Thanks to 2004 Oakdale High graduate Martin Sandoval, the Oakdale Mixed Martial Arts Academies are going international.
Sandoval, a former Mustang wrestler/soccer player and standout flyweight (125 pounds) professional fighter, will open a new branch of the Last Stand Fight Team in Autlan, Jalisco, Mexico in November.
The new gym (Autlan MMA) will follow the tradition of Oakdale MMA, Sonora MMA and Merced MMA academies founded by Oakdale’s Tom Theofanopoulos.
Sandoval and former Oakdale MMA teammates Hunter Torres and Ricardo Garcia will handle the instruction delivered to a busy schedule of classes that includes 60 students thus far.
“We have already been getting a lot of people interested by word-of-mouth and have 30 Mexican police officers that will be training with me,” Sandoval said. “I’m extremely excited.”
Sandoval has made regular trips to Autlan this year to visit his father and see the progress of the gym as it begins to take shape. He departed for Mexico on Monday for an official move to Autlan, expecting to purchase the MMA equipment in the coming weeks as the facility is completed.
It’s a big commitment, but one Sandoval has been passionate about.
“I started this because I want to help out teenagers and kids that are in trouble,” Sandoval said. “I will have students that I can teach so they can teach me back.
“Iron sharpens iron is something that (Theofanopoulos) says a lot and I believe in that.”
Sandoval is 8-4 in his own career, owns the Rebel Fighter championship belt and potential to reach the recently-opened flyweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He’s won four of his last five fights and was slated to headline a card at the Chicken Ranch Casino in Jamestown on Oct. 6 until his original opponent and his opponent’s late replacement both pulled out.
It was the seventh time one of Sandoval’s opponents has dropped out of a fight. The most well-known was Olympic silver medalist wrestler, Stephen Abas, who pulled out of a fight with Sandoval in 2010.
The cancelations have been tough for Sandoval to swallow.
“It’s extremely frustrating, because I put in a lot of work and hours to prepare,” Sandoval said. “I don’t do anything else, so if I don’t fight, I don’t work and I don’t get paid.”
The high level jujitsu blue belt doesn’t have his next fight scheduled, but said he will continue his career with fights in California as he trains in Mexico. He said he cuts around 12 to 14 pounds to his 125-pound fight frame, though it’s been difficult as he continues to gain muscle with assistance from a nutritionist and cross-fit trainer.
Sandoval said he may fight in Mexico if an opportunity presents itself, and though he admits he is a UFC prospect, says he is okay with the journey his fight career will take him on, even if it’s not the pinnacle league of the sport.
He said the move to Mexico won’t halt his career, but present an opportunity to grow as he soaks in the culture of his heritage.
“Like most Mexican families, my dad ended up migrating here for work,” Sandoval said. “My mom started working in Oakdale, so I grew up here.
“I’m excited to get back to my roots, my tradition. I love the lifestyle down there where you get to enjoy your family. I am infatuated with the culture and tradition.”