By Owen O'Brien firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — For the first time in New York State history, boxing and mixed martial arts fans alike can flock to the same location.
TNT Fights – known for putting on amateur MMA events – will put together an event consisting of 10 boxing and 10 MMA fights at Sportsplex in North Tonawanda tonight.
For Victory MMA promoter Don Lilly, he sees this as an opportunity to prove to New York State that it should legalize professional MMA fighting. As the law states now, only amateurs can legally fight and the state does not provide insurance for the MMA participants.
On the other hand, boxing is completely sanctioned and insured.
“We are looking to broaden the horizons in showing there’s a sport in boxing that’s approved and a cloud over MMA. My intention on this night is to show the state ‘look what we’re doing,’’ Lilly said. “Look how organized it is.’”
TNT fights has held multiple amateur MMA events since its legalization two years ago. This, however, will be the first event consisting of both boxing and MMA.
One of the men boxing on Saturday will be North Tonawanda’s John Nuchereno. This will be only Nuchereno’s second fight since joining the gym, but he is excited for the opportunity to fight in his community.
“It’s great fighting in front of your friends and family because it makes you go that much harder,” Nuchereno said. “I’m ready to go and it’s going to be awesome having everyone cheering me on. I’m looking forward to it.”
Nuchereno won his initial fight since changing gyms, but thinks he has become an even more dangerous boxer since.
“I feel great,” Nuchereno said. “I feel like there’s no possible way I can lose this fight. I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in probably ever. (I) feel stronger and faster than I’ve ever felt, so I’m excited to get back in there.”
The limited knowledge he has on his opponent has come through YouTube, where Nuchereno acknowledges, “You don’t take too much out of that.”
Many members of Team Victory who usually fight in the cages will fight in the boxing ring tonight, including Valerie Aspaas, who is one of the top female amateur MMA fighters in the country, Lilly said.
Aspaas lives in North Tonawanda and just defeated a top-20 ranked female fighter in Maine in August. However, when she faces off with Chloe Greeley it will be her first time in a boxing ring.
Even though Lilly sees Aspaas as one of the best fighters around, he believes she could use work on her standing game, which is why he decided to have her box.
“As we move forward to consider pro fights for her, she has to work on her standup,” Lilly said. “She has to be able to box, use her hands and be more versatile and comfortable.”
Victory MMA boxing coach Tommy Neff said Aspaas has picked up everything he wanted her to faster than most of the male fighters.
“She really gets things,” Neff said. “I’ll show it to her once and she really gets it.”
Aspaas will be competing in the “Golden Gloves” tournament in January to give her more experience with boxing. Neff and Lilly both agree this will make her a more dangerous and complete fighter in the cage.
Once her standing game becomes as dominant as her grappling, Neff and Lilly think she can be the highest-profiled fighter to ever emerge out of Team Victory.
“The sky’s the limit for her,” Lilly said. “I could see her on TV one day, no doubt. She has a tremendous shot to do something in this sport.”
The doors will open at 4:30 p.m. with the first event starting at roughly 5 p.m.. The boxing matches will be first, followed by MMA to close the evening. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $25.