John Castaneda is the winningest fighter in Combate Americas and will be running back one of the most exciting fights from the Copa Combate when he meets Marc Gomez on April 13.
This is our first time seeing you since the Copa Combate last year. I want to go back to the final for a moment. You’re in your third fight of the evening to win the tournament, can you walk us through what you were going through in the fight with Levy Marroquin?
“Going into that third fight, against Levy (Marroquin) I was absolutely exhausted. That second fight (of the tournament) for me was a tough fight. I got dropped in the third round. I got cut above the eye. It was an all-out war in that second round. Going into the third fight, I was feeling the effects of the three fights in one night for the tournament. It wasn’t even an all-day thing. It’s just that the fights all happened within two hours. You’re fighting three different guys with three different styles all in that span. Long story short, going into that third one I was absolutely exhausted but I was trying to stay composed and remain professional. It ended up being a really good fight.”
Looking back, would you have wanted to do anything differently against Levy?
“There’s so many factors that go into that. Absolutely I would have liked to do a lot of different things in a fight with Levy. But like I said, when fatigue steps in, you have this adrenaline that goes through you when you fight. Then you have this adrenaline dump right after that. To be able to warm up and revamp yourself to fight again in just a few minutes is something you can’t simulate in the practice room. Absolutely if I fought Levy on a normal night, in a normal professional setting, it would 100% be a different fight. Not only for me but for him as well.”
Going back to the fight against Marc Gomez, when the draw came out he was the favorite to be your second opponent of the night. How much did you study him ahead of the tournament?
“I actually had some time to train with Marc. I knew he was going to be one of the top competitors in the tournament and one of the toughest guys. The Copa Combate was a pretty big event and on two different occasions we were flown out to do media and press. On trips to Miami and California I would always rent a car so I could go out and do training at local gyms and Marc asked if he could tag along and train with me. I was fine with that.
I expected to see Marc on the opposite side of the bracket. We would joke around about it, saying ‘I’ll see you in the finals’ and things like that. We would partner up when we went to a lot of these gyms and I would get a good feel for his style and his strengths and weaknesses. I knew if I fought this guy in the finals I would have a good advantage on the ground. I was stronger and faster than this guy and it would be a good fight for me. One week before the event they announced the bracket and we were both on the same side. So okay, we’re going to be seeing each other a lot sooner than the finals.”
With that much time training with Marc, did the fight go as you expected?
“Everything that I thought was going to be there was there. I had the advantage on the ground and I had the advantage in the wrestling. I did, however, underestimate his striking.”
You obviously now have a full training camp to focus just on Marc but also you will able to throw elbows which weren’t allowed during the round of the tournament where you faced him. What is the biggest difference you can tell us about how you’re approaching the rematch?
“The whole process of warming up for that first fight [before him,] all that adrenaline and all that feeling. Cooling down and revamping yourself for another fight right after that is just so tough to simulate and I thrive in a normal professional setting. Before the Copa Combate I was on a 10 fight win-streak. That’s in a normal setting. One fight a night, one style, one guy to prepare for, three five-minute rounds, that’s the setting I thrive in. This is that setting. I don’t see the second fight going any differently except that it’s going to be a stoppage.
The biggest difference, because I have the advantage on the ground and in the wrestling, is that I’m going to come out strong. With that though, I’m also going to look for finishes. With the Copa Combate, I almost felt as if I was in a neutral mode. There was no urgency to finish some of these fights and lose this energy knowing potentially I have another fight coming up in a little bit. In this rematch, we’re both going for finishes. We’re both going for the kill. And we know there’s no fight after our fight. It’s going to be left all on the mat so it’s gonna be a good one.”
Before the Copa Combate, you signed a contract with Combate Americas even though there was going to be interest from the UFC. You’re still the winningest fighter on the roster. How important is this bout with Marc towards possibly fighting for the title down the line?
“This is obviously a big deal for me. It’s a pretty important win. This is right up there because if I win, how can I not fight for a title? I’ve basically beaten everyone that Combate has thrown my way in a normal setting. Like I said, that’s the setting that I thrive in. I would love to get a rematch against Levy for a title after this win. [This fight] is important but I also don’t feel like it’s bettering me in any way. How I feel about rematches is when I fight somebody, I beat them. That’s great. I just went up one level. My ranking went up. If I beat them once more, my ranking doesn’t really go up. I just stay in the same spot. The biggest thing is just that there was controversy, which I don’t think there was. Marc Gomez is a big draw, he’s got a big crowd, he’s one of Spain’s most popular fighters and I think that’s why he’s getting the rematch. I think that I clearly, decisively, won the first two rounds. He won the third round. That’s a 29-28 decision and that’s what the judges scored it. All three of them. That’s not a close fight. That’s two rounds to one. A split-decision, that’s a close fight. Marc’s getting the rematch because he’s a popular fighter and he’s a good draw. But like I said, I’m looking to finish him early.”
Shifting gears a moment, how did you get the nickname “Sexi Mexi?”
“When I was in college I wrestled for Minnesota State University Mankato which is a small Division 2 school in Southern Minnesota. My freshman year of college, I’m sure you’re familiar with the freshman 15, well for me it was more like a freshman 25. I gained a little bit of weight my freshman year and I started focusing a little more on my weight control. I stopped wrestling 100% and joined the MMA team. My coaches saw that within a few months I had dropped all this weight and they were like ‘wow John. You’re looking really fit man. You’re looking sexy. You’re a Sexi Mexi.’ And the name just stuck. It was a funny little thing and now it’s my fighter name.”
Finally, what can the fans who tune in expect from you on April 13?
“They can expect a grudge match. Obviously Marc Gomez is looking to avenge his loss against me and I’m looking to solidify that win. So you can expect an exciting, high level fight.”
John “Sexi Mexi” Castaneda will face Marc “Lufo” Gomez in the main event of Combate Estrellas 1 live on Univision on April 13, 2018.