It is a personal passion to introduce regional promotions and local fighters. The more we know about someone (or something) the more invested we become. There are all sorts of good things happening at the local level in combat sports. There are good fighters that come with unique stories worth investing in. For example, Eddie Perez “Bruno”.
Everybody that loves MMA, loves UFC. But in-between entering a gym to train and getting signed to the UFC lies a lot of training hours, and local fights. This is a necessary part of the process to produce the best of the best. Think of these regional fighters as D1 is to NFL and farm teams are to MLB. It’s a shame so many of those same UFC loving fans aren’t attending more local fight promotions. Honestly, many fans don’t even know who any of the promotions are in their area.
Eddie Perez “Bruno”
“Bruno”, 32 year old MMA fighter has accepted fights with Combat Night, a regional promotion in Florida, since March 2022. However his story as a professional fighter is much longer and tightly woven into his personal story. Fighting as a result of circumstance and essentially “wanting better”, is a common thread among fighters and athletes.
Bruno said that he moved to Orlando, Florida because when he was growing up in the projects in the Bronx, all he saw was pavement. Outside his window he saw cement, brick and a lot of gray. Because of this he was “obsessed with marine life”. He fantasized about becoming a marine biologist, of the blue ocean and sunny sky. But the road has been a winding one between the Bronx and Orlando.
Growing up the projects meant being beat up and robbed regularly. As one of the only Puerto Rican families, Bruno and his siblings “stood out”. He felt he had to start fighting to defend himself, his sisters, and little brother. Around 13 he started boxing training out of Johns’ Gym in the Bronx, a local gym that has seen some very impressive fighters come and go throughout the years.
Life ebbs and flows, and when your already struggling to get by with 8 kids like Bruno’s mother was, a big “ebb” can change the course of things in a mighty way. During one of the more difficult times Bruno went to live in Iowa where one of his older sisters was in college. Years of fluctuations followed. Schools, states, housing, training, etc. – shifted. Circumstances were what they were and some of those led to being stabbed at 15, then being shot at 18.
In a random turn of events, one evening in Des Moines, Iowa after football practice Bruno and a group of friends went to a local bar for drinks. This bar, Uncle Bucks, had a cage for fights. Knowing he had a history of formal boxing training and being in a “festive way” Bruno’s friends encouraged him to step into the cage. With no wrestling or grappling experience of any kind he stepped in to fight. He tells “my friend saw he was going for a take down and said to throw an upper cut”. He did. The uppercut landed hard on his advancing opponent and he won.
That his friend quickly called out some sound couching strategy is the first luck of the night. The second was that John Halverson, Kevin Burns, and Jeremy Stephen’s were there and saw him fight. They told him he was alright and he began training under Josh Neer and Anthony Porcelli at De Moines MMA.
He would have his first amateur fight in 2009 and then go pro in 2016 with VFC in Waterloo, Iowa.
VFC 51 [?] Possibly the bloodiest fight in the promotion to date.
In between amateur and pro MMA, Bruno would have more unfortunate experiences to cope with. Most traumatically, his little brother was murdered on Thanksgiving November 29th, 2015 sending Bruno into a “troubled time”. His health and happiness diminished and he stopped fighting for a period. Slowly he returned to training, fighting, his health and focus and his own greater well being. He isn’t sure what the next step is within the sport. He is certain that he works and trains for his kids, and to stay on the positive path for himself and loved ones.
There are good individuals, showing up and giving us great fights in our hometowns or nearby. A lot of these local fighters are trying to be the best versions of themselves. They can all benefit from a greater fan base and more support, simple as that.
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