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Chris Oth | Knuckle Junkies

KJ Notebook: September 29th

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Even with his hand wrapped in a cast, Josh Sampo can't help but smile.
Sampo, a St. Charles MMA/Team Vaghi flyweight, has seen his stock soar after a big unanimous decision victory over Antonio Banuelos on Sept. 21.
Sampo dictated the entire fight and showed off his striking skills and dominated in the stand-up.

"I started picking at the negative things," Sampo said. "I should have moved my head a lot more. I would walk him down to the cage then stop. I should have cut more angles. There were a lot of things that I feel I really need to improve on."

The victory not only upped Sampo's record to 8-2 but landed him in some surreal company, according to FightMatrix.com. The site, which tabulates world-wide rankings for all professional fighters, slotted Sampo at third in the world.

"I looked at it and thought, that's a typo," Sampo said. "There is no reason I should have gone from not ranked to third. I would have been happy with a top 25. Third is a little far-fetched. If they want to give it to me, I'll take it right now. It's definitely a typo of some sort. I feel like I can compete with some of those top-level guys but until I do and until I pay dues, but not know. I wouldn't say it's a fluke, but the actual ranking and number is well off."

The rankings on FightMatrix are software generated, produced by a proprietary engine (CIRRS – Combat Intelli-Rating and Ranking System) and are based only on official results. There is no human intervention involved, which means that all bouts are considered in chronological order to determine the current rankings.

The only two fighters ranked ahead of Sampo are Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez.Johnson edged Benavidez on Saturday via split decision to claim the inaugural UFC flyweight championship.

"I wasn't impressed and it made me even more hungry to get in there," Sampo said. "In my mind, it proves that I can compete – and –beat both of those guys. It sparked a fire."

Sampo broke the index finger in his hand in the fight Banuelos and is looking at eight weeks off to heal.

FIORE CALLS IT A CAREER
Last week, legendary MMA and wrestling coach Marc Fiore announced his retirement from the sport. Word came via his official Facebook page and spread quickly throughout the community.

"As of today, I am officially retiring from training and managing fighters," said Fiore.

The announcement on Facebook caught many in the community by surprise, but those who knew him best foresaw this announcement coming.

Kyle Watson who coached along side Fiore at the Hughes Hit Squad and runs Fiore MMA's sister school, Watson Martial Arts, in downtown St. Louis. Watson joined the team at the HIT Squad in February of 2008 before leaving to start his own school in March of 2011.

Watson Martial Arts just celebrated its one-year anniversary in July.

"He's at the point where he's given so much on the fighters and wants to focus more on his family," said Watson.

Watson remembers a trip where Fiore cornered him for a fight for Cage Warriors in Beirut, then flew to London to corner another fighter, before heading to Australia to be in the corner of Jake Hecht.

"He's away from his family weeks at a time," said Watson. "He's tired of missing his family."

Watson says he has witnessed on multiple occasions where Fiore literally gave money out of his pocket to fighters.

"One of those guys that always gives gives gives, and never asks for anything in return," he said.

Fiore began the MMA side of his career training and cornering UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, and was in the corner for three of Matt Hughes' world championship fights including the fights where he defeated BJ Penn, Georges St. Pierre. In 2007, the two joined forces alongside Matt Pena and Robbie Lawler opening up the HIT Squad in Granite City, IL. When the Hit Squad was sold to Jesse Finney earlier last year, Fiore stayed on as wrestling coach before leaving a few months later. Fiore opened up his own training facility in Springfield, IL in August, and seen several notable fighters train under him.

List of fighters Marc Fiore has helped get onto the Ultimate Fighter / UFC:
Kyle Watson
Jake Hecht
Dustin Jacoby
Tommy Speer
Jeremiah Riggs
Brian Foster
Dustin "The Beast" Neace

Current cast member of the UK vs Australia Ultimate Fighter: Benny "Blanco" Alloway

Worked with fighters on this current season of the Ultimate Fighter while at the HIT Squad: Cortez Coleman and Neil Magny.

MAIN EVENT MANIA
It looks like it could be a furious Fall if the main event of three upcoming cards are able to hold true.

The most locked down of the match-ups is at Cage Championships next show in November when Chris Heatherly and Sal Woods are penciled in to headline. Heatherly is one of the top up-and-coming pros in the area while Woods has been on some of the top cards, faced some of the top competition, and has provided some of the most excitement in the cage in St. Louis MMA history.

Fight Hard MMA returns to the Family Arena in November and word around the campfire is Lucas Gwaltney will tussle with Rob Washington in its main event. Gwaltney is a free-throwing, gun slinger who can entertain a crowd. Washington is coming off a Rogue Warrior Championships victory over Scott Thometz in September and another win, this one in August in the Fight Hard cage.

Rumble Time Promotions is back at it at the Ameristar on Oct. 26. The card is salvaging nearly all of the pro fights from the recent Titan cancellations. One hiccup is finding an opponent for Jake Collier. Collier was set to face UFC vet Dustin Jacoby but Jacoby recently pulled off the card. Rumble Time's Jim Jenkins is searching for a top-notch opponent for Collier to top the bill. Also on the Rumble Time card, Alex White is scheduled to meet Rumble Time-favorite Charon Spain on the October card.

INVICTA
Ashley "Smashley" Cummins and Barb Honchak will be fighting on the upcoming Invicta card in Kansas City on Oct. 6. Both fighters created funny promotional videos for the event. They can be seen at invictafc.com/invictas-got-talent/.

Cummins will be taking on Joanne Calderwood and shares the same 3-0 record as her opponent.

Honchak (6-2) is currently ranked #3 in the world in the female flyweight division and will be facing off against Aisling Daly.

Invcita will be streamed live and free on the Invicta website next Saturday night.

JACOBY TALKS
Speaking of the aforementioned Jacoby, he sat down with Light Night MMA.com and talked about the Titan cancellation and where his future is heading. The interview can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=111tUgH4hVc

GYM DUES
Looks like the folks at Modern Combat Systems are relocating gyms and adding new fighters to their team.

UFC vet Luigi Fioravanti has had ATT AGOGE up and going. Information on the school, located on Olive Street, can be found at www.agogestl.com.



If fighters, coaches, or managers would like to provide information, notes, or quotes for upcoming KJ Notebooks, please email at info@knucklejunkies.com

Guns 'n Hoses 2018 | Thu, November 22nd
Scottrade Center, St. Louis, MO

Shamrock FC 312 | Sat, December 8th
Ameristar KC, Kansas City, MO

Fight Hard MMA | Sat, December 8th
Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO

NFA Fight Before X-mas | Sat, December 15th
Casa Loma Ballroom, St. Louis, MO