Ricardo Juan McCall is off to a 4-0 start as a professional. | Photo Courtesy: David Friedlander
When searching for the next big thing in mixed martial arts, we often turn to shows like “The Ultimate Fighter” or examine the home gyms of cagefighting’s superstars to see if there are any prospects worth watching.
Sometimes, however, they rise out of seemingly nowhere, striving for success through their own blood, sweat and tears, all while carving out a name for themselves without the benefit of someone else’s fame or connections. One fighter who fits this description is Ricardo Juan McCall, an unbeaten middleweight anchored at Bushido MMA in El Paso, Texas.
An army brat, McCall was born in Germany but spent most of his life in El Paso. He went to high school there, played some football and trained in boxing for a few years, accepting a couple amateur fights along the way. However, he was an undeniable troublemaker, falling into fights and other mischief, which resulted in his being transferred to an alternative school. He was in and out of trouble over the next few years as he tried to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
It was not until about four years ago that he decided to get involved in combat sports again. He had been learning more and more about mixed martial arts through watching World Extreme Cagefighting and the Ultimate Fighting Championship on television and decided he wanted to try it out for himself. Not knowing where to start, he took the advice of some high school friends who had been on the wrestling team and decided to try some classes at Extreme Jiu-Jitsu in El Paso.
“I liked what I saw,” said McCall, “so I decided to learn as much as I could.”
Just a couple weeks into his training, he met Shane Schuman, a former Army infantryman and muay Thai and MMA fighter who used the gym to train a couple of friends for their upcoming fights. McCall asked if he could train with them; Schuman agreed, and when McCall proceeded to decisively work over both of his friends, Schuman decided they needed to work together.
To understand where McCall comes from and where he acquired much of his skill, it is necessary to know about his trainers. Schuman’s background in the sport of MMA extends back 20 years, beginning with his time in Hong Kong, where he earned his black belt in tae kwon do. When he moved to Thailand, he decided to try his luck against some local muay Thai fighters. When he was soundly beaten by a 14-year-old, Schuman promptly threw away his tae kwon do gi and belt and asked to train at the school.
Schuman went on to compete in roughly five dozen amateur muay Thai fights, 13 professional bouts and four MMA matches. Afterward, he decided he wanted to join the military, and he spent six years abroad as a sniper and assault team member. At the end of his term, Schuman was asked by some friends to help out with holding mitts. He agreed, and when he saw that they lacked technique, he began to work with them on a full-time basis. They utilized the facilities at Extreme Jiu-Jitsu, where he met McCall.
McCall, who then weighed more than 250 pounds, was just getting started in the sport. Schuman knew he had a potential gem on his hands.
“I have an eye for talent. You can teach a lot of guys technique, but the natural ability to inflict damage is what you’ve really got to look for,” he said. “You can teach a guy to punch all day long, but how he delivers that punch comes from something within.”
McCall and Schuman became close, and when Schuman decided to open his own gym -- Parabellum MMA --McCall followed him.
McCall accepted his first amateur fight under the King of the Cage banner at 205 pounds, facing a last-minute replacement that checked in 22 pounds overweight; he won by technical knockout 18 seconds into the first round. McCall cruised through several amateur fights with no real competition and grew complacent. Not feeling challenged, he wanted to turn professional. Schuman held him back, waiting for him to experience his first loss and to grasp a better understanding of the importance of a sound ground game. When McCall did taste the sting of that first defeat, it served as a wake-up call. “I fell off the game plan and he kept taking me down,” he said. “I started training seriously, watching videos, studying myself and my opponents [and] taking more BJJ and boxing on top of regular training.”
Less than two years ago, Schuman decided to close Parabellum.
“I love the sport,” he said, “but I got tired of the business side of it.”
Schuman referred his students to one of his El Paso peers, Bushido MMA owner Hugo Sida, a professional fighter with an 8-1 record. All of them decided to join Bushido, and, several months later, Schuman took a position with the gym, training his fighters once again alongside Sida.
Sida has been training and fighting for more than 16 years, and spent three years at the Lion’s Den in San Diego, working with UFC hall of famer Ken Shamrock, along with Pete Williams, Guy Metzger, Vernon White, Manolo Hernandez, Tony Galindo and Dean Lister. He opened Bushido MMA about seven years ago, and it currently boasts some six professional and eight amateur fighters.
With the addition of Schuman and his crew, the gym has been making a name for itself. In 2012, its fight record, combined between professionals and amateurs, was 27-2.
“Hugo took me to another level at Bushido,” said McCall, who earned his fourth professional victory with a five-round verdict over Myron Dennis at an Xtreme Fighting League event in Oklahoma in November.
Schuman expects great things from his fighter.
“He’s going to be in one of the big shows soon; he’s in a position to dominate at 185 [pounds],” Schuman said. “He’s just that guy with the natural ability who picks things up without even trying.”
McCall’s manager, Abel Marquez, is currently working to secure a fight with Bellator Fighting Championships, which touches down in Albuquerque, N.M., on Feb. 28.
“I want to make it to some of the big shows, like Bellator and the UFC,” McCall said. “I’m going to give it my all and see where it takes me.”