Who Are the Non-Karatekas Fighting in Karate Combat?

Who Are the Non-Karatekas Fighting in Karate Combat?

Meet the Exceptions to the Rule
by Mac Tyson, 2023-02-02

Karate Combat is primarily a Full Contact Karate League. However, on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, President Adam Kovacs stated that the League would be opening up to fighters outside of Karate backgrounds. At least, a bit.

Roughly 98% of the league’s roster currently consists of Karatekas. Some of these fighters are Karate-based MMA Fighters and Karate-based Kickboxers, but the majority comes from a “pure” Karate background (Karatekas who have only ever competed in Karate competitions).

This article will focus on the 2% of the organization: non-Karatekas.

Damian Villa

The pride of the Taekwondo community

Damian Villa is arguably the highest level Taekwondo stylist to enter the Pit. His skills are so legit that even UFC Champion Luke Rockhold reached out to him to learn Taekwondo techniques!

If that appeal to authority doesn’t convince you, here are the facts: Damian Villa is a 2x WT World Medalist, owner of his own Dojang, been a member of two different National Taekwondo Teams (Mexico and America), and only competed in Taekwondo before transitioning to Full Contact Karate.

Gabo Diaz

Sanda specialist

“Gabo Lee'' grew up in Venezuela training in Kung Fu/Wushu. He would become a 3x State Sanda Champion. Later he took his Sanda background into the sport of kickboxing and became a 5x National Champion.

Diaz received Black Belts in Taekwondo and a non-traditional style of Full Contact Karate, but his main background is Sanda. Today, he’s training under Sensei Mano Santana (Luiz Rocha, Henry Cejudo, and the Pitbull Bros' Karate Coach) in Florida to help with his transition to Karate Combat.

Samuel Ericsson

Not just an Instagrammer

Ericsson is an influencer and mixed martial artist turned Full Contact Karate fighter, but his origins are in Taekwondo. He trained in the art from the age of 7 and eventually earned his Black Belt. This art provided the foundation for his trademark flashy techniques which he performs with athletic power on his Instagram videos and in the Pit.

Diego Avendaño

From Kuk Sool Won to Karate Combat

Diego Avendaño grew up in Venezuela training in the South Korean martial art of Kuk Sool Won. This martial art was created by Suh In-Hyuk and has a focus on strikes, throws, and attacks on pressure points. Like Karate (outside of Karate Combat), Kuk Sool Won competitions are mainly point sparring.

Diego earned his Black Belt in Kuk Sool Won and later achieved a Black Belt in Taekwondo. He currently trains under Glory Kickboxing Hall of Famer “Bazooka” Joe Valtellini in Canada. He is proud to be Kuk Sool Won’s sole representative in the Karate Combat Pit.


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