In front of an eager crowd, “We have a fight” rang out repeatedly over the speakers at KBXtreme Thursday night as 29 fighters from all over the state and as far as Texas stepped on the scale for the official weigh-ins of Just Scrap 22.
Today, the fighters will face off at Kekuaokalani Gymnasium in Kona at 7 p.m.
“I love Kona,” said Just Scrap President JD Penn. “Having an event like this stimulates and even creates an economy for MMA. If we can do two or three events in Kona you will see MMA schools that pop up, more people working out, and more kids getting off the streets and getting active.”
Tonight’s main event is in the 240-pound weight class between out-of-state fighter Kyle Keeney (18-19) against Hilo’s Chad Thomas (2-1).
The heavy-handed Thomas — nicknamed the “Brahma Bull” — is coming off a convincing victory against Tinei Sua in Just Scrap 21. Thomas finished the fight 30 seconds into the second-round when he swarmed his opponent with a flurry of overwhelming strikes.
Thursday, as both fighters posed for the traditional face-off shot after making weight, Thomas slowly reached forward and put his fist into the face of Keeney.
Keeney, who was flown in from Texas for the event, shrugged off the gesture with a slight grin.
“He put it out there and I was like whatever,” said Keeney. “I heard Chad is a very game opponent and I’m very excited about that. My manager saw Chad’s last fight, and he told me some things about him. I definitely have a plan for him and hopefully I can execute it to my advantage.”
Another heated exchange came between Donald Gonzalves and Tyler Kahihikolo, who will battle in a professional 135-pound bout.
As Kahihikolo took the stage he stared down his opponent, never looking away. The KBXtreme crowd left the intensity during the stare down, and the duo exchanged pleasantries on their way off stage.
“That’s why I like to have people at the weigh-ins.” Penn said of the fiery exchange. “I want people to see that intensity and say ‘I really have to watch those guys.’”
The third professional fight on the card is between Lupe Hudgens, fighting out of Washington, and local fighter Oscar Penovaroff.
“This whole experience has been real great,” Hudgens said. “We both took this fight on short notice, but we are both gamers. This is a job to do and how I provide for my family. I want to perform to my best ability and put on a show.”
In the amateur fights, many Kona fighters will get to showcase their talents in front of a rare home crowd.
“Preparing for this has been a lot of fun,” said Scotty Hao, who is fighting out of Average Joes gym in Kona. “There has been a lot of hard work and it’s been fun working with the boys. Everyone has been helping me out a lot.”
Hao will fight Gary Simkins out of Hilo in the 170-pound weight class.
“I’ve been working on all aspects of my game, but whatever happens I know I’m coming in at 100 percent,” Hao said. “We have got to impress the hometown crowd and put some smiles on their faces.”
All fighters made weight or agreed to fight at the recorded weights Thursday night. The only fight still being decided is in the 135-pound weight class against Cheyden Leialoha. His opponent, David Cortez, did not show up to weigh-ins and organizers are currently looking for a replacement fighter.
Other fights on the card include: 155-pound title fight, Anthony Rivera (Honolulu) vs. Kaeo Meyers (Honokaa); 155-pound, Daniel Intlekofer (Hilo) vs. Kainui Meyers (Hilo); 170-pound, Kelii Kanakoa (Hilo) vs. Brandon Libao (Hilo); 200-pound, Tyrell Manderville (Hilo) vs. Andrew Sanchis (Kona); 135-pound, Nic Das vs. Kanoa Akau (Waimea); 150-pound, Petey Vital (Hilo) vs. Kako Pacheco (Kona); 125-pound Federico Vento IV (Hilo) vs. Maui Acantilado (Waimea); 160-pound, Ronston Andrede (Hilo) vs. Kentzin Santos (Hilo); 170-pound, Keola Limkin (Hilo) vs. Bryson Delostrico (Kona); 145-pound, Jefferey Oher (Hilo) vs. David McKinney (Hilo).
For Penn, Just Scrap events are all about giving local athletes an outlet to focus their energy and an opportunity to showcase their skills.
“Kids need to be motivated and know they can be great and believe they can make it to the next level,” Penn said. “We want the kids to get inspired. We want to see them say ‘I can get to the UFC — I can do great things.’”
Penn brought up MLB players Kolten Wong and Shane Victorino as prime examples of role models for the local youth, as well as his own brother and MMA legend BJ Penn.
The veteran fight promoter also stressed that spectators should not expect a simple ring setup in a gymnasium tonight and that a Just Scrap event is well worth the price of admission.
“This is a show — the full production,” Penn said. “We have not had a fight in Kona in a while, but anyone who comes should expect to be entertained.”
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the fights are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 at the door.