"The fighters are the most excited, and the fans who have never seen professional fighting," said promoter Tommy Rojas of Impact MMA, which includes boxing, wrestling, kickboxing and jujitsu. "It's the fastest growing sport in the world."
Labiano, 25, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA fitness instructor at Crispim BJJ Barra Brothers in Pleasanton as well as a personal fitness trainer. A purple belt, he's been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with Alexander Crispim since 2008.
"Jiu-Jitsu is basically submission. You grapple, go for points on takedowns and certain positions," Labiano explained. "Fighting is punching, kicking with knees and elbows, and takedowns."
At fights, three judges use different criteria to tally strikes and cage control on a 30-point scale.
"I've been fighting pretty frequently, every month or two, starting in February," Labiano said. "I lost my first fight by a split decision. I won the next three.
"I left it to my instructor if he thought I was ready to go professional," he added.
At 135 pounds, Labiano will be fighting Gabe Carassco in the bantam weight division.
"I don't know him personally, it's his professional debut also," Labiano said. "I've watched him on film, how he fights, and I'm planning for the fight according to what I see."
About half of next week's fighters are from the Tri-Valley area.
"The whole premise behind the show is the local fighters. These fighters have never had a chance to fight in their own area code," Rojas said. "Crispim Jujitsu is a very big academy. Jeremiah will have 300 people alone."
Fighters often face each other in the Gold Country casinos, Rojas said, which means they don't get to fight in front of their fans. The casino fights are not governed by the California State Athletic Commission, as they are in other venues statewide, including Pleasanton.
Next week's fights will have three five-minute rounds, and they may be stopped if one of the fighters verbally submits or taps his opponent to say he's done, if the referee says to stop, or if someone gets knocked out.
Rojas says MMA fighters are seldom knocked out; it's a technical knockout if the referee stops the fight when a fighter is getting punched and not defending himself, or if he has a bad cut.
"Fighters will typically go the distance," Rojas said. "I made the match-ups myself, and the majority are going to be very aggressive with each other."
The fights will go quickly, he added, and the fighters receive stoppage bonuses if the fights don't go to the time limit.
"I want them to go fast," Rojas said. "We try to keep it at three minutes."
The 12 fights, being held in a 2,400-seat venue inside the Young California Building, are split into two, with the main card being the last six, and the main event being the very last fight.
"We are thrilled to have the Impact MMA at the Alameda County Fairgrounds," said April Mitchell, marketing manager for the Fairgrounds. "This is just another example of a truly unique event offered right here in Pleasanton. From professional cage fighting to the recent Tomato Battle to the Pirates of Emerson Haunt, we are proud to be the home of such a variety of unique experiences."
"The reason they are in a cage is because when you do this in a ring you end up having to stop the fight so they don't fall out, which could affect the outcome of the fight," Rojas said. "In a cage, it allows them to continuously fight -- they're never going to fall out."
The weigh-in of the fighters is also exciting, Rojas said, and it will take place at 3 p.m. at Athens Burger in Dublin.
"There's a lot of buildup here," Rojas said. "A lot of fans have never seen a weigh-in."
Tickets range from $25-$150. Doors open at 5 p.m. for the 6 p.m. fights. There will be a pre-fight party at 4 p.m. and an after-party at Mexico Lindo near the Fairgrounds.
Sales were brisk as soon as the tickets went online, Rojas said.
"There was an overwhelming interest in the tickets -- the VIP tickets went first," he said.
For Jeremiah Labiano, training is ongoing, as he works out in the morning and teaches in the afternoon. As his pro debut approaches he has mixed emotions.
"You're always going to be nervous, it's a natural instinct of fight or flight," he said. "But when you get the first punch off, adrenalin takes over. But you still have to stick to the game plan and fight smart."
"It's not a street fight," he added. "You have to pick and choose your shots and know what you're doing."
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