Former Yigo resident Kelvin Gentapanan made his professional MMA debut count, defeating a seasoned fighter in Bellator 229 held Oct. 4 at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. Gentapanan (1-0-0) won via split decision, utilizing his wrestling and jiujitsu game to outmaneuver Sunni Imhotep, the 13th-ranked Pro Mens Lightweight in Virginia.
"I had to use my wrestling and jiujitsu to control the fight because my opponent was five inches taller and had about a 12-inch reach advantage on me!," said Gentapanan. "It was a tough and challenging fight for me, but in the end, I was victorious and was able to take home the win for my family, friends and the Island of Guam."
The 30-year-old, who used to run around playing on the streets of Agafa Gumas, moved to San Diego in 2007 and has been steadily honing his craft in anticipation of a professional career in MMA.
Part-time sushi chef and full-time father to 5-year-old Kaden, the elder Gentapanan has made his passion for martial arts a career, teaching kids and adult jiujitsu classes, kicking boxing at Gamebred Training Center and EOS Fitness in San Diego.
Gentapanan said he got into MMA when Guam first started getting serious about the scene, hosting local matches "like Super Brawl, Jungle Rules, Fury, and PXC."
"I always wanted to fight in it but I was too young at the time," he said. While the action was a big draw, Gentapanan said he was drawn to the hard-nosed discipline and toughness of the sport.
"One of the things I love about MMA is that nothing can compare when you step into the cage to test yourself against another man in front of the world," he said. "It makes me feel like a modern-day gladiator!"
He embraced his passion for fighting in his early 20s until he broke his leg in a motorcycle accident.
"I stopped competing in MMA for six years and just focused on competing in jiujitsu," he said, adding he was lucky enough to receive his brown belt under Baret Yoshida a few years ago.
But, the MMA world was calling his number and he couldn't wait to get back into the cage. He picked up two wins as an amateur fighter and then picked up his pro card.
"I love MMA because it forces you to learn all aspects of fighting," he said, stressing the need for a versatile fighting style and continuously updating and honing the craft. "It teaches you how to fight on the ground, standing up, and against the cage. Nowadays, you cant just be a one dimensional fighter or you'll be exposed."
For now, Gentapanan is working to stay busy, aiming to get a slot on the Bellator card in Hawaii at the end of the year.
"My goal is to stay active and healthy – to fight as much as I can and become the best fighter I can be," he said. "I want to represent Guam and show the people around the world who we are."
Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I would describe myself as a down to earth, nice guy. Family means everything to me. Growing up on Guam – my family was always close with each other. It taught me how to love one another and that you don't have to be rich to be happy.
Q: What is your mindset towards training as you approach competition?
A: My mindset is to train hard and never give up. What helps keep me calm and gives me courage to step in the cage is knowing that, win or lose, my friends and family will always love and support me.
Q: Why do you enjoy your sport?
A: MMA gives you many different ways to win a fight. Its not like boxing where you have to just worry about two hands hitting you. You have be ready for everything. Its the ultimate form of fighting. True fighting.
Q: What makes you gut it out when training is hard?
A: What makes me gut it out in fighting and training is that I don't want to lose or get hurt. When someone is trying to hurt you, you get forced to either fight or flight. I'll never choose flight; I'll always keep fighting. It's the same when I train, I never give up. Also, I have a son to support. He motivates me to become the best in the world.
Q: Is there anyone you'd like to thank for your journey thus far?
A: I'd like to thank my coach, Baret Yoshida. He's always been an inspiration to me since I started training with him in 2008. He's like a modern-day samurai. He's been competing against the highest level jiujitsu competitors for over two decades! I'd also like to thank my coaches and teammates at Gamebred Training Center and The Arena for always pushing me and making me a better fighter. I wouldn't be where I am in fighting without them.
Q: Any last thoughts?
A: I want to say "Thank You" for the support. ... It means so much to me, and I really appreciate it. Si Yu'us Ma'ase! Biba Guam!