Team USA West Finalizes Roster for M-1 Challenge in Kansas City


Renato Migliaccio. Photo courtesy of White Chocolate Management.

Amsterdam, Holland - After opening its 2009 campaign in the “M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction” with a 5-0 victory over host country Bulgaria this past March, Team USA East will look to take out its chief competition in Group C and clinch a playoff berth on Friday, June 5 in Kansas City when it takes on Team Finland.

The best-of-five series between USA East and Finland will prove to be USA East’s toughest test of the regular season, as it looks to retain sole possession of first place in Group C.

USA East finds itself heading into its must-win matchup vs. second place Finland having had to change four of its five fighters that played a role in March’s shutout over Bulgaria. However, USA East’s lone returnee, Ryan Gracie black belt Renato Migliaccio (5-0), just happens to be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in this year’s M-1 Challenge.

“Renato Migliaccio is one of White Chocolate Management’s secret weapons,” said Reed Wallace, president of White Chocolate Management and the owner of Team USA East. “No one knew about him and we found him through our extensive network of contacts here in the USA. I am so impressed with this young man’s skills and dedication and feel he is a world class competitor and can fight at the 155 pound division in any event organization on Earth.

“He is a black belt in BJJ, and his standup and striking skills are superb. He is a very intelligent fighter with great stamina and conditioning and really uses his head in his fights. He never gets emotional and is a danger to any fighter that’s put in front of him.”

Migliaccio is set to face off with Finland’s lightweight representative, Niko Puhaka (14-8). Wallace expects a very aggressive Migliccacio to possibly finish Puhaka early.

“(Renato’s) performance in Bulgaria was the same as his performance in the Revolution Fighting Championships in that he comes out aggressively and does not stop until he has finished his opponent,” said Wallace. “He does not let his fights go to a decision and I believe you will see the same in Kansas City against Niko Puhaka.”

Migliaccio’s showing at the RVC was observed by a very prominent name in the UFC’s lightweight division and Migliaccio was subsequently invited to join the fighter’s training camp.

“Hermes Franca met Renato at the Revolution Fighting Championships in Miami and after he saw Renato’s performance he was so impressed that he asked Renato to be a part of his training camp,” Wallace revealed. “We are very proud to have Renato representing us on Team USA East and the fans will all see an exciting performance because that’s the fight that Renato brings.”

Joining Migliaccio on June 5 will be Team USA East newcomers Anthony Ford, Valdir Araujo, Javier Gil as well as a returnee from last year’s squad, heavyweight Mike Ottman.

Ford (2-0), a welterweight, is slated to meet Janne Tulinrinta (10-3). The fight will mark Ford’s most prominent bout to date but Wallace believes the 25-year old is ready for prime-time.

“Ford is a new acquisition for White Chocolate Management and we are very impressed with this young man’s resume and determination,” he said. “Anthony works and trains full-time at Revolution Fitness Gym in Stamford, Connecticut. He trains about six hours per day and has stamina to go 10 rounds without breaking a sweat.”

Ford’s opponent, Tulinrinta is perhaps one of the best submission fighters at welterweight in the M-1 Challenge. Wallace expressed his belief that Ford’s jiu-jitsu is good enough to hang with Tulinrinta.

“Anthony Ford has been training at Renzo Gracie’s BJJ Academy in New York for the past two years extensively and has won his two pro MMA fights in small events and has a record of 2-0,” he said. “This will be his first test against a real veteran pro fighter in Tulirinta and we are ready to see how Janne’s jiu jitsu matches up with Anthony’s.”

The M-1 Challenge debut of Araujo (2-0) is one that is much anticipated, as the blue chip prospect trains out of Team Nogueira in Miami.

“In Valdir’s second pro fight, he took on White Chocolate’s Adler Volmar, the reigning United States heavyweight champion in Judo was making his MMA debut following his performance in the Beijing Olympics. Despite his opponent having such a strong pedigree, Valdir took the fight on short notice and came up in weight to fight Volmar at 205 lbs.”

In the end, Volmar’s world class judo credentials were not enough to stave off Araujo’s black belt jiu jitsu skills with Araujo earning his spot in the M-1 Challenge following a first round submission victory over Volmar in just his second pro fight.

Araujo will be tested once again in his third pro fight as he takes on Finland’s Lucio Linhares, perhaps the number one fighter in all of the M-1 Challenge. Linhares, also a jiu jitsu black belt, is 11-4 and has won his last three bouts with notable wins over M-1 Superfight competitor Karl Amoussou and former UFC light heavyweight Sean Salmon.

Araujo will not be making the trip to Kansas City alone, as he will be joined by his jiu-jitsu coach at Team Nogueira, Javier Gil, who is undefeated after one pro fight. Like Araujo, Gil will also be tested as he fights Finland’s Marcus Vanttinen (9-1).

“Javier holds a black belt in BJJ and his standup is magnificent,” Wallace commented. “He is a master and although he chose not to fight competitively for most of his life, he’s ready to take on Vanttinen. We believe he will not let us down (and that you) will see a pro and a show when Javier gets in the ring.”

At heavyweight for Team USA East, Ottman (1-3) makes his return to the M-1 Challenge with revenge on his mind following a loss to Team Finland’s Jarno Nurminen last year in Spain after tapping to a rear naked choke at 1:15 of round 1. Wallace believes that Ottman’s lack of experience hurt him at the time while facing Nurminen, the most experience mixed martial artist in all of Finland.

“Mike was on the first Team USA and had little experience. In fact it was his just his second nd pro fight,” Wallace said. “Mike has had several fights since then and is now training under the master Roger Krahl. His skills have improved greatly and he’s an explosive and exciting fighter. We’re glad to have him back on the team. Mike’s training very hard, he’s very focused and he’s ready to rumble. It’s going to be war.”

Ottman will still have his work cut out for him against Toni Valtonen (18-8), a two-year veteran of the M-1 Challenge who competed on last year’s team at light heavyweight but moved up to heavyweight this year to replace Nurminen.

In addition to the headlining team challenge between USA East and Finland, two other team challenge matchups are scheduled as well between England vs. France and well as the World Team vs. Team Turkey.

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