Hurricane Laura caused more than $17 billion worth of damage when it tore through Louisiana in August last year, effortlessly destroying the buildings, farms and vehicles unlucky enough to be in front of it.
One of the destroyed buildings belonged to Josh Quayhagen. He went to bed one night as the owner of a dojo and woke up the next day to find himself the owner of several tons of sawdust.
Rebuilding of the training center is still not complete, so Quayhagen’s training camp for his title defense against Dionicio Gustavo required some innovative solutions - and a lot of sheer determination.
“I had a unique camp. I had a fired-up fight team who really helped me. We’d train in fields and parking lots, we’d go running through fields, we would train in the yard, in the rain - whatever we had to do, it didn’t matter,” he recalls.
“Going through struggles, that’s where that warrior spirit comes in. It’s so easy to step back and be a victim. No, let’s figure it out. I developed a better stronger mindset. We kept going and I felt better than I ever had, despite the least amount of training partners and no dojo!”
In a way, Hurricane Laura turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The toughened mindset which Quayhagen developed in months Rocky-esque outdoor training was the key factor in winning this fight with Gustavo.
The two had met before, back in 2019. Gustavo - a special forces operator in the Dominican Republic Navy - was on a win streak and headed for a title shot until he ran into Quayhagen, who stepped in on late notice to replace an injured opponent and won a unanimous decision.
Quayhagen went on to successfully take the title shot himself, making this rematch with Gustavo both a title fight and something of a revenge mission for the Dominican. That mission was nearly completed in the first round when he cracked Quayhagen with a counter punch which dropped the American and had him on the verge of unconsciousness.
“First punch he threw! That caught me by surprise. He usually fights orthodox but he came out southpaw and that threw me off. Once he put me down I had to go all the way to Plan Z and just dig in, survive and then break him,” said Quayhagen post-fight.
Having cleared his head, Quayhagen was able to grit his way through the second round and then begin taking control in the third.
By the fifth and final round, he had taken away Gustavo’s mobility with an endless series of leg kicks - and also had more gas in the tank. Gustavo’s offensive efforts ebbed away and Quayhagen was clearly in control by the end.
Quayhagen had actually predicted what the fight’s decisive factor would be during a pre-fight interview.
“I know he’s a warrior and he’s going to keep coming - but so am I. He ain’t gonna have enough. We’re going to see how deep he can swim. I think it’s going to come down to will and heart,” he prophesied.
Josh Quayhagen def. Dionicio Gustavo, Unanimous Decision, R5
Mardhi outmaneuvers Hasanov
Before the title fight, Kamariddin Hasanov stepped into The Pit to make his Karate Combat debut against young veteran Ilies ‘The Madman’ Mardhi in the newly-opened bantamweight division.
French national Mardhi (2-1 in Karate Combat going into the fight) is a flamboyant fighter, but even he couldn’t match the showmanship of his opponent, with Hasanov entertaining the crowd with the traditional dances of his native Tajkistan as he entered The Pit.
The fight was a predictably high-energy encounter for the full three rounds duration, both fighters a non-stop whirlwind of activity. Hasanov had some excellent moments, but overall it was the more experienced Mardhi who was in control of the fight. He came away with a unanimous decision win.
Ilies Mardhi def. Kamariddin Hasanov, Unanimous Decision, R3