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Gladiator MMA: Woods vs Lopes

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Two venerable lions of the St. Louis fight scene will touch gloves at the Family Arena Saturday night.

As part of the Gladiator MMA all pro card, Sal Woods and Lucas Lopes will meet in a middleweight bout.

With over 80 fights between them and a roster of opponents with names such as Tyron Woodley, Michael Chandler, Thiago Alves, Pat Healy, and many more, Woods and Lopes have been there and done that before it was cool.

To add to the old school flavor, Woods normally fights at 155-pounds but has agreed to go up two weight classes to meet Lopes at 185. It will be his first time fighting at middleweight in seven years.

"It is kind of a throwback," Woods said. "I was like, he's not that much bigger than me. It's not like he's some giant bruiser cutting 30-pounds. He's tough, I'm tough. Let's go out and put on a show."

Gladiator MMA was originally slated for October and Woods' home gym, CMMA, opened its doors to Lopes to get in some training in preparing for the pair's fight, albeit at the time against different opponents.

It has been over a year since Woods, 30, has fought. Since that time he has turned his sights on helping his teammates at CMMA, notably coach Steve Knogl, stand-out welterweight Jordan Dowdy, and up-and-coming amateur Sam Tamayo, prep for their fights. He has also dealt with a change in jobs and being a dad to a seven-year-old boy and a 19-month old daughter.

"It helps having a girlfriend who does a great job keeping an eye on both kids while I chase my dream," Woods said. "It comes down to teamwork and having a set schedule and knowing I have x-amount of time to get to the gym."

Lopes, 35, has been busy getting his gym, Granite City MMA Cage Warriors, up and running. Lopes' new training facility is set to debut after the holidays.

"We're almost done," Lopes said. "It's been crazy. We are doing the best that we can to make it a premier MMA training facility. We've been working hard the last three-to-four months."

The gym will give Lopes the opportunity to continue to do what he loves: coaching.

"After 16 years there have been a lot of gyms," he said. "I've never done this to prove I'm a better coach. Though I've never coached someone special, no UFC champions, I like helping young kids who are respectful. It gives me the opportunity to show them that martial arts can change your life."

Saturday will be Lopes' third trip to the Family Arena. He fought in Fight Hard's (then Fight Me) first two shows in 2010 and 2011.

"I lost both of those fights and that is one of the reasons I wanted so badly to get on this card," Lopes said. "I want to get a good victory in St. Louis before I think bout retiring."

Lopes has another reason to be motivated.

"This will be the first time that I've fought in front of my wife and kids," he said. "I have a lot I want to show the people who care about me."

Lopes sports a black belt in jiu-jitsu but also boasts 14-wins by TKO/KO and Woods is well aware of the dangers the Brazilian native possess. The key to his success is to not let Lopes breathe and continue to put on the pressure.

"I just have to be my normal self: tenacious, relentless, and get after it," Woods said. "I have that Granite City wrestling background, which is a lot like Iowa, and that's go, go, go. It's instilled in me. I can be dead tired but still find a way to rumble."

The six-foot-two Lopes knows the takedown is coming.

"I know his game very well," Lopes said. "I'll control the cage. When he makes his first mistake I will be there for him. I know he can take me down but I'll get better angles and leave my knee on his face."

Doors open at 5:30pm at the Family Arena for Gladiator MMA with prelims slated to start at 7pm. Tickets are $5 for reserved bowl and $10 for reserved floor seats.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the Gladiator MMA ticket line at 636-294-9662 between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm Monday - Friday, at The Family Arena box office between the hours of 12 pm and 6 pm Monday - Friday, by calling MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or 24 hours a day online at

The event is headlined by Thiago Silva against Marcus Sursa along with several of the famed Blackzilians on the card.

Thiago Silva vs Marcus Sursa
Victor Moreno vs Valdir Araujo
Shane Crenshaw vs Carrington Banks
Andrews Nakahara vs Scott Futrell
Lucas Lopes vs Sal Woods

Doug Jenkins vs Yuri Villefort
Chris Manuel vs Lucas Gwaltney
Zach Fears vs Cjay Hunter
David Waters vs Josh Epps
Chris Beal vs Ryan Sutton
Matt Murphy vs Gary Becker

Gladiator: Sursa vs Silva
Saturday, October 10
Family Arena, St. Charles, MO