Los Angeles Times

Crane kick starts Burbank's first MMA event

As the first North American to earn a Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt before subsequently opening up Gracie Barra studios in Burbank, Pasadena and other Southern California locales, Alberto Crane knows a bit about combat sports history.

Thus, the Glendale resident is beaming about the prospects of helping to bring live mixed martial arts to Burbank for the first time.

"First MMA event in Burbank — it's history," said Crane of Saturday afternoon's Alberto Crane's National Fight Alliance Mixed Martial Arts "Valley Invasion" event that is scheduled to feature 10 bouts beginning at 4 p.m. at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center.

Headlining the event will be a three-round lightweight (155 pounds) tilt between former "The Ultimate Fighter" cast member Sevak Magakian and veteran David Gardner.

"I'm just gonna go out there and do what I do best, wherever he wants to take the fight, I'll go," said Magakian, a Glendale resident. "I have to win no matter what it takes."

Crane, a former two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran and current MMA fighter, is excited about the possibility of providing a platform for the burgeoning MMA fighters in the area to start their careers and build them up.

"It's awesome, it's a dream come true," said Crane, who owns a 15-5 career MMA record. "Every big UFC name, they've had a platform to come up on. I want to be able to build up some local guys."

Those with local ties in addition to Magakian are Haik Tsaturyan, who trains at Glendale's Main Event Gym, Orlando Sanchez, a La Cañada High graduate who trains under Crane, and a host of others who train alongside Crane and Sanchez — Daniel Clark, Rob Gooch, Ako Harper and Keenan Lewis.

"I'd like to see Sevak be the best he can be and go back to the UFC," Crane said, "and my guys, I'd like to see them build up and go as far as they can."

For Magakian (8-3), that's exactly his plan, beginning with the venerable Gardner (18-19).

The 34-year-old Gardner has lost four straight fights, but has fought notables in the sport such as Tony Ferguson, Shinya Aoki, Toby Imada, Jorge Masvidal, Josh Neer, Rich Clementi and Marcus Aurelio.

Magakian, 26, is coming off a lengthy layoff from competition. As a cast member of "The Ultimate Fighter" in 2010, Magakian took part in two exhibition fights — bouts on the show do not go down as official contests — and also incurred a rib injury. The show concluded filming in June of 2010, but Magakian was sidelined further with his injury.

"I'm healthy, I'm good, I'd ready to go," said Magakian, whose last official MMA bout came on Jan. 24, 2010 with a decision win over Jeremy Umphries. "I'm happy to get back in the cage, I love what I do."

What Magakian does particularly well is use his judo skills in the cage, grapple and work submissions, which he's ended seven of his victories with.

Going forward, Magakian is hoping that a win or two will get him back into the UFC's ranks.

"I just want to win this fight and take it one by one," he said. "That's the goal right now is to win some fights and get back to the UFC."

UFC prospects aside, Magakian is surprised and thrilled that, after a career that began in 2006, he's been bestowed with an opportunity to fight in his "backyard."

"It'll take me seven minutes to get there from my house — especially because I drive fast," Magakian joked.

Crane has plenty of expectations for the card, but doesn't hesitate to admit he's particularly excited about a handful of certain fights.

"I just want to make sure the fights are good … and we have good fighters on the show," he said. "Of course, I'm biased for my guys — they're all exciting. … I'm just excited to see those guys kick butt."

Tsaturyan (2-0) will open the show against Octavio Morales in a bantamweight (135 pounds) bout just before Lewis (0-1) faces Peter Baltimore (3-1) in another bantamweight battle. Harper will make his professional debut against Jeremy Ramage (1-3) in a featherweight (145) fight, Clark (1-0) will take on Eric Steans in a lightweight contest, featherweight Gooch (1-1) will take on Eddie Mendez (2-6) and, in the night's lone heavyweight battle, Sanchez (1-0) will square off with William Wheeler (2-1).

Other bouts scheduled for the event are 140-pounders Jon Gorton and German Baltazar squaring off, 180-pounders Mike Jasper (2-0) and Daniel McWilliams (9-19) battling and Bobby Sanchez (6-17) and John Robles (4-0) locking up in a 140-pound bout.

Doors are set to open at 3 p.m., with first bell scheduled for 4 p.m. Weigh-ins will take place at noon today at Hooters Burbank.

For more information, including tickets, visit www.nfamma.com.

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