Excellent article by Steve Siniski of the Bellmore Herald about the rise of Long Island fighters.  If only Albany can get their act together and legalize MMA, then these local guys could fight in their hometowns.

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By Steve Siniski:

Windows of opportunity remain open for varying lengths of time, depending on one’s career path. For a mixed martial artist, that time frame often lasts no more than 12 minutes — and it can be far less depending on the outcome of a three-round bout whose potential end can happen via not only by knockout but a variety of submissions. Simply put, it doesn’t leave fighters much time to leave a lasting impression on judges.

Suffice to say that Freeport’s Eddie “Truck” Gordon, along with Al Iaquinta and James Jenkins, all of whom fight for the Matt Serra-Ray Longo team made good use of their time in the Octagon at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City last month. Each came out on top in three-round decisions at Bellmore resident Louis Neglia’s Ring of Combat XXXVI. To date, the promotion has pushed 61 fighters to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the latest being Baldwin’s Chris Weidman in March.

“The Ring of Combat is a great opportunity for a lot of people to see you,” Jenkins said after his third professional fight, all of which are victories. “No show gets talked about like [Neglia’s].”

Gordon, nicknamed “Truck” by his older brother when he was just 125 pounds but still running over bigger kids on the football field, has grown into the moniker. The Truck made his professional debut as a 250-pound heavyweight in the June 17 victory over nine-fight veteran J.A. Dudley after just three bouts as an amateur. “The guy I fought had a lot of experience so that was priceless,” Gordon said. “Lou [Neglia] does a great job of preparing fighters and no fight is an easy fight.”

“The Ring of Combat is about competitive fights,” Neglia said of his ultimate goal for every bout he puts together. “And competitive fights make competitive fighters.”

Gordon, a former two-time All-County wrestler at Freeport High School and an All-State football player, ground out the victory by tossing Dudley several times and doing enough on his feet to win a unanimous decision in front of nearly 200 personal fans (the sold out venue seated 2,000) that specifically made the trip from Freeport to cheer him on. “It was awesome knowing that you’ve got people behind you and supporting you,” Gordon said of the support that saw many of his backers seated in the second and third rows next to the Octagon. “It was a big boost by the fans.”

Iaquinta, a former Wantagh wrestler, improved to 5-0-1 as a professional in a see-saw battle with Gabriel Miglioli that left both wrestlers battered, bloodied and ready for a rematch at the next Ring of Combat show Sept. 9. Despite getting knocked down early in the first round and looking all but out on his feet, Iaquinta managed to survive the opening four minutes and controlled the final two in winning a disputed split-decision. “I guess it was instinct,” Iaquinta said, noting that the minute in between rounds also helped him regain his bearings. “I didn’t know what was going on at the time. I just kept pushing forward and that’s a great compliment to my trainers.”

Jenkins’ opponent changed at the last minute due to injury, but that didn’t alter much of his approach. The 145-pounder ended up fighting Jason McLean later in the card and won all three rounds on two of the three judges’ scorecards on the way to a unanimous decision. “It’s part of the game,” Neglia said. “Some fighters don’t have the mindset to handle that and they’re not going to go far.”

For Jenkins, come hell or high water, he was ready to step into the octagon after a grueling training schedule. “I don’t care who they wanted me to fight. I would have fought anybody,” he said with a chuckle.

Freeport's Eddie "Big Truck" Gordon, left, with Ring of Combat president Louis Neglia of Bellmore.

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