Southwest Scene: The Desert Digest

By: Tommy Messano
Aug 16, 2007



In this edition of the Southwest scene we span the western states for news. Alberto Crane (Pictures) of New Mexico preps for his debut versus Roger Huerta (Pictures). Art of War once again brings MMA to Dallas. Arizona's Drew Fickett (Pictures) recovers from injury and the story of the late Gilbert Aldana (Pictures) continues.

Texas versus New Mexico at UFC 74

What does Santa Fe's Alberto Crane (Pictures) have in common with Jason Dent (Pictures), John Halverson (Pictures), Leonard Garcia, and Doug Evans (Pictures)? On August 25 Crane will be the fifth fighter to make his UFC debut versus Roger Huerta (Pictures) in the past 11 months.

Thus far the wrestler from Austin, Texas is 4-0 against Octagon rookies. Sherdog.com recently spoke with Crane, who has moved out to California in preparation for the biggest fight of his career.

The BJJ black belt has focused this training camp on improving his striking abilities by enlisting the help of renowned kickboxing coach Edmond Tarverdyan of the Glendale Fighting Club. Crane describes his opponent as both an "exciting" and "dynamic" wrestler.

Crane, undefeated in eight MMA fights, has not stepped inside a cage since January 2005. The two-year layoff allowed Crane to decide on which direction he wanted to take his fight career.

"They stopped the lightweight division in the UFC. I wasn't really committed to go all the way," said Crane. "I took a break and just worked and thought about life. I needed to be fully committed to the sport, before I made my comeback."

The proud papa of a 2-month-old baby boy, Crane has a new lease on his fighting life. In the jiu-jitsu versus wrestler match-up, Crane plans to utilize his submission skills and superior guard game to halt Huerta's win streak.

Dallas's AOW promotion lays out 2008 game plan

Up-and-coming MMA brand Art of War returns Saturday, Sept. 1 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas with its USA vs. Brazil national team style format. Former UFC heavyweight contenders Jeff Monson (Pictures) and Pedro Rizzo (Pictures) headline the fight card.

The event is also the pay-per-view debut for the promotion, as past events were broadcast exclusively on HDNet. Sherdog.com sat down with CJ Comu, CEO of Sun Sports & Entertainment, to talk about the future of their copyrighted Art of War brand. SUN is the production company behind all Art of War events.

Describing the TV production quality of his events as Entertainment Tonight meets American Gladiators, Comu is confident about the promotion's early jump to pay-per-view.

"We already have a big following locally and throughout Texas," said Comu. "We think going into the pay-per-view market makes financial sense and also provides a chance for the fighters to get that type of exposure."

With events scheduled in October and December to close out 2007, Comu's company already plans to go international next year with events scheduled in Canada, Mexico, China, and the United Arab Emirates.

"The primary objective of the four international fight cards," said Comu, "is to take the USA national team abroad and go head to head with some of the fighters in the four countries to see how they rank with our fighters."

With the UFC being the gold standard for MMA in the U.S., can an upstart company from Dallas, Texas rise to the top and provide serious competition? Comu doesn't see why not.

"I'll be candid, we feel we are a true No. 2 contender for this market," said the Chairman of SUN. "We are trying to key our business to the major corporate sponsors. This is the fastest and number one growing sport, and now it's moving internationally. We're taking a brand, Art of War, its 2,500 year old tradition and rolling it with the most spectacular one on one sport."

Drew Fickett (Pictures) rehabbing knee injury

Tucson, Ariz.'s Drew Fickett (Pictures) is still recovering from a knee injury that forced him to pull out of his scheduled bout against Chris Lytle (Pictures) at UFC 73 in July. Fickett originally stepped in for injured Canadian fighter Jeff Joslin (Pictures).

According to Fickett the injury lingered longer than expected and he aggravated it in preparation for the fight.

"The knee is fine now," he said. "I've been doing a lot of yoga and specific strength training for my injury. I tweaked it in the Nakamura fight and it never really fully recovered since I jumped right back into training."

Fickett plans on returning to competition in early October with a possible match at UFC 77 a strong possibility.

Mystery of Aldana drowning moves closer to end

As first reported by the Arizona Republic the body of former MMA fighter Gilbert Aldana (Pictures) was found washed ashore on Saturday, Aug. 5 at Arizona's Lake Pleasant.

A Maricopa County representative spoke to Sherdog.com about the incident and said, "A citizen reported to the sheriff's office that they had discovered a body floating in the water at the lake."

After the civilian report to the sheriff's office, the lead investigator on the case, Detective Kaufman, was called to the scene where he ordered the body to be convoyed to the medical examiner's office so a positive identification could be confirmed and an official cause of death will be determined.

The UFC veteran was first reported missing while boating with his family on Lake Pleasant on March 11 of this year.

Miscellaneous News and Upcoming Fight cards

Flashy Albuquerque bantamweight Coty "Ox" Wheeler has received the call up to the big show. The submission fighter recently announced his signing to the WEC after a win at last month's Fight World event in New Mexico. Wheeler provides much needed depth to a WEC 135-pound weight class currently ruled champ Chase Beebe (Pictures). …

A slew of amateur and pro MMA events hit the desert in the coming weeks. New Mexico has a full weekend starting on Aug. 17 with a card in Santa Fe at the fairgrounds billed as "Resurrection Fight Night." The event will be a mix of amateur MMA, kickboxing, boxing, and submission grappling fights. The following night MMA hits the Sunshine Theater in Albuquerque with a Wild Side produced card packed with amateur MMA fighters. …

Texas MMA debuts on the country club circuit Aug. 23 with Fight Night 2007 live from the Village Country Club in Dallas. The outdoor event offers up 10 amateur MMA match-ups as well free admission for fans.

On Saturday, Aug. 18 Arizona's Rage in the Cage heads south to the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson for RITC 99. The vacant RITC middleweight title is on the line when Paul Arroyo takes on Jeff Horlacher, and the co-event has Tito Jones battling Danny Martinez for the 155-pound title.

Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcomed. Let your local fight voice be heard by e-mailing me at t.messano@yahoo.com

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