LEMOORE — Kenny Ento says he is always looking for some one to stand and trade with him. Justin Levens welcomes the idea.
“If it stays standing, I see myself with a smile and a shiny new belt,” said the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran from Newport Beach.
“Most people say they are going to try and stand and trade with me ‘til I hit them. Then their game plan changes.”
Ento (8-2) is steadfast in his vow to keep his Palace Fighting Championship Middleweight Championship fight with Levens (9-7) standing on Oct. 18 at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore.
“I hope he wants to keep it standing and box it out,” said Hanford’s Ento, who is a slick submission master with seven of his eight victories coming by submission.
“I wouldn’t say that I have a game plan really. I try and take each fight and play it by ear, but I’ve continued to work on my standup and my ground is getting a lot cleaner.”
PFC 4’s “Project Complete” is nearly completely sold out. The 13-bout card features three championship bouts.
The Levens/Ento showdown seems to be the most interesting for Central California mixed martial arts fans.
“I think the Ento versus Levens fight is the ultimate cross roads fight for both guys. Ento is coming off a good win over a strong Division 1 wrestler, but he’s yet to beat someone who has been at the level Levens has,” Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino Entertainment Director Christian Printup said.
“If Kenny Ento wins this fight he’s legit. For Justin Levens it’s simple, it’s no secret he has had a run of bad luck and poor showings, but he’s such a dangerous guy in the ring. He needs this win to salvage his career and that’s why I think you’ll see the best Justin Levens ever on October 18th.”
Not the Levens that has lost four straight and seven of his last nine fights since World Extreme Cagefighting 18’s “Unfinished Business where Levens was knocked out by Elk Grove’s Scott Smith.
“I have been training with Eric Paulson, Josh Barnett, Babalu, Apple, O.C. Muay Thai, Cub Swanson and Mike Guymon,” Levens said of his training and changes. “I’ve been training with a lot of top of the food chain guys. I was more than ready for my last fight but four days before I was in the E.R. with an ear infection, so I was out of it for that fight. I always come out swinging for the fences and I’m always fun to watch. I will bring it and then leave with the belt.”
A belt that Ento believes has belonged around his waist for some time.
“This is my belt. It’s always been my belt and I just have to go pick it up now,” Ento said. “I never thought that anyone else should be fighting for it. Honestly, I feel like I should have fought for it when the WEC was here in Lemoore.
“I knew that my opponent, whoever it was, was going to be tough. That’s the way I like it, though, I want to fight the big names. I don’t want any easy fights. I like to fight and I want to be the best. I want to earn it.”
At PFC 2 in March, Ento had his hands full with North Hollywood’s Lodune Sincaid. It was the biggest fight of Ento’s young career, and Sincaid stopped him by TKO in the second round.
“I think this is a bigger fight than the one with Lodune. I know they have pretty similar records and they’re both tough, but very different fighters,” Ento said. “I think Levens has more a skill set than Lodune does. Lodune was a lot stronger than I was. I don’t think Levens will be as strong as he was.”
Ento is on a 2-fight win streak since the Sincaid loss. He most recently defeated San Diego middleweight Jesse Taylor (4-2) by triangle choke in 37 seconds of the first round at Primal MMA in Aug.
“I learned a lot from my fight with Lodune. I’ve been working on staying off my back and a lot on my cardio,” Ento said. “I think that overall I could have been more prepared.”
And he will have to be with Levens, who has fought the likes of Smith and UFC vet Evan Tanner (32-6). Levens also was defeated by Vladimir Matyushenko (19-3) and owns a victory over Rio de Janeiro’s Jorge Oliveira (2-1-1) of Chute Boxe.
“I have seen him fight. He is tough. I don’t really need to know a lot about him to make him fight my game,” Levens said. “It is very hard to sub me and hard to ground-and-pound me. You may be able to stall the fight out there if that’s what u want, but u have 5 rounds and I do well against tall people. His ground is no where near who I train with every day.”