A coach and combatant

GLENDALE — For Alberto Crane, a veteran of 18 mixed-martial-arts bouts and countless grappling tournaments, his next fight — a three-round welterweight tilt against veteran Gabe Rivas at King of the Cage's Turning Point card today — poses no novel obstacles.

"I know what I can do," Crane said. "What'll happen will happen."

But while it's business as usual in the cage for Crane, his nerves are a bit different outside of the cage when it comes to coaching, as the Glendale resident will lead a throng of his Gracie Barra students into competition at today's event at the Braemar Country Club in Tarzana, which starts at 5:30 p.m.

"It's a lot of these guys' pro debuts," said Crane, who's the head instructor at Gracie Barra Burbank and Pasadena.

The card will also see the pro debut, and a much ballyhooed one at that in MMA circles, of female fighter Ronda Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo and a 3-0 amateur MMA fighter ranked No. 1 in the world in the 145-pound featherweight class. Rousey has trained largely at Glendale Fighting Club under the tutelage of Edmond Tarverdyan and with Team Hayastan under the renowned Gokor Chivitchian.

"I'm always nervous for everything," said Rousey of making her debut. "I think it's a natural reaction.

"I'm nervous, excited, I'm ready."

Rousey, who offers a stellar judo and submission background, won't make your average debut, facing veteran Ediane Gomes, who sports a stellar 6-1 record.

"The reason I'm fighting someone that's 6-1 is nobody else would even take the fight," Rousey said, adding that her management even went as far as offering to pay for travel and expenses for potential opponents.

Gomes owns five wins via submission, all of them by way of armbar. Despite her opponent's experience advantage, Rousey, who's trained alongside the likes of local fighters such as Karen Darabedyan and Manny Gamburyan, enters today confident in her chances.

"I don't think anyone has the right to beat me. I feel I've worked too hard and nobody's worked harder than me," said Rousey, adding that she believes the matchup is also good for her stylistically. "She's a jiu-jitsu girl, standing's not really her strong suit. I think it's a great matchup for me."

Also on the card in the main event will be Jared Papazian, who has trained at times with Crane and at both the GFC and the Main Event Gym in Glendale. Papazian (11-6-1) will take on Kana Hyatt (7-9) in a bantamweight (135 pounds) matchup that's a rematch of a 2010 bout that Papazian won via unanimous decision.

As for Crane's contingent, it is led by Orlando Sanchez (1-0), a heavyweight whose opponent is still yet to be determined. Sanchez, a La Cañada Flintridge resident, is an instructor at Gracie Barra Pasadena, as is Martin Gantt, who will make his pro debut today, along with Gracie Barra pupils Keenan Lewis, Rob Gooch, Daniel Clarke and Ako Harper.

Lewis is set to face Luke Adams (2-4) in a featherweight (145 pounds) bout, Gantt will face John Hahn (0-1) in a lightweight (155) contest, Gooch will fight Max Ceniceros (0-1) at a 150-pound catch weight, Harper will square off with Erick Winston in a featherweight match and Clark will take on Jeremiah Ramage in a lightweight tussle.

Crane's most recent MMA bout saw him defeat Ludwing Salazar via submission in the first round of a bout of a card held in Costa Rica. The win, which came in December of 2010, snapped a two-bout losing skid for Crane, whose jiu-jitsu game is regarded as one of the best in MMA and has led him to 12 career submission wins.

Thus, Crane (13-5), a former King of the Cage champion and two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran, believes most realize his game plan for today and he's relatively certain of Rivas'.

"He's gonna try and knock me out, he's gonna try and beat me up. He has heavy hands," said Crane of Rivas, who has lost six fights in a row. "I'm gonna try and close the distance, take him down and submit him. I don't think that's a surprise to anyone."

Rivas (13-18-1) has notched eight wins via knockout and has lost nine times by submission. He's faced such notables as Charles Bennett, Rob McCullough and Tony Hervey, the latter having dispatched both Rivas and Crane.

Though he's certainly not taking Rivas lightly, Crane's top priorities seem to be with his students, who have trained with him at Main Event Gym in Glendale, among other venues. Having taken the fight on roughly three weeks' notice, Crane also insisted that it be the first bout of the card so he could have the rest of the night to concentrate on cornering his stable of fighters. And he also took the bout in the 170-pound welterweight class, though he normally fights at the lightweight limit of 155.

"I'm not cutting any weight," he said. "I'm going in as is."

And he's most assuredly going in as a fighter and a coach.

Nonetheless, despite the added and varying pressure, Crane expects to have a large contingent there to cheer on him, his fighters, Rousey and Papazian.

Said Crane: "We should have a lot of support."

For more information on the card, visit http://www.kingofthecage.com.

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