King of the Cage returns to casino

LINCOLN CITY —  King of the Cage mixed martial arts returns to Chinook Winds Casino Resort Saturday, Feb. 2 with thudding body blows that could knock the drink out of your hands.

The nationally broadcast event features a showdown in the Catchweight (180 lb.) division between Daniel Hernandez against Tyson Jeffries.

Mixed martial arts, or MMA, has emerged as the fastest-growing professional sport in the world, shedding the image of a barbaric, organized brawl and donning the respected mantle of a family event.

Chinook Winds has provided a welcoming stage for martial arts since it opened 20 years ago, with karate symposiums, amateur and professional boxing, tough-guy contests and regional MMA events that sometimes relied on a gimmick to beef-up the entry-level cards.

The casino’s three-year-old partnership with King of the Cage, a California-based nationwide promoter, has injected a new level of excitement into fight nights. Talented fighters, limousines, beautiful card girls, television cameras and spectators in the occasional evening dress have changed the scene.

“The setting is quaint and tight,” remarked Al Joslin, who orchestrates the fighting talent as Cage matchmaker for a four-state region, including Oregon. “It’s like a complete VIP show. For the kind of talent I bring in here, we could fill a 10,000-seat arena.”

Many of the athletes who are featured at the Chinook Winds venue are well-known by Northwest fight fans; a few are national talents. All have made the cut into the King of the Cage, the last hurdle in a bid for big money and fame at the next and highest levels: Strike Force, Bellator and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), whose shows are the mainstay of HBO, network TV and cable per-per-view.

The co-main events will feature Zach Bunnell vs. Eric McConico in a Welterweight battle and Flyweights Rick James vs. Chris San Jose. The featured fight on the card will be Brandon Waltz vs. Donnie Johnson.

The main event at 180 lbs. pits “El Leon” Hernandez, Monrovia, Calif. (The Vault) vs. “The Anti-Hero” Jeffries, Portland, Ore. (Gracie Barra, Portland). Hernandez is the former KOTC Middleweight World Champion and has 20 wins in his professional career. Jeffries, who has 14 wins in his professional career, fought for the title in his last fight and is top ranked.

The co-main event will be a Welterweight (170 lbs.) fight featuring Eric McConico (3-0), Portland (Gracie Barra Portland) vs. Zach Bunnell (1-0), Reno, Nevada (Charles Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy). McConico is undefeated and top ranked. Bunnell won his first professional fight, after an undefeated amateur career.

Another co-Main Event in the Flyweight (135 lbs.) division will display veterans Chris San Jose of Oregon (Art of War MMA) vs. Rick “The Reaper” James, San Bernardino, Calif. (C-Quence). San Jose who has an impressive 5-1 record, is top ranked. James has won six professional bouts.

The featured event in the Flyweight (135 lbs.) class is a meeting between Brandon Waltz (1-1), Paradise, Calif. (Team Alpha Male) and. Donnie Johnson (2-1), Portland (Gracie Barra Portland).

Other Featured Fights on the card include Isaac Shelton vs. Ian King; Richard Carranza vs. David Converse, Eric Zapata vs. Steven Chang, Freddy Johnson vs. Anthony Prater and Giles Smikle vs. a fighter yet to be announced.  

Doors open at 5 p.m., and the national anthem rings open the bouts at 6 p.m. All ages are welcome. Ringside seats are $100 at the box office, reserved tickets $60 and general admission is $40; children 3 and under are free. For more information, call 1-888-MAIN-ACT (624-6228) or go online to


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