FIGHTING did two things for Harris “The Hitman” Sarmiento.
First, he became a “bad kid” who used to pick fights growing up.
Second, he became a mixed martial arts champion when he finally put his skills to good use.
If it weren’t for MMA, his troubled teenage life would have gone on to a worse situation.
“I would probably be in jail right now,” admitted the 29-year-old Sarmiento said. “I was a bad kid and I used to get into a lot fights. Hawaii has a lot of fighters, mostly into gangs.”
“MMA saved my life,” said Sarmiento, born in Ilocos Norte and now based in Hawaii.
The Filipino-American fighter continued to repay what the fastest-growing sport in the world has done to him by putting on a show in front of his countrymen during the Pacific Xtreme Combat 33 at the packed Ynares Sports Arena on Saturday night.
Relying on a powerful punching prowess, the 5-foot-6 Sarmiento defeated a worthy replacement in Han Seonhwa of Korea via split decision in the main event of the fight card held on a starry, rainy night.
Despite connecting several blows to the head and body, Sarmiento found Seonhwa, a last-minute replacement for injured contender John Tuck, a tough nut to crack as the Korean stayed on his feet after the final bell.
Sarmiento, the reigning PXC lightweight champion, still did enough to claim his 35th triumph against 23 losses, and deal Seonhwa his first loss in four fights.
Coincidentally, one of Sarmiento’s influences was the third man in the ring in renowned United Fighting Championship referee Big John McCarthy.
Although still eyeing to see action in future editions of the PXC, Sarmiento, who took up a culinary course in a community college in Hawaii and lists pork adobo as his specialty, remains dreaming of fighting in a bigger stage.
“I still want to make it to the big time, of course, the UFC.”
In the main undercard match, Filipino-American poster boy Mark “Mugen” Striegl remained undefeated in 11 fights after forcing Guamanian opponent Robert Wustigg to an early first-round submission with an Americana lock.
Russel Doane likewise kept his unbeaten streak alive at eight fights after the Filipino-American flashed his takedown skill to beat Masato Sannai of Japan in a unanimous decision.
Four pure Pinoys also didn’t disappoint in the event.
Eugene Toquero scored the quickest victory of the night after connecting on a left elbow to the chin of compatriot Leonard Caliwa with just 40 seconds in the first round of their 125-pound match. Toquero remained undefeated in four fights, while Caliwa dropped to 1-2.
Jerome Wanawan showed his ground-and-pound ability in beating countryman Victor Torre via technical knockout. Wanawan, who represents Team Lakay, extended his winning streak to three, while handing Torre only his second loss in eight fights.
In another lightweight bout, Isaiah Ordiz similarly stretched his winning run to five games as he scored a majority decision over a bloody-faced Kristopher Persson of Sweden.
Arex Montalban, for his part, registered the second win of his career after forcing Badong Domasian to submit in the first bout of the night.
Two foreigners, meanwhile, made a good account of themselves in unfamiliar territory.
Hong Seung Chan of Korea made a successful MMA debut after scoring a stoppage due to strikes over Richie Redman.
Guam’s Jon delos Reyes, on the other hand, forced Troy Bantiag to submission with an armbar lock to win for the seventh time in eight bouts.
Celebrities in the crowd include actors Dingdong Dantes, Paolo Contis, Dennis Trillo, Bianca King, former Ms. Universe runner-up Miriam Quiambao, PBA players JC Intal, Alex Crisano, and Doug Kramer.