Follow Knuckle Junkies

Ariel Amores | Special for Knuckle Junkies

Pena Seeks Valor Title

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

To quote Pete Townshend, Luis Pena has looked under chairs, he's looked under tables, he's tried to find the keys to 50 million fables. You can call him The Seeker. He's been searching low and high.

When it comes to combat sports, Pena has sniffed around for and has raised his hand to any challenge he can find and now he's found a real humdinger.

On Saturday night, Pena returns to the competitive arena in the main event of “Worlds Collide,” a co-promotion between Conflict MMA and Valor Fights at the Forum River Center in Rome, Georgia. The event streams live on FloCombat.

Pena (3-0) will meet Kobe Wall (4-0) for the Valor professional lightweight championship. Wall was an undefeated amateur who went pro last July and since then has tallied four consecutive wins via submission.

Pena – who made his Valor debut in March with a submission win – considers the chance to fight for the promotion's championship an honor and is an opportunity that was discussed minutes after his victory over Damir Ferhatbegovic, a homegrown Valor prospect who seemed destined for a crack at the organization's title.

“By beating the guy I beat, they knew I was legit,” Pena said. “They saw something in me and let's be real, you don't see 6-foot-3 lightweights who are mixed (race), with a red afro who can talk and fight the way I do.”

Pena regards Wall as a well-rounded fighter but “The Beast” predicts a swift and deliberate victory.

“I will take him out in the first round with a kimura,” Pena said. “I'm going to go out, like I always do, and get right in his face. He will try to hang with me a little bit but soon he will try to get it to the ground and that will be a really bad mistake for him.”

Pena, a transplant from Arkansas, has set the St. Louis MMA scene ablaze since his arrival. His 2016 was so impressive he was named STL MMA Breakout Fighter of the Year. You can read more about his award-winning campaign HERE.

In his never-ending quest, 2017 has seen him more in the ring and on the grappling mat than in the cage.

In January, he made his pro kickboxing debut at Gateway FS: New Years Resolution 2. Pena took a fight against Rome Lindsey on a couple weeks notice. Lindsey came out firing multiple kicks on Pena and brought a quick storm that Pena endured as he looked to establish his range. Lindsey injured his foot on a checked kick but found enough adrenaline to recoup before the 10-count. Pena welcomed him back to the fight with a combination followed by a highlight reel switch flying knee KO that produced a sickening thud as it landed on the chin and left Lindsey out cold on the mat.

In March, he returned to MMA and traveled to Tennessee for Valor Fights 41 for his debut in the well-known promotion. Pena made a name for himself as he cinched up a tight triangle on then-undefeated Ferhatbegovic to get the second round finish.

Pena returned to the ring in May where he took on undefeated boxer Vaughn Alexander, the younger brother of St. Louis boxing legend Devon Alexander, the former unified WBC and IBF champ. Alexander started out slow, heavy and calculating, while Pena stayed light on his feet, fast and mobile. Pena got rocked a couple of times, especially against the ropes, and eventually lost the fight via TKO in the second.

A month later he was back in the boxing ring where he lost to another undefeated professional boxer, Jarvis Williams.

While most MMA fighters get gun-shy about venturing into other sports where their fragile egos can be tossed aside like a gnarly mouthpiece, Pena has embraced the challenges that come with it. It is his credo.

“How I've approached the whole boxing thing – and don't get me wrong, I needed the money – but it was about something bigger,” Pena said. “People were saying, 'you're crazy.' But how many times do you get to test yourself? And when it's time to step in against someone who can beat your ass, will you do it? Will you hang? It was about overcoming my own fears. I was 100-percent afraid. Vaughn Alexander was 8-0, with five KO, spent five years in prison, he'd fought on Andre Ward's undercard, but I swallowed it, stepped in and fought. And I didn't just lay down. I fought with a full heart and at the end of the day, that's all you can do. After those fights, I knew one day I would be a world champion.”

The 24-year-old Pena – who has trained for this fight primarily at Arnold BJJ and the Eagles Boxing Club, believes that Saturday's five-round title fight will have major implications on his career.

“The Valor title means a lot especially in the South-East,” he said. “And to headline a show with a five-round title fights that is being broadcast on FloCombat, this is the biggest fight and opportunity of my career.”