Coty Wheeler meets Jens Pulver at The Pit on Aug. 13 | Photo: Daniel Archuleta/Sherdog.com ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Boxing has long had a foothold at The Pit, the most famous of New Mexican sporting venues, with world champions such as Bob Foster and Johnny Tapia giving signature performances inside the historic arena. Meanwhile, mixed martial arts has been on the outside looking in, holding its events in casinos and various smaller venues throughout the state. On Aug. 13 that changes, as MMA makes its debut at The Pit with MMA Fight Pit: “Genesis,” a fledgling promotion headed by Albuquerque area businessman Torry Crooks and Nick Montoya. On Wednesday, a 10-bout card headlined by a light heavyweight tussle between UFC veterans Houston Alexander and Razak Al-Hassan was officially announced. “MMA Fight Pit is excited to bring a new level of MMA to fans in New Mexico,” Crooks said. “Our decision to take this leap was based on more than our passion for the sport. It really equated to a mandate from the masses. The MMA community here realizes that we have the best fighters in the world, and they’re eager to see them display their skills on a grander stage.” Alexander, who owns signature wins over Alessio Sakara and Keith Jardine, is currently riding a three-fight winning streak. The Nebraska native’s most recent win came on June 25 against Brian Albin. Hassan last competed in the UFC in 2009, dropping a split decision to Kyle Kingsbury at UFC 104. The Roufussport product has won four of his last five bouts, losing a split decision to Dwayne Lewis in his most recent appearance inside the cage. The co-main event pits local favorite and Jackson’s MMA representative Coty Wheeler against former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver. Wheeler said the chance to compete against “Lil' Evil” is a dream come true. “I’ve been watching this guy since I was a kid. I remember watching my first handful of UFC's and watching Jens Pulver,” said the WEC veteran. “Me being a little guy, I always thought, ‘Man, who is this little Mighty Mouse guy?’” He was one of my heroes growing up. For me to be fighting him, this is a big opportunity for myself. “I know this is just another fight for Jens. This is a big deal for me in my little world.” Pulver has fallen on hard times of late, losing seven of nine fights since 2008. Wheeler has won two fights in a row since leaving the WEC after consecutive losses to Charlie Valencia and Will Campuzano. Wheeler isn’t taking Pulver lightly, however. “He has a lot of talent; he has a lot of credentials; he has a lot of history in the sport,” Wheeler said. “I don’t care if he’s lost his last 10 fights. He’s still just as dangerous as he was 10 years ago.” The rest of the main card, which is scheduled to air on pay-per-view, includes Ultimate Fighter 8 alum Junie Browning against Albuquerque native Lenny Lovato at lightweight; TUF 11 competitor Jamie Yager against Jackson’s MMA product Willie Parks at middleweight; and Utah native Chris Guillen taking on Jackson’s representative Tyler East at heavyweight. Lovato, who lost to Gabe Ruediger at Tachi Palace Fights 5 in his last cage appearance, doesn’t expect to be baited by the controversial Browning. “I’m kind of a character myself. Mentally, I think I’m just gonna go in the fight clear-headed, something I didn’t do in my last fight. I don’t think he’s gonna deter me in any way. I just think it’s gonna be fun, because we’re two crazy individuals,” Lovato said. The five-fight undercard is highlighted by a 105-pound showdown between popular local draw Angelica Chavez, who trains at the Albuquerque-based Chavez Dojo, and Colorado muay Thai specialist Diana Rael. Chavez is unbeaten in four pro fights, most recently notching a submission win over Grudge Training Center product Jennifer Berg in February. Chavez said she has looked up to Rael for several years. “I’ve watched her since she was an amateur. I know she has some Rocky Mountain titles as an amateur. I know she did some kickboxing and did a pro muay Thai fight not too long ago,” Chavez said. “She’s very well experienced.” In other preliminary bouts: Jackson’s Conrad Padilla challenges Farmington, N.M., native Guy Youell at featherweight, Jackson’s Travis Marx faces Texas native Jason Sampson at featherweight, Clint Roberts of Jackson’s MMA meets Guy Mezger’s Combat Sports Club product Sean Spencer at welterweight and Jackson’s MMA representative Rocky Ramirez takes on Mark Lujan in his pro debut at middleweight.
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