A year ago we chronicled the life of Rene Martinez, a Miami Cuban American who went from gang-banging hell-raiser to a humble God-fearing MMA warrior. Since that cover story, Martinez, known by his street name "Level," has won his first three matches as a professional and starred in a five-hour Spanish-language documentary that aired on Telemundo this past April.
But the future of unsanctioned backyard fights -- where Martinez garnered the attention of MMA scouts -- is not looking good.
During an interview on Tap Out Radio two days ago, Martinez revealed he can't even watch a backyard fight after receiving a stern warning from the state boxing commission. "I can't attend them no more," he said. "I got a phone call and they told me just for going they might suspend your license."
With Telemundo's special and the forth-coming Rakontur documentary "Dawg Fight," as well as recent interest from ESPN, the boxing commission was bound to start cracking down on unsanctioned fisticuffs and grappling. And when one of the backyard's biggest stars can't show his roots any love because the man might take his bread away, you know the party is over.
The iron fist came down in May days before Dhafir Harris, aka Dada 5000, made his pro debut as a fighter at the Hard Rock Casino's Rumble at the Rock II. He was cautioned by the boxing commission to stop promoting and organizing backyard fights in Perrine. Harris didn't heed the advice and attempted to put on an event in June. A day before the fights, he canceled the show upon "running into legal issues with the local authorities."
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While Level hasn't fought in the backyard since turning pro, Harris always managed to bring in a couple of licensed fighters looking to earn some quick cash as long as the boxing commission didn't catch wind of it. That won't be the case any longer.
But you can watch Level go for his fourth professional victory on Friday night against another newcomer, Hansel Calderon, who is 1-1. Both fighters will square off at Nova Southeastern University's Don Taft Arena for the inaugural Scorpius Fighting Championships.
Listen to Level's 23-minute interview: