If a hurricane had not destroyed Josh Quayhagen’s gym last year, the Karate Combat World Welterweight Championship may well not still be around his waist.
Defending against Dominican Republic naval commando Dionicio ‘El Capitan’ Gustavo in the main event of last night’s CBS Sports Network broadcast, Quayhagen survived a thunderous first-round knockdown and went on to stage an astonishing display of heart and grit.
He credits his astonishing willpower in part to a Rocky-esque training camp, forced on him by Hurricane Laura having turned his gym to matchsticks in August last year.
“I had a unique camp. I had a fired-up fight team who really helped me. We’d train in fields and parking lots, we’d go running through fields, we would train in the yard, in the rain – whatever we had to do, it didn’t matter,” he recalls.
“Going through struggles, that’s where that warrior spirit comes in. It’s so easy to step back and be a victim – no, let’s figure it out. I developed a better stronger mindset. We kept going and I felt better than I ever had, despite the least amount of training partners and no dojo!”
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It was the second time the two were meeting in The Pit. Back in 2019, Quayhagen stepped in as a late opponent to take an upset decision win over Gustavo, who until that point was on the verge of a title shot of his own.
This rematch was therefore both a title fight and something of a revenge mission for Gustavo, a mission he nearly completed in the first round.
“First punch he threw! That caught me by surprise. He usually fights orthodox but he came out southpaw and that threw me off. Once he put me down I had to go all the way to Plan Z and just dig in, survive and then break him,” said Quayhagen post-fight.
The blow nearly took Quayhagen out, but the defending champion was able to clear his head, grit his way through the second round and then use his relentless gas tank to grind Gustavo down over the remaining rounds.
Quayhagen had actually predicted what the fight’s decisive factor would be during a pre-fight interview.
“I know he’s a warrior and he’s going to keep coming – but so am I. He ain’t gonna have enough. We’re going to see how deep he can swim. I think it’s going to come down to will and heart,” he prophesied.
Josh Quayhagen def. Dionicio Gustavo (Unanimous Decision, R5)
Mardhi outmaneuvers Khasanov
Before the title fight, Kamariddin Khasanov stepped into The Pit to make his Karate Combat debut against young veteran Ilies ‘The Madman’ Mardhi in the newly-opened bantamweight division.
French national Mardhi (2-1 in Karate Combat going into the fight) is a flamboyant fighter, but even he couldn’t match the showmanship of his opponent, with Hasanov entertaining the crowd with the traditional dances of his native Tajkistan as he entered The Pit.
The fight was a predictably high-energy encounter for the full three rounds duration, both fighters a non-stop whirlwind of activity.
Hasanov had some excellent moments, but overall it was the more experienced Mardhi who was in control of the fight. He came away with a unanimous decision win.
Ilies Mardhi def. Kamariddin Khasanov (Unanimous Decision, R3)
Karate Combat: Season 3 airs every Thursday night at 10pm ET on CBS Sports Network (and Eurosport 10pm CET) with free replays available from Sunday at the Karate Combat Official YouTube Channel.
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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