There’s a lot on the line for John Castaneda tonight in the “Copa Combate” eight-man elimination tournament, which takes place inside Oasis Grand Resort on both Telemundo and NBC SN.
After a perfect 2-0 run for King of the Cage (KOTC), Castaneda (14-2) signed with Combate Americas in late 2015, then made a mockery of the promotion's bantamweight division.
To the tune of six straight wins with four finishes.
“Once the cage door closes, records don’t mean a thing,” the collegiate double-major told MMAmania.com. “Who I beat and how I beat them doesn’t matter. All that matters is the opponent standing in front of me.”
That opponent will be Peruvian power puncher Kevin Moreyra, who like his quarterfinal foe, will be competing for the tournament grand prize of $100,000, the payout to whoever can fight — and win — three times in one night.
Moreyra will step into “La Jaula” as the +260 underdog.
“Am I the favorite? Just ask any of the other fighters competing in Copa Combate, they’ll tell you,” a confident Castaneda said. “Kevin’s one of those wildcards. He’s like the seventh or eight seed. That said, I’m a notoriously slow starter, so I need to get a good warm up, then come out and dominate.”
It was a bout that almost didn’t happen.
That’s because “Sexi Mexi” was a contestant Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last August in Las Vegas, Nevada, and while he didn’t get the finish, his convincing unanimous decision win over Cheyden Leialoha did catch the eye of UFC matchmakers.
“There’s a 30-day negotiating period after the Contender Series, so we were actually talking with UFC,” he said. “But in those 30 days, we got a super-good offer from Combate Americas. It’s a really good contract, one that keeps me active, so everything worked out from the best.”
That remains to be seen.
Castaneda, 25, expects to collide with friend and fellow Combate Americas smashing machine Marcelo Rojo in the tournament final, assuming both combatants hold up their end of the bargain when it comes time to perform.
“I know the brackets were set up this way and it’s probably going to be Rojo,” Castaneda said. “But if you ask him, he will tell you the same thing. I think I’m the best fighter here and he thinks he’s the best. I’m sure each fighter in this tournament thinks they’re the best, or they wouldn’t be here.”
And being the best, especially to this entrant, is more important than the $100,000 grand prize.
Fortunately for the winner, the two aren't mutually exclusive. Find out who takes home the “Copa Combate” crown when the door to “La Jaula” closes at 9 p.m. ET on Facebook live, before the main card start time of 11:30 p.m. ET on Telemundo and NBC SN.
For much more on tonight’s “Copa Combate” event click here.