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Carina Dominguez
Indian Country Today

PHOENIX — It was a rowdy Saturday night for Indigenous MMA fighters who entered the cage at Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, with one winning his retirement fight.

Shannon Ritch, Choctaw, stepped into the cage for his last time and won his pro headliner match up against Samson Guerrero via submission, in the first round, with a rear naked choke.

He said as soon as Guerrero turned, “I was like, ‘I got him!’”

Ruff, Puff and Rumble attendees witnessed two knockouts, one technical knockout and seven fights that went the distance.

Ritch had a couple recent scares that made him believe his retirement fight might not take place.

First, his initial opponent, Aaron Brink, dropped out of the fight days before it was set to take place, then his new opponent, Guerrero, struggled to turn in the proper medical documents in a timely manner.

“If he gets them turned in, we have a 50/50 chance that we're going to fight,” Ritch said at the weigh-in at Golden Margarita on Friday.

Fortunately for Ritch, it was the happy ending he was anticipating for his career. He had a huge turnout from his hometown Coolidge, Arizona.

“I'm 51 years old, making my last fight in front of my hometown and for a Native promotion, this is a dream come true,” Ritch said.

Ritch had his first MMA fight in 1991 when it was still called No-Holds-Barred.

“I would go across the border, Nogales. We'd fight, Plaza de Toros, and they would have the chicken fights, the dog fights, then the people would fight,” Ritch said.

He was the first Native American world champion MMA fighter.

“I fought in New Mexico and it was for a Native promotion, and they had the first Native American championships for mixed martial arts. And I won and I went through the tournament and won three fights in a row in one night. And I got the belt,” Ritch said.

Now that he’s tapped out after 237 professional fights, the most out of any MMA fighter, he’ll be exploring acting full-time.

“I got my SAG card. So now I'm an actor, stuntman,” Ritch said.

He has a movie coming out with Mickey Rourke and Michael Jai White in January called “The Commando” and another coming out with Bruce Willis.

Indigenous MMA fighters battle in the cage - and on pay-per-view

He says he does a lot of stunts but his upcoming roles will have more lines. He also works for a private security company and has worked for celebrities and politicians, like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

Ritch shared a message for kids.

“Just because you're from a small town, doesn't mean you are small town. You can do anything you want to do, dream big because dreams come true,” he said.

Deran Martinez, Gila River, won his amateur title, 265 pound, matchup against George Sopi, Samoa from Nānākuli, Oahu.

“I’ve talked about this, you know, coming and fighting under a big card and I'm just pursuing it,” Martinez said.

He won the Indigenous title fight, taking home a belt with the Man in the Maze engraved on it and is looking forward to sharing his next steps.

“I'm excited for everyone to know, I'm excited to reach a new level,” Martinez said. “I just want to thank (the) Gila River Indian Community, again, all the rez boys and rez girls. I'm going to do my best to go out and be a light for everybody. And I'm excited.”

RUF Nation is a mixed martial arts league in Arizona and owners Joel Lopez, Adrian Romo and Anthony Laso are from the Tohono O’odham Nation and take great pride in their culture.

“There's a lot of values involved with fighting, but most of all, the values of being O’odham we carry them into our business as far as respecting everything and everybody. Himdag called our ways. Some of that is spilled into our company too, building relationships. So again, respect and it's tough to do that in this business, you know,” Lopez said.

Ruff, Puff and Rumble was a first of its kind event.

RUF Nation collaborated with Trap Culture Promotions to host a cannabis expo before the MMA fights.

Lopez encourages therapeutic driven approaches to healthcare because his grandmother was a Sobadora and used it as a medicine, soaking it in alcohol and applying it topically to clients she would massage.

The expo was in the parking lot of Celebrity Theatre before the pay-per-view fights were underway.

“RUF Nation has grown and is growing. And it's multiplying, with audience, with fans, with fighters. We can't keep up with fighters anymore,” Lopez said.

After the fights many celebrated at the Golden Margarita, including UFC fighter Nate Diaz who showed support for Ritch and the other RUF Nation fighters.

For those who missed it, RUF Nation is offering access to the Ruff, Puff and Rumble “replay”.

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