By ERICH NEUHAUS
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — NORTH TONAWANDA – Following the success of the first legally-sanctioned mixed martial arts amateur fighting event in New York state in over 10 years, round two is set to begin Saturday.
The TNT Fight Series, put on by Victory MMA Gym and Fitness at Rainbow Roller Rink, is back and stronger than ever with a deep card of 15 three-round amateur fights scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
The first event was ground-breaking.
Back in May, the event snapped a more-than-a-decade-long state absence for one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Since then, the TNT Fight Series paved the way for four other legally sanctioned MMA amateur events across the state.
“I think the interest is still there,” said TNT Fight Series promoter Don Lilly. “We’ll find out Saturday night when the doors shut and the tickets are accounted for.”
Lilly projects a bigger crowd then the 800-plus that were packed inside the roller rink in May, possibly hitting near 1,000. With a card full of local talent, that could easily be the case.
Out of the 30 fighters, five are former Tonawanda High School wrestlers, including two sets of brothers – Scott and Kyle McGregor and Jesse and Cody Plotner – and Brian Piccolo, who is a member of the Tonawanda Wrestling Hall of Fame. Six are out of Victory MMA Gym.
Frank Scalzo went to Niagara Falls High School and will face KGB Clay on Saturday night.
“It’s five more fights. We’re doing 15 fights this time so it’s more bang for your buck,” Lilly said. “There are more debut guys who we’re giving the opportunity to get in there for the first time, so there’s going to be a variety of different levels of discipline ... You’re going to see the different classes of amateur."
Kyle McGregor is one of those green amateurs on the card who is hoping to follow in his brother’s footsteps as an emerging talent in the amateur ranks.
He certainly has the pedigree.
The 2010 Tonawanda graduate holds the Warriors only wrestling state title and comes from a long line of brothers who excelled at wrestling. But MMA isn’t just wrestling. It’s boxing, kick-boxing, jiu-jitsu and a variety of other techniques that make up the sport.
Fortunately, he has an older brother to help him train like he did when wrestling in high school.
“Scott helps me out, a lot,” McGregor said.
Both he and his brother train at Victory MMA Sportsplex in NT.
“We’ll just be sparring and he’ll show me what I did wrong. If I get tapped out, he’ll show me what to do next time. He teaches me as we go and that’s the quickest way to learn,” he said.
The learning process will have to be quick.
McGregor, the 125-pounder, started training in August and will be matched up against a fighter in Peter Kang from Team BombSquad out of Ultimate Athletics Gym in Ithaca. Lilly said Team BombSquad is one of the biggest and most recognizable MMA teams in New York, noting that current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones passed through there along with other professional MMA fighters.
Team BombSqaud is bringing a number of fighters up for the fight, including Anthony Jerome, who will face Scott McGregor at 145-pounds. Jerome is a former Division-I wrestler at Binghamton University who is making his amateur debut.
“I’m confident with Scott’s wrestling ability he will hold his own against a D-I guy,” Lilly said.
Scott McGregor comes in confident after picking up his first win in Ohio a few months ago. His first fight was on the TNT Fight Series' first ever card in May, where he dropped a controversial decision when he was walloped with a haymaker under 20-seconds left in the match after controlling most of the fight.
The 2008 grad says he’s learned a lot from that fight.
“Unless you’re ending it, you have to have your guard up the whole time,” Scott McGregor said. “Cause if you let it down for a second, all it takes is one punch, one error.”
Tickets will be available at Rainbow Roller Rink, Victory MMA and Twisted Tiki Tattoo until fight time.TNT Fight Series Card Jesse Plotner vs. Keith Haubner -- main event Brian Piccolo vs. Jesse Hall -- co-main event Frank Scalzo vs. KGB Clay Brandon Mueckl vs. Corey Lauth Mark Dipalma vs. Matt Bordonaro Todd Liberati vs. Peter Mazzeo Jimmy Napoleon vs. Keith Forant Scott McGregor vs. Anthony Jerome Kevin Cummings vs. TBD Clinton Plotner vs. Tony Norton Eric Valez vs. Robert Mendenhall Brandon Hunt vs. Dylan Hall Kyle McGregor vs. Peter Kang Jared Jordan vs. Dave Szprygada DJ Brown vs. Ace Strickland