FanPost

A champ for the kids: the quest of an American mixed martial artist in Peru

Although most of the memories from my brief time learning fighting techniques are gone, it is impossible to forget a guy like Fernando Roca: already known as "Zopilote" (black vulture), he would impose his wrestling over the striking or the submission game of the other top guys. While some of us used to train at the university’s gym just for fun, it was clear that Fernando wanted to be a professional fighter.

More than a decade later, Zopilote, the reigning Inka F.C. Light Heavyweight Champion with the record of nine wins, three defeats and one draw, was expected to defend his belt in 2011. Fernando, like his rocky last name suggests, crushed two contenders in January and May, respectively. Both were fast finishes within the first round.

IFC’s promoter, Iván "Pitbull" Iberico, surprised everyone scheduling a quick third defense in June, against an unknown challenger called "The Hunter". Apparently he was training in the southern city of Arequipa, three hundred and forty miles away from Lima.

A lustrum had passed since the last defeat of the champion in Peruvian soil. Why he wanted to dethrone him so bad?

***

Benjamin Reiter was a 23 years old American with only two amateur fights, a pair of first round submissions. These matches were held in events organized by Iberico. The ex fighter was impressed with Reiter and accepted to give him the unique opportunity to make his professional debut against the champion.

Mixed martial arts are not very known in Peru because they are still developing from the vale tudo stage. There is still a long road until the mainstream audience ceases to consider the sport as underground. Despite of this context, the mysterious foreigner aroused the attention of a national television channel and was invited along with Zopilote to promote the fight in a sports show, only a couple of days before the event.

Ben surprised everyone with a very proficient knowledge of Spanish. When the anchorman asked him where he learned the language, Reiter told his story: he traveled from New York to Arequipa nine months ago as a volunteer for a NGO in order to work with children from a very poor community. One of them was 14 years old girl called Katy; she was diagnosed with the Treachers Collins Syndrome. Katy had severe facial deformities and was not able to talk, eat or breathe without feeling pain. She needed different surgeries and post operatory therapy to overcome this condition. The Rotary Club of Arequipa offered to help with money but there were fifteen thousand dollars missing to achieve the goal. Ben was not interested in the belt; he was hunting the economic prize, for Katy.

At the end of the interview, Fernando tried to provoque Ben but the new yorker remained serene and made him look ridiculous in television. Zopilote got so mad that, before the weigh in, he challenged him to a bare knuckle fight. Reiter accepted.

The eleventh edition of the Inka Fighting Championship was held on June 23th. The main event of the evening started with Roca trying to close the distance and Reiter defending. Both man landed low kicks but missed punches.

After a couple of minutes, the peruvian grappler finally countered a left hand and went for a double leg. Ben sprawled but Zopilote was relentless and managed to put him on his bottom; attempting to get the side control, Fernando released the pressure and Reiter turned his back while snatching the leg of the champion and gained side control, showcasing great wrestling technique. At that very moment, the round ended. Roca was in pain, after the scramble his knee was hurting bad but he wanted to fight anyway.

Ben rapidly grabbed a single; Zopilote tried to escape but was tripped down to his knees and finally put on his back. The champion was receiving many shots in the face from the challenger until Fernando’s corner threw the towel. That was it.

***

As you may guess, this is only the prelude for "The Hunter" story. I left many details in the air on purpose. I would love to keep on writing about him but I think that my job is done. I am pretty confident that, one way or another, you will get involved with his journey. It is one of a kind.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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