By Pete Banda
Some people can wait their entire lives before realizing their dreams. It took just two minutes and eight seconds for a dream to become reality for San Benito native Armando Villarreal. That’s how long it took for the 2007 San Benito graduate, and former baseball standout, to secure his first professional Mixed Martial Arts victory inside the 8,700 seat H-E-B Center at Cedar Park last Friday, September 16. The fight, which was a part of the preliminary card for the nationally televised Bellator MMA event “Kongo vs. Johnson,” ended when Villarreal put his opponent in a rear naked choke and forced him to tapout in the first round.
It may have been his first professional fight, but Villarreal has been on a journey to this moment for the past seven years.
The 27-year-old Villarreal got his first taste of Mixed Martial Arts back in 2009 when he started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Jake Montalvo of the Harlingen Jiu Jitsu club. After moving to Waco for a job in 2011, and meeting up with trainer Chris Spicer from the prestigious Relson Gracie facility in Waco, Villarreal decided to take his training to the next level.
“I just wanted something more competitive and challenging so I really started to incorporate boxing and kickboxing into my training,” said Villarreal.
“I started actually fighting in MMA events as an amateur in 2014 and finally got to make my pro debut at Bellator… It was like a dream come true for me.”
In five amateur fights, Villarreal compiled a 4-1 record and showed impressive athleticism. He was able impressive enough people to earn a spot fighting for Bellator, which is viewed as one of the top MMA companies in the nation. Although he was not on the main card of the event, “Kongo vs. Johnson” drew an impressive 966,000 viewers to Spike TV. Despite the victory, Villarreal does not have any fights lined up, but said he is hoping his victory will garner some more attention from those in the industry.
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