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'I took self-defense classes, so I had had some of the same training. When I saw my first ultimate fighting championship, I was like, 'Wow, I know that move!' and I got hooked. This was early on [over ten years ago], back when the first round would go for 30 minutes," says Diana Ocampo, co-owner of Total Combat Entertainment. On Saturday, December 10, Total Combat will host "full-contact extreme fighting" at the Cocopah Casino in Imperial Valley. One of the headlining fighters is Alex Garcia from Brawley, California. "This kid is very talented," Ocampo says. "He started out in someone's back yard or garage or something. A lot of fighters train like that; it's hard to find a good training facility." Mixed martial arts fighters "come from all walks of life," she adds. "We've had a commander from the military, a couple of Marines, and a few business owners."

Total Combat is based in San Diego, but events are held at locations within Native American reservations or at the club Baby Rock in Tijuana. "We try to make sure to use the rules that the California Commission is coming out with so when it's finally legalized in California, we'll be [in compliance]," Ocampo explains. Mixed martial arts became legal in California when the Secretary of State stamped approval for a set of regulations overseeing the sport on November 28. Depending on how fast the turnaround is for licensing, Ocampo says, shows could begin in San Diego in a matter of weeks. She is scouting out venues in San Diego.

Ocampo's partner, Eric Delfierro, serves as "matchmaker." Because he pairs the fighters for events, Delfierro pays attention to an individual's strengths and weaknesses in the "octagon cage," or boxing ring. He describes Garcia as "a real explosive fighter with knockout power in both hands. He always goes into his fights as an underdog. He'll be getting his butt whipped for two rounds and then come out of nowhere and beat the guy." Mixed martial arts includes boxing, kickboxing, jujitsu wrestling, and karate.

Garcia will be fighting Adam Lynn, a grappler (or wrestler) from Aliso Viejo in Orange County. "There are so many gyms that cross train, you'll find these hybrid matches," says Delfierro. In addition to boxing, "Alex wrestled in high school and junior college and practiced Brazilian jujitsu a form of joint manipulation." Delfierro explains, "When you put your opponent in 'arm bars,' you're hyperextending your opponent's arms to cause pain and cause the opponent to quit...there are different kinds of chokes where you choke your opponent until he goes unconscious." Ed Ratcliff, who will be fighting for Total Combat at Baby Rock on December 17, trains at City Boxing in downtown San Diego. "He's from Chicago, a real good boxer, and a black belt in karate. His mom was a black belt and got him involved in martial arts, and now he does everything," says Delfierro. "He comes out to the ring in his karate gi [karate uniform]. His whole game is to keep his opponents up and try to punish the guys with his boxing. He uses high kicks to the head and likes to finish his fights standing."

Another fighter to participate at the Baby Rock event, Shannon Gugerty from Chula Vista, "finishes most of his guys on the ground by either submission or technical knockout, which is usually ref stoppage, or where the ref thinks the guy had enough or is not defending himself because he's fuzzy from getting hit on the head," says Delfierro. Then there's Chris David. "The best way to describe Chris David is: 'He's a lunatic.' His style is unpredictable. He likes to throw flying knees, flying punches, and kicks. He was an English teacher in Japan. Now he talks to himself and refers to himself in the third person."

There are five ways by which a fighter can win a match: 1) knockout (when one fighter is knocked unconscious); 2) physical or verbal tap out (when a fighter taps the mat to indicate submission); 3) referee stoppage; 4) event doctor stoppage; 5) decision (based equally on striking, grappling, and aggression). Over 30 types of fouls can be called, among them groin attacks, eye gouging, biting, hair pulling, putting a finger into any orifice or into an opponent's cut or laceration, throat strikes, pinching, and head-butting.

"There are injuries in every sport, obviously," says Delfierro. "Two months ago I punched a guy's elbow and broke my hand. It's fine now. The bone's kind of weird, but it doesn't hurt. Most guys get more injured training than they do fighting. We use four- to six-ounce gloves, and you can hit the opponent on the floor with forearms. You'll see guys get stitches every now and then. In the history of the sport, though, nobody has died. Knock on wood." -- Barbarella

Total Combat Extreme Fighting Saturday, December 10, 5 p.m. Cocopah Casino 15318 South Avenue B Somerton, AZ (55 miles east of El Centro) Cost: $35, $50, $75 www.totalcombat.tv

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