Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Animal" on the prowl

By Damian Marquez

Mike "The Animal" Cook has been training in mixed martial arts for just nine months, but the Visalia grappler already is making a name for himself in one of the fastest-growing sports in the country.

The Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) have drawn the attention of many fight fans, and that popularity is leaking into the Central Valley. The Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino has taken advantage, parlaying local enthusiasm into its own fighting circuit — The Palace Fighting Championships (PFC).

Cook, 25, will make his first appearance on a PFC fight card Thursday and is looking forward to his challenge.
"My first fight was in Porterville," Cook said. "I had some family there, but this fight will have a lot of people who know me. I'm hoping to put some cheering into their mouths."

After several changes in the card, PFC promoters finally settled on an opponent for Cook — Ben Davis of Sacramento. There was discussion that Cook would fight UFC veteran Wes Sims, who is headlining the card, but that fell through.

Cook (2-1) has known who his opponent will be for just four days. But that doesn't bother him.

"I prepare for everybody the same," he said. "I train the way I know how, and it has worked for me so far. As long as I'm on the fight card, it's fine by me."

Cook wrestled and played football in high school at Tulare Union, and he uses his wrestling background in his fighting style. He also has been training in muy thai, boxing and jujitsu at the Rock Solid Training gym in Visalia.

The last time Cook fought, he lost to Daniel Puder in December in San Jose.

"I actually did well in that fight," Cook said.

"I just got caught, but I've been training since and I've gained a lot more confidence and learned more precise action."

Fifteen bouts are on a Thursday fight card that's been dubbed "Fast and Furious." It is the second PFC show; another is scheduled for June.

The Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino used to host the World Extreme Cagefighting circuit, but the company moved to Las Vegas when bought out by Zuffa Inc., the company that owns UFC.

In other action:

# Tulare's Rafael Del Real will make his second appearance on the PFC fight card. In the inaugural PFC show in January, Del Real forced his opponent, Rolando Torres, to tap out in the third and final round.

Del Real has a 3-4 professional record and will fight Lamont Lister (2-2) of Philadelphia in a heavyweight contest.

# Visalia's Darren Crisp (3-1) will battle Scott Brommage (0-1) in a light-heavyweight bout. It is Crisp's first appearance with the PFC.

# In a battle of two young but undefeated fighters, Porterville's Morris Aldaco will put his 2-0 record on the line against Taft's Doug Hunt (1-0).

# Lemoore's Poppies "The Tachi Kid" Martinez (10-2) will go up against San Bernardino's Shad Smith (8-6-1), and Kenny Ento will face Lodune Sincaid, who is a World Extreme Cagefighting veteran.


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