MEXICO (Mon, October 16, 2017)– Before bantamweight contender John “Sexy Mexi” Castaneda (14-2) fights in Combate America’s famed Copa Combate 135-pound tournament on Nov. 11 in Mexico, LIVE on Telemundo Deportes, the red-hot Minnesota fighter sat down with FightBookMMA.
How do you feel about your relationship with Combate Americas?
It’s great. They compensate really well. Good paydays and good fights – keeping you active. Having a fight guaranteed every ninety days – stuff like that. At the time it was either choose Combate or go to the UFC. At this point in time, I’ve been with Combate since their very first fight in Las Vegas. I thought it was the best decision for me, right now. I’m still very early in my career and they are a young promotion – so, I think that signing with them was the right thing to do. I’m getting better as a martial artist and I think they are doing the same thing – the UFC is already established. If I were to sign with the UFC today, I would be a nobody, I’d be a newcomer and have to prove myself. Combate America is an elite promotion as well, but I’ve already proven myself. I’m the face of the company and I’m willing to stick with them because I want to see them grow and I want to grow, myself. Whether or not the UFC is down the road, who knows, but as I said, I’m a very young fighter. I have a lot of fights for my age and I’m nowhere near my prime. I just moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I train under Greg Nelson at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy. In the past three years, since I’ve moved there, I’ve won nine straight fights. I only see myself getting better every single day. Before I was training there, I was at a mediocre gym where I was attending college. My training partners were not of too high of a level – my coaches and everything were pretty mediocre, but ever since I made the transition to the academy, I’ve found myself getting better and better. That’s what I expected with Combate – the opportunity presented itself and they offered me a contract and I think it was the right move.
What does it mean to you to be with Combate, as a Hispanic-American athlete?
Well, it is a company that not only showcases Latin American fighters, but showcases them to the Latin American community – which is very special to people of Latin American descent. It hits close to home and it’s almost like performing for the family, in a sense. The UFC doesn’t target specific communities – it’s international. It’s so cool that Combate targets that specific community and that certain style of fighter. It’s like Campbell Owens says, “there’s a difference between two fighters in this promotion and in the other promotions. I find that fighters based in Latin America can be a lot more savage – we’re not looking for easy fights. We trade blows and stand and bang. Dirty boxing, hockey fighting – stuff like that. I feel like a lot of us are willing to die in that cage. It’s an honor to perform for Combate Americas. It’s almost like performing for your own people, which I think is cool.
What are your expectations for this next fight?
It’s really tough. I still haven’t wrapped my head around everything. They haven’t really given us much details as to whether the first fights will be three three-minute rounds or three five-minute rounds, or if there’s going to be seating. All I know is that you have to win three fights to win the whole thing. I see myself as being very prepared for everyone in the cup. I think that I match-up well against everybody. I’m a well-rounded fighter – I know there are lots of well-rounded fighters in there, but this is nothing different for me. What I’m doing specifically is I am watching a bunch of videos and breaking down the techniques of the guys who I view as the two best fighters. I’m breaking down their styles and implementing them in my camp. The rest of the fights should just fall into place. There aren’t a lot of different styles that people show, you know? Obviously, with me, I’ve had thirty-two fights and I’ve seen a lot of styles. I’m very adaptable in the cage and I’m trying to prepare for two very specific fighters with two specific styles and I think if I get those fights it will play in favour, but if I get other fights I will still be ready. I’ve been training hard and training in all aspects of my game. Wherever the fight goes, I’m prepared to go to war and win this tournament.
Earlier, you mentioned “growing with Combate,” how much do you think you will be able to grow with the organization?
I always told myself, from the get-go, from before Combate, when I first started doing MMA and jiujitsu – the goal was always to be in the UFC, that’s every MMA fighter’s goal. It’s the major league. It’s everybody’s league. So, from the get-go, it was always my goal to just get to the UFC – to see myself set a goal and accomplish it. But, as time goes on, I find that the UFC wasn’t really my goal – my goal was to be one of the best, if not the best. There’s a lot of talk that the UFC is the king, the top dog in MMA – but there a lot of other great, big promotions out there with champions. I think it’d be really great to see a champion-versus-champion fight to see who really is the top dog. I think my goal is to just be comfortable doing what I love. Like I said earlier, a lot of people in my age group are miserable doing their day jobs. To get back to your question, I don’t believe that UFC is the only promotion capable of doing that with. Combate Americas puts on high-level fights and they can bring in very, very high-level fighters – be it up-and-coming talent or guys who have already been at that highest level who are looking to maintain their fighting styles – I think Combate Americas can deliver those high-level fights. I just want to fight the best in the world and live comfortably doing it – absolutely I believe Combate Americas can provide that for me. I’ve fought some tough guys for them already, but it’s only going to keep getting better and better. This eight-man tournament is another notch in the belt, it’s a lot of high-level guys representing their countries and I get to go toe-to-toe with these guys with a big, fat paycheque at the end of the day. It’s awesome, man. I absolutely believe that Combate can fulfill any MMA fighter’s passion and dreams.