New mixed martial arts team combines coaches, fighters from Gym Rats and Tsunami MMA
The new Warrior Mixed Martial Arts team includes Gil Calvio, Arnold Berber, Matt Chadwick, Josh Barnts, Kellin Coffman, Chris Hooper, David Whitaker, Austin Moore, Chad Bond, Brian Carey and coaches Eli Stancliff, Pete Bilancarte, Tracy Yates and Ron Otremba. Warrior MMA says thay have 20 people who have signed up to check out the new team, with about five or six that show up regularly and are “fight ready.” Del Norte Triplicate / Michael Zogg
Mixed martial arts has received a makeover in Del Norte County. The Fighting Gym Rats have combined with Tsunami MMA to for a brand new club — Warrior MMA.
“It made more sense in this small of a town to combine our knowledge and all work together,” said Warrior coach and former Tsunami MMA owner Eli Stancliff. “We all live here and we all get along great, so why have two separate teams in a small town?”
As the teams combined they wanted to pick a brand new name, and the Warriors were the obvious choice.
“We are trying to be a community-minded team. That is why we brought in the Warrior name,” said former Fighting Gym Rats owner Ron Otremba. “It has always been the Warriors in Crescent City. Hopefully that will help us get some community support and sponsors. Most of our guys are ex-Del Norte athletes or students.”
The new Warrior team has four main coaches, with Otremba, Tracy Yates and Pete Blancarte joining Stancliff on the coaching staff.
“If you had to classify all the coaches, Pete would be the wrestling coach and Eli is our innovator. He comes up with the new moves and follows the latest stuff out there,” Yates said. “I am the overall submission coach and Ron is our stand-up coach for boxing.”
Otremba is an ex-boxer that fought in the ’70s and ’80s and has been coaching boxers and fighters since he started the Fighting Gym Rats in 2002. Stancliff has been involved with jujitsu for 10 years and MMA for 8. He currently has a 7–3 overall record in MMA fights but has been sitting out the past couple years after ACL replacement surgery. Yates said he has been following MMA closely since it began and has trained in several different martial arts with whomever he could find in the area. He is a referee at the Cher-Ae Heights Casino fights and also serves as a judge. Blancarte gained experience kickboxing in the ’70s and coached wrestling in the ’90s before joining up with the Warrior coaching staff.
“Collectively, we all pull together, pool our knowledge everywhere, and we have come up with a pretty good situation,” Stancliff said.
For fighters like Matt Chadwick who spent time in both gyms prior to the merger, the Warrior MMA team is a dream come true.
“I am really happy that we got this team together because I was with Tsunami MMA, which was good, and I boxed with the Gym Rats, which was good,” Chadwick said. “I try to be loyal to my coaches, so to see everybody come together was really good for me. I feel like we are stronger than ever coming together as Warrior MMA rather than a couple of small groups.”
Fellow fighter Chris Hooper has been pleased with the amount of stability that the new Warrior team has been able to offer — something that has been an issue in the past.
“It has been a ride,” Hooper said. “It has been frustrating until now because sometimes you have a training partner, then you don’t. There was a lot of moving around to different gyms. It is nice to have everybody in one spot now. Hopefully everything will go a lot more smoothly.”
Becoming a Warrior
Coaches said that they have had over 20 people come to the Kenpo Karate Gym to check out Warrior MMA, and there are about five or six fighters who consistently attend workouts and are ready for fights.
Most of the fighters who come to the gym are from Del Norte County, but there are a few Brookings residents who have also joined up with the Warriors.
“The majority of our fighters are from Del Norte, but we are not exclusive to Del Norte,” said Stancliff, who grew up in McKinleyville but has lived in Del Norte for over a decade. “Anybody local, whether they are from Orick or Brookings, if they want to be part of the team, they can be part of the team.”
Warrior MMA wants to help anybody interested in the sport, regardless of their ability to afford training.
“Everything that we do is not for profit,” Stancliff said. “We don’t charge any of the fighters. We aren’t trying to make a buck and just get people in here. We are trying to get people in here that are really interested in the sport of MMA and making sure that they have the opportunity to do it.
“That is why we don’t charge. We ask for donations and sponsors in the community to help us do what we do. So far it has been working.”
The Warriors’ major sponsors have been Kenpo Karate, Varner Chiropractic and Gladiator Athletics. Otremba said other local businesses have also shown interest in donating in the near future.
The Warrior coaches said they try to ease new fighters into the sport.
“The first thing that we do is ask what their goals are,” Otremba said. “This isn’t a class, it is an actual fighting team.”
“Then we just go off of their past experience,” Yates continued. “If somebody has a wrestling background, for example, we know what submissions and what stand-up works best for wrestlers. We are not a huge team from a big city, so we try to cater to the individual. If they don’t know anything, we will work with them from there.”
Anyone interested in joining Warrior MMA as a fighter or a sponsor can contact Otremba at 460-0235 or Yates at 954-0893.
The new Warrior MMA team is currently undefeated at 1-0. Del Norte’s former two-time heavyweight wrestling champion Roger “Bronc” McCovey picked up a win over previously undefeated Amir Lacy of Dragon House MMA in San Francisco at the “Showdown in the Sapphire” at Blue Lake Casino.
Two of the Warriors veterans, Chadwick and Hooper, are hoping to extend that winning streak on Aug. 16 when they travel down to Susanville for the “High Desert Brawl.”
Hooper, 4-2 in six previous MMA fights, will fight at 170 pounds against Ramon Lopez from Napa MMA.
“I just know that he is a wrestler,” Hooper said. “He comes out pretty aggressively with his hands. I am just going to have to step back and pick him apart.”
Chadwick will fight at 155 pounds against Juan Vengas (2-0) of Burny MMA. Chadwick just learned who his opponent will be on Wednesday and isn’t quite sure what to expect from Vengas in the fight.
“I am just trying to work and round out my game,” Chadwick said. “I am trying to keep my stand-up strong and brushing up on my wrestling and jujitsu. I am just ready for anything. I feel like I am better than ever because I have gotten more and more experienced with every fight.”
Chadwick enters the “High Desert Brawl” with a 2-1 record in MMA fights. He also is 2-2 as a boxer and he went 2-1 in a toughman competition. He grew up with wrestling and boxing, but in the last three years he has started to gravitate towards MMA due to the popularity of the sport.
“There weren’t very many places to go with boxing, but there were a lot of MMA fights going on everywhere. There are a lot of MMA trainers and MMA fighters to spar with. So I started rolling with those guys and started getting comfortable with that.”