Undefeated 155-pounder Jon Neal, of Ogden, will defend his Utah title against Aaron Sutton in the main event Friday night in Salt Lake City at the Rail Event Center.
However, one of the preliminary fights is as intriguing as the main event. John Valentine, a 42-year-old trainer at Hidden Valley gym in Salt Lake City, will square off against a much-younger foe, Skyler Chambers of Smithfield.
It will be Valentine's second pro fight. Last year, he scored a submission in fewer than 10 seconds, although the fight was later called a no contest. In Chambers, he'll meet an opponent who lost a tough decision in his pro debut a month ago in Logan.
Valentine says he "trains like a madman" to make sure that his greatest fear -- that he'll lose because he wasn't as fit as he could have been -- never occurs. "Getting exhausted is a crisis that scares me to death and at my age," says the 5-foot 7-inch MMA pro, who likes to fight at around 145 to 155 pounds.
As a 40-plus age competitor, Valentine focuses on four components to get ready for a fight: mental strength; skills and drills; conditioning; and, cutting weight the right way. The last component is a skill in MMA, as many fighters will lose several pounds the day of the weigh in.
"The key for me is to practice a little discipline and maintain a reasonable diet and train regularly so that I stay within about 10 pounds of the target weight the day before my fights or competitions," says Valentine.
The person in charge of modifying his diet and cooking the meals is his wife Shari.
It's not surprising that Valentine identifies with many older MMA vets. He praises, among others, Utah veterans Cole Rose and Eric Tillotson. However, as a coach he takes pride in the younger charges he helps train.
Hidden Valley is unique in that it has a strong women's MMA team. A couple of prospects mentioned by coach Valentine include Brenda Enriquez, Aubree Thompson and Jessica Bergstrom.
At Hidden Valley, Valentine spends a lot of time assisting young fighters with their striking (punching) skills. He's a fixture at the gym on the weekends, as he juggles a full-time job with his coaching and training. Hidden Valley has produced a consistent number of quality MMA pros and amateurs, something that Valentine takes a lot of pride in.
One of the fighters he has trained, MMA pro Daniel Stratton, is grateful for the assistance, and the competition. "I've always been impressed with the amount of time and energy he puts into his students without expecting anything in return. Also we've had some very furious sparring sessions. He goes toe to toe with me no problem," says Stratton.
More than a generation ago, Valentine wrestled for UNLV. He earned a degree in molecular biology, works in the pharmaceutical industry, and is a dad and husband. He and his wife, Shari, are raising four young boys, two of whom, JT, age 7, and Kyle, 6, are already state champs in wrestling and judo.
About 10 years after life in college, Valentine, nearing his mid-30s, began training in Muay Thai, a form of kick boxing. He also began Jiu jitsu training, and is now a purple belt. He's been successful, winning championships, including a judo title in Idaho and grappling in the North American Grappling Association, in the expert decision.
"I don't stop training," says Valentine, adding that when you are in your 40s, taking time off from training is time that simply can't be recovered. He spends his weekdays focusing on cardio and stamina, mixing work with exercise. On the weekends, when he can spend several-plus hours a day at Hidden Valley, he focuses on sparring and technique, and training others.
"When I have covered all the bases, I won't feel as anxious when the cage door locks. I will able to say. 'There's nothing this guy can do to me that I haven't survived in training,' " says Valentine.
Besides the training and pro fights, Valentine is also associated with SteelFist Fights as a commentator on the promotion's weekly TV show that shows past bouts. Pat Patton, a co-owner at SteelFist, appreciates the help. "John is a great athlete, driven and determined, very knowledgeable of the sport we love, MMA. We are happy to have him as a part of Steelfist."
There are 15 scheduled bouts at the SteelFist card. One bout matches 145-pound prospects AJ Garcia and Samson Phommabout. An amateur title bout at 155 pounds matches Matt Jackson versus Tanner Garcia. Other local fighters competing include Matt Buck and Brandon Rease. The Rail Event Center is at 235 N. 500 West in SLC. Fights start at 7. Information is at steelfistfight.com.
MMA action in Ogden: On Saturday night, at the Summit Hotel in Ogden, Utah 185 pounders Mike Crisman and Ed Whitmore are the main event at an MMA card. The Summit is at 247 24th Street. Fights start at 7.
Standard-Examiner staff editor Doug Gibson can be reached at 801-625-4234 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.