Local fighters Gamoa, Crespin find success using relaxed approach

Ismael Gamoa, left, of Grand Junction takes on Tanner Ellenberger of Paonia in one of two 170-pound three-round fights Saturday during the first half of Cage Wars XII at Brownson Arena. Gamoa defeated Ellenberger in 1 minute, 10 seconds during the first round.



Ismael Gamoa of Grand Junction takes a victory lap around the edge of the cage Saturday night after winning his 170-pound bout against Tanner Ellenberger of Paonia during Cage Wars XII at Brownson Arena.



Brandon Crespin



His back bashed the canvas.

Suddenly on the bottom position, locked by a 170-pound mixed martial arts fighter, Ismael Gamoa retreated to the past.

And relaxed.

Even then, little changed in the demeanor of Gamoa, a 25-year-old Grand Junction fighter.

Long before he was an amateur MMA brawler at Cage Wars XII on Saturday, he was a street fighter.

So he remained on his back for just a few seconds.

Instincts let him know what to do.

Gamoa hooked the leg of Paonia fighter Tanner Ellenberger and flipped him. Soon, in his second amateur fight, Gamoa mounted the punishment until the referee stopped the fight.

Gamoa is 2-0.

His was one of nine fights at Brownson Arena on Saturday night, the second MMA event on the Colorado Mesa University campus this year. The next is scheduled for late August or early September.

That gives fighters such as Gamoa more time to ... chill.

And enjoy the benefits of MMA.

“It keeps me out of trouble,” Gamoa said. “Keeps me out of bars — I haven’t had a drink in three months.”

Can fighters remain calm in a world of mayhem?

Some martial arts instructors would say it’s mandatory.

On the Cage Wars XII promotional poster, eight fighters pose with fists raised in an attacking position. Seven display solemn, snarling faces.

One is slipping a slight smirk.

Meet Brandon Crespin, another relaxed-fit model MMA fighter.

He wrestled at Palisade High School, graduating in 2006, and wrestled at Mesa for one year.

“You don’t have to be an angry person inside to be a fighter,” explained Crespin, in a tone much like a cooking class instructor.

Crespin won his first fight in Cage Wars XI, but on Saturday, he faced Chris Gates, who trained in the Wanderlei Silva gym in Las Vegas.

Just before the match, Andrew Yates, out of the same gym, said Gates often spars with Silva, a former UFC champion.

Gates won with a first-round submission — a kimura from guard. In layman terms, Gates bent an arm in a direction it’s not supposed to bend.

But the loss likely won’t change Crespin.

He’ll continue to be calm. He said he’s the kind of guy who likes to buy another man a beer.

“You’re already a fighter,” Crespin said. “There’s no reason to look tough.”

It’s the same in the ring for Crespin. When staring into the faces of men with sinister expression and jutting, darkened eyes, Crespin just remembers one thing.

“He’s just a man,” Crespin said. “He might look different, he might look mean, but that doesn’t mean he can’t lose.”

Crespin’s father, James, is typically in the stands during his son’s fights.

“I’m always the crazy one,” James Crespin said. “He different. He’s Mr. Cool.”

Crespin placed third in regionals his senior season of wrestling at Palisade. He began wrestling and kickboxing in fifth grade.

He’s learned the abstract principles to martial arts, like the value of remaining calm.

So has Gamoa.

“I used to just throw wild punches,” Gamoa said. “Now it’s straight down the middle.”

Gamoa said he came down with bronchitis Tuesday, and so was nervous before Saturday.

But a fight’s a fight. Just like those in his past.

“The nerves left,” Gamoa said, “as soon as I entered the gym.”


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