BY LYNNE MCCREARY
As The MMA Mom, I write mostly about fighters that I consider “mine”. Other than my son Dennis Bermudez there isn’t another fighter closer to my heart than Joey “The Raging Warrior” Gambino. I’ve known Joey since he was best buds with my youngest son, Jay in middle school. The two were very close and Joey was a frequent visitor to my home.
As varsity wrestlers at Saugerties High School in upstate New York the two co-captained the Wrestling Team their senior year in high school, where Joey won sections and was the first student from the school ever to make it to the state level of competition. It was indeed, Joey who was one of the first to encourage Dennis to pursue a career in MMA. Both started out fighting under New York Top Team in Saugerties, NY with Ron Darnley and Tyrone Chrisjohn.
In the early days, Joey and Dennis were on a lot of the same cards fighting at the amateur and ultimately a professional level. I of course was in attendance and viewed repeatedly as Joey went in and made quick work of his opponents. He was unstoppable, and still is with his undefeated professional record of 8-0; all by stoppages I might add.
His most recent fight was the main event in the Caged Fury Fighting Championships Featherweight title bout on Oct. 22 in Atlantic City. His opponent was Eddie Fyvie fighting out of Schenectady, NY, with a professional record of 9-5-0. Fyvie had just broken a two fight losing streak in his last fight against Lester Caslow at the “CFFC VII: No Mercy” by unanimous decision, and was looking to stop the undefeated Gambino in order to claim the CFFC Featherweight Title for himself. This was not to be.
Even though I was viewing a recording (since I was unable to attend the live show), as they announced Joey to the ring, the goose bumps began and my heart rate increased. It’s a weird, hair on end type of experience; which I get this anytime one of “mine” enter the ring.
The fight begins; the two circle as they feel each other out. Joey is the first to really connect with a big right knocking Fyvie to the mat where he stayed and beckoned Joey to enter his guard. Joey did not and Fyvie regained his feet. As the fight continued, Fyvie caught a kick by Joey and was looking for the takedown. Joey defended it and ended up with Joey’s back to the cage. Joey turned it around and put Fyvie up against the cage in a clinch. Fyvie tried for a guillotine on Joey as they dropped to the mat, as joey slipped out and assumed top control.
After a bit in this position, with neither fighter really doing anything the ref directs the two onto their feet in center ring. At this point Fyvie attempts a takedown in answer to which Joey threw a very impressive hip toss landing Fyvie on the mat. Joey assumes top control within Fyvie’s guard managing to posture up and land some blows as the round comes to a close. From my point of view, the first round goes to Joey.
The fight resumed with round two. Joey pressed forward, throwing a side kick and thwarting a takedown attempt by Fyvie. Joey just missed with a big right overhand, but followed it up with a left hook and a one, two combination. Then Joey gets a takedown, assumes top control in Fyvie’s guard once again. He postured up several times landing big elbows followed by a vicious assault of ground and pound until the fight was stopped by the ref. Joey does his signature vault to the top of the fence and revels in victory to the applause of his Saugerties, New York and new found fans. The fight is declared; Joey “The Raging Warrior” winner of the CFFC Featherweight Title bout by KO due to referee stoppage 3:51 into the second round.
I got in touch with Joey to congratulate him on his victory (never doubted him for a second), wish him a Happy Birthday (he turned 23 yesterday) and see what’s next for the hot, young prospect. “A lot of interviewers kept pointing out all the experience that Eddie [Fyvie] had,” Joey told me as we talked about this fight, “Number one; a champion will do whatever it takes to win the fight. Number two; if they’re getting punched in the face and are all squished up against the cage; they’re not going to be able to use their jiu-jitsu. I’m ready. I can go standing, I can go grappling, but I’ll do whatever I have to do to win a fight.”
Not only did he win the fight, but he finished it off in the second round. As a title fight it was scheduled for five rounds. “I wanted to make sure I finished it [the fight] before the end of the third round. I wanted to show everyone that I didn’t need the two extra rounds to win this fight.”
Joey was set to be a contestant on this season of The Ultimate Fighter along with my son, Dennis, in the featherweight division, but things took an unfortunate turn of events. “There was a mix up in medicals’, he said “and I needed to get retested two weeks before I was scheduled to fly out to Vegas.” Unfortunately he was unable to get licensed [to fight] in Nevada in a timely enough manner, so he being a contestant had to be scrapped.
Had he made the show there would have been a good chance that he would have had to fight Dennis at some point. Since the two both came up together, first as high school wrestlers and then in MMA there is a lot of buzz on that fight matchup among their shared fan base. “That’s not a fight I want to happen, I wouldn’t want to hit him; he’s like a brother to me.”
Joey is not likely to try out for a new season of TUF in the future. As a student of Firas Zahabi at Tristar MMA in Montreal Joey trains alongside UFC fighters such as Kenny Florian, Miguel Torres and of course GSP; George St.Pierre. “Firas says he’s still molding me. He’s thinking of the long term and doesn’t want to get me a UFC fight until I’m 100%. He won’t let me or any of his other fighters go to the UFC until they’re ready.”
He continued “I’ll probably have to defend this [CFFC featherweight] title once or twice before I’ll get a shot at the UFC.” If things go as planned Joey will be making his UFC debut sometime next year. I, for one am looking forward to it and will keep you posted.