Bronx Native Wins First Professional MMA Fight

Even though mixed martial arts competitions are illegal in the state, the dream of becoming a professional MMA competitor has become a reality for a Bronx native.

World Oyama Karate has been a fixture at 611 Morris Park Avenue for the last 15 years, and owner Ervin Velez, who has been practicing various forms of karate for over 45 years, has been training his son Evan there since he was 4-years-old.

Evan Velez, who is now 24-years-old, grew up near Bruckner Plaza and has spent most of his life training in martial arts. After enjoying his tenure on the wrestling team at Lehman High School, Velez continued his training while attending Hunter College in Manhattan, and also while attending graduate school in Ithaca.

In July 2010, Velez looked further into his dream of training in mixed martial arts, which is a full contact combat form of martial arts that allows a mixture of fighting techniques and skills in competitive formats.

While in Ithaca, Velez was referred to Ryan Ciotola, owner of Team Bombsquad MMA training center, and by the beginning of 2011, Velez was ready to compete professionally.

“I feel like it all came into place with MMA fighting, I I fit in perfectly,” Velez said. “My ultimate goal is to really take off and get to the ultimate professional level competitive fighting.”

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, is the largest mixed martial arts company in the world that features most top-ranked fighters and Velez hopes to reach that level as soon as possible. Velez will be returning to Ithaca to train with Ciotola and prepare for his next match, which is currently being planned for this May in Atlantic City.

There are two challenges that Velez is concerned with, one being that MMA competitions are currently illegal in his home state, and the other is that he is part of a new weight class called the ‘flyweight class,’ which suits competitors 125 pounds and lower. According to Velez it is still an uncommon weight class and few MMA competitive leagues have employed the weight class.

Ervin Velez was first worried about his son’s interest in mixed martial arts, but was confident that the skills he learned from when he was young would help him quickly develop in the sport.

“I was hesitant at first because MMA is full contact, but I supported it,” Ervin Velez said. “Our family is looking forward to his next fight and I have confidence he will continue to succeed.”

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