November 26, 2014 --
Holding a POW/MIA flag and wearing a hockey mask painted with the colors of the Mexican flag, Staff Sgt. Francisco Castro enters the Valley Center’s octagon cage making his Professional Mixed Martial Arts debut in San Diego, California.
Honoring those who sacrificed themselves for freedom and his Mexican heritage, Castro recently won his professional MMA debut in the XPLODE Fight Series 135 pound Bantam weight class in a unanimous decision.
Castro, a warehouse chief, Marine Forces Reserve, General Account, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, said patience and training hard paid off.
“MMA isn’t very big (in Georgia) but I have found a few places to train, along with the help of fellow Marines, to help me keep my skills sharp,” Castro said.
He said training without his coaches, who live in California, presented some challenges, but he was able to make the adjustments needed once he arrived a week prior to his scheduled fight.
“While in California, I got with my coaches and we did several late night workouts at the gym,” he said. “This helped out because of the time difference between East Coast and West Coast and my fight was not scheduled (until) late evening.
“Although I was able to fix a lot of little things, it was not my best performance,” he said. “I got the ‘W’ and I am thankful for that, but I feel I should have done a lot better and should have finished the fight early.”
Castro said he did not know his opponent’s style of fighting so he had to focus his training on the basics.
Describing his opponent as “wild” and that he was jumping all over the canvas, Castro said he had to take the fight to him.
“We clinched against the fence and I picked him up and slammed him to the canvas,” he said. “There were a couple of times throughout the match where the referee was going to stop the fight but the guy kept fighting back.
“The referee warned him ‘you better do something or I am going to stop the fight,’” he said. “That’s when he started throwing wild punches and the referee let the fight continue.”
Castro admitted he did get tired during the three five-minute rounds.
“When I got tired, I thought about those who sacrificed so much for us to be free and that motivated me to continue to fight,” the champ pointed out as he referred to a photo of a Marine in a picture frame hanging on the wall in his gym for motivation.
“The photo is of a Marine staff sergeant in Dress Blues with both legs missing,” Castro said. “Whenever I feel (like) I want to give up, I just look at that photo and it makes me dig down and push myself.”
The new professional MMA fighter said his wife, Diane, helped him prepare for his debut by training with him in their garage, which has been converted into a gym.
“I trained my wife how to hold the focus mitts for me when I train in the gym,” he said. “There is a technique to holding the mitts and she caught on very quick.”
According to Castro, they train together several times a week.
When not holding the focus mitts, Diane said she tries to do her part by taking as much of the family stress off of him as possible.
“At home, I take care of the children so he has time to train,” Diane Castro said. “I also make sure he is eating healthy during training and leading up to the fight.”
In his gym, Castro works out by punching, kicking and throwing elbow strikes into a punching bag as well as carrying it from one side of the room to the other simulating slamming his opponent.
“How I work out is how I fought in the cage and it feels good to finally get the pro fight under my belt,” he said. “Eventually, I want to start a Mixed Martial Arts club here and share my experiences.”
Castro, who wrestled in high school, began his professional MMA quest with the Miramar Submission Grappling Team aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar San Diego, California, training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, boxing, kickboxing and wrestling since 2009.
During his previous duty station in California, he competed as an amateur MMA fighter winning several championships.
“I have been fighting in the cage as an amateur for more than four years, winning three titles including Southern California 145 pound State Champion, 145 pound Epic Fighting Champion and the 145 pound XPLODE Amateur Fighting Champion,” Castro said.
As an amateur fighter, Castro’s record is 10 wins, five losses and one tie.
“My goal is to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and making my professional MMA debut gets me a step closer to that goal,” Castro said.