PHOENIX – At this time last year, life was different. COVID-19 was in full swing as athletes and businesses struggled to recover from unforeseen circumstances related to the pandemic. One such company, Ringside Unified Fighting, better known as RUF Nation, struggled because the Arizona Boxing and MMA Commission did not allow competitive fighting in the state to resume.
Around the same time last year, Dr Joel Lopez, president and founder of the RUF, described the impact of COVID-19 on local fighters and the way back to the cage in Arizona. He spoke about the RUF’s protocols to fight the virus and a double standard given that the UFC had been allowed to continue its practice in Las Vegas.
Fast forward to the present day and the future holds much brighter prospects for RUF Nation.
“Never better,” Lopez said
RUF Nation has partnered with ONE Championship, a Singapore-based MMA organization, which has seen Lopez and his team host five MMA events in the past six months, and local and former fighters from the l ‘UFC have been more exposed than ever in the promotion.
And with the possibility of joining ONE, thanks to the ongoing Road to ONE tournament for RUF heavyweights, their chance at the biggest MMA stages in the world could come sooner rather than later. With that in mind, here are three fights to watch Sunday night at the Celebrity Theater. (Fights are subject to change.)
Jordan Powell (12-8-0) vs. Waldo Cortes-Acosta (1-0-0)
After a first-round submission on his MMA debut in July, fighter Arizonan Cortes-Acosta looks to make another statement in his first main event as he takes on an MMA veteran and the No.1 ranked heavyweight. in California, Powell. Powell is on a two-game winning streak, having beaten Brandon Cash at RUF MMA 40 in April and is looking to continue his run in the Road to ONE tournament. Powell’s most notable fight was against UFC light heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes in 2017, when Powell was defeated in the first round. Look for the veteran to use both his punching and submitting game against newcomer Cortes-Acosta, who will face his toughest test yet after taking the fight on short notice.
Gabe Rodriguez (1-5-0) vs. David Bollea (3-2-0)
Following his first professional win at RUF MMA 40, Rodriguez will look to capitalize on that momentum this weekend against Bollea. Even though Bollea has spent a lot of time away from the cage, having last fought professionally in 2012, “The Ultimate Male” is hoping to take advantage of young Rodriguez and restart his MMA career on Sunday. This fight should be a heated exchange as the two fighters showed their true feelings for each other during Saturday’s weigh-ins, potentially setting up a nighttime fight scenario at the Celebrity Theater.
Cameron Chism (6-8-0) (A) vs. Ellery Tarazon (0-1-0)
The main co-event has the potential to be an exceptional fight as Chism takes on Tarazon in the Road to ONE quarterfinals. Chism, known as “Dark Shark”, is looking to return to the winning column after losing his last few fights in other promotions. He will meet Tarazon, a former Arizona State player, who is looking to improve on his only professional fight in 2014, where he was defeated via TKO. Both heavyweights are hungrier than ever to advance to the semi-finals and win that ONE Championship contract, so expect to see some big punches flying early and often in this fight.