When Bernard Turner vacated the Gladiator Challenge bantamweight belt, it opened up the opportunity of a lifetime for local MMA fighter Nick “Little Ninja” Sperling.
“It’s a complete honor,” Sperling said. “I never thought I would get a chance like this. I prayed to God everyday and then it happened, and now I pray that I don’t get my ass kicked.”
Sperling will get his shot at the belt Sunday when he faces off with Santino Valdez at The Hammer Time Gladiator Challenge event hosted at Thunder Valley.
It will be the second time Sperling (3-2) will take on Valdez, whom he defeated the first time they battled, but this time it will be with a title on the line.
“I kind of know what he’s about, and he knows what I’m about, and it makes me a little bit more nervous,” Sperling said.
The first time the two squared off was in November of 2012, when Sperling tallied the first-round TKO.
“He was young and fiesty,” Sperling said of Valdez. “He came out and was swinging, throwing hard, hard punches, and I backed up to reset and see if he was still throwing, and he came at me again so I took him down and ended up in his guard. I went over this sequence, and it worked perfectly, and I caught him with my left elbow. It cut him, and the ref stopped it in the first round.”
Sperling said his style is a mixture of many different things he’s learned through his years of fighting.
“I’m real fast-paced,” he said. “I put the pressure on non-stop. I didn’t really learn that until I went to a real good martial arts place. I thought I was kind of a technical brawler, and I’m not at all. I really push the pace, and I don’t care where the fight goes. I think I’m really well rounded. I’m not great at kick boxing, I’m not great at wrestling or jiu jitsu, but as a whole, I have it down pretty solid out of trial and error.”
Sperling, who usually fights at 125 pounds, will fight at 135 for the title bout.
“I’m going up in weight. I usually fight at 125,” he said. “If I think I can beat the guy at 135 I’ll definitely take it.”
Winning the title would be a big step in the direction Sperling wants his career to go, he said.
“It would mean everything,” Sperling said. “I’ve always told people that I love fighting because I wanted to prove that I have the knowledge. It’s more than just going in there and physically doing it, It’s knowledge. Mental is the whole fight game.”
The doors open at 4 p.m. at Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln. Other title fights on the card include Fernando Gonzalez taking on Jaime Hantz for the welterweight belt, Ryan “The hand Grenade” Burton and Mike Monson will battle for the featherweight belt, and Justin Baseman and Jaime “El Cucui” Jara will tangle for the International Superfight title. In the main event, Wes “The Project” Sims will fight Ruben “Warpath” Villarreal. Tickets are still available at http://gc.vbotickets.com/events or at the door.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.