight weight while my roommate had 10 lbs to cut. I easily made weight that night so once I was done I helped him reach his fight weight. They also handed out team uniforms, fight shorts, and gave important info about the tournament. Once we all got our uniforms on, it felt real! We were officially TEAM USA!
The next morning we all woke up ready to hop on the scale. The team walked to the venue together since it was less than a mile away. We weighed in and rehydrated ourselves and all my teammates were ready. The next morning we had our team training where we got to work with each other and the coaches to make small adjustments to our game. It felt great to work with different coaches and fighters. Shortly after the team training we all were able to explore the city of Benidorm.
The next day was the opening ceremony and the beginning of the tournament. We made our way to the venue around 10:00AM dressed up in our team uniforms. Once we got there we quickly felt the tension from the other countries participating in the tournament. In total there were 94 countries at this event so it was kind of nerve racking to have EVERY country eyeing us down! But we kept our chins up and stood tall ready to claim our victory.
Later on we found out that there were also going to be professional fighters competing at this tournament. Some with close to 100 fights under their belt! Knowing that only made my adrenaline rush and want this even more.
The tournament started and a lot of us were bummed out that we might not get to fight that day because the brackets weren’t up at the time so we sat for a few hours anxious to get in the ring! Luckily they put my bracket up and I was one of the first fights of the night from Team USA.
I was set to fight a Ukrainian in the K1 division. Everyone at the tournament kept saying how Ukrainians always come to win and come strong! I put all that to the side and remained focused on the prize! The bell rang and it was time to do what I do best! The fight started and I came out guns blazing letting my hands and kicks go! We had a clinch exchange and he landed a good knee to my right ribs! I fought through it and started landing my signature cross and body shots, He initiated the clinch again and I ripped a HARD knee to his liver sending him down to the canvas in pain! The ref signaled me to the neutral corner and gave him the count! My opponent could no longer continue so the ref waived off the fight. TEAM US members went crazy cheering for me! We had a couple other teammates fight that night who also won their fights. We all headed back to the hotel at around 7 or 8pm that night.
The next day it was on!
Most of the team had their first fights! Some wins and some losses but we still kept aiming for the gold! I wasn’t scheduled to fight until Sunday in the finals for the Modified Muay Thai and the K1 (kickboxing) division.
Sunday came pretty fast and I was extremely anxious to get back in the ring. I was a little nervous because I had gotten sick while out there with symptoms of a high fever and sore throat. That didn’t stop me! I was determined and ready to fight my butt off and get the gold. My opponent in the K1 division was from Azerbaijan, He had just demolished the Italian fighter the night before in the semi finals, so I’m sure he was feeling pretty confident. The fight started and I instantly knew I had him after the first exchange. He tried to come strong with big spinning kicks and spinning back fists but I stuck with the game plan of putting the pressure on him and outbox him. Eventually I broke him and from then on it was MY fight.
I landed everything my coaches Jomal Hargrove and Aungla Nsang taught me. From flying knees to spinning heels kicks to spinning back fists and my signature left roundhouse kick. I landed it all and outworked my opponent. The final bell rang and I just knew I had won the fight.
The ref raised my hand! It was done! I had won my first World title!!! The emotions I felt were indescribable. It was a natural high. All the hard work and commitment paid off! I stood on the podium on the number 1 spot and got my picture taken! Literally the best feeling ever!!!
Shortly after that I went back to the team and everyone expressed how happy they were for me. The once strangers were now family. I sat around for a couple hours staying focused because I knew I had one more final fight for the Muay Thai World Title! I was determined to win that as well!
They randomly called my number and said I needed to be on deck. This came as a surprise to me since I wasn’t up to fight for another couple of hours. At this point my fever had gotten worse so it was hard to focus on fighting at that very moment. I slowly warmed up and put my gear on.
My corner men Omar Estevez and Tony Cummings made sure I had everything I needed and helped me get ready. I was set to fight a pro fighter from Poland who also happens to be a black belt in Tae Kwon do! He also beat a member of the US Team in the Semi Finals.
When that bell rung and the ref screamed “FIGHT”, I had to make adjustments because I was fighting a Southpaw. I started out feeling him out, being extremely cautious, and immediately after that I started blasting his legs with kicks. He came strong throwing spinning kicks, axe kicks, and sidekicks but I expected it so I was well prepared. I literally outworked him in every round and even dropped him twice with my left but he kept coming forward, he was very tough! Once he realized his kicks didn’t work he tried to clinch with me but I was able to sweep him and put him on the canvas EVERY TIME! The final bell rang and once again I knew I had done enough to get my hand raised.
I ended up getting my hand raised and my corner men jumped in the ring to congratulate me! I was now a World Champion in 2 divisions! Literally the BEST day of my life! Nothing will ever compare to that! All the hard work, long hours at the gym, dieting and staying consistent had paid off! I immediately hopped off the ring and went to my phone to let my family and my coaches know I was now a world champion! I made my loved ones and coaches VERY proud which was my ultimate goal!
The US Team ended up taking a lot of the gold medals and I’m truly grateful and honored to have been a part of this! We all went out to dinner to celebrate! Everyone was excited yet ready to come back home to the states! I know that if I stay consistent and keep working hard, the sky is the limit! I am also truly grateful for all my team mates who donated money and worked with me 1 on 1 and made it possible for me to compete at this tournament. I will continue to work hard and climb up the ladder until I am the best Muay Thai Fighter in my weight class.