Whether facing off against a fellow professional in the mixed martial arts cage or getting into street fights in his youth, Raymond “The Truth” Piña knows a thing or two about combat.
A lifelong wrestler who competed at Sunnyside High School, Piña molded his knack for getting into street fights as a youth into a professional MMA career—one he hopes will take him far in the cutthroat, constantly evolving sport.
Training out of Neutral Corner Gym here in Tucson, as well as several other locations in town, the 24-year-old Tucson native has been cutting his teeth nearly every day since making his amateur debut back in 2009 and believes his constant evolution as a fighter will one day earn him a spot in the limelight.
On Saturday, July 23, Piña (who holds a 6-2 record) will face off in a 170-pound welterweight bout here in Tucson, at Casino Del Sol, when Arizona MMA promotion World Fighting Federation returns to town to host “WFF 29.”
Pitted against an opponent with years of experience on his side, Piña will compete against Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA veteran Estevan “El Terrible” Payan (16-9-1NC), who fights out of Phoenix. Though Payan may hold the advantage when it comes to in-cage experience, Piña believes his tenacity and skill set will be enough to win the day in front of a hometown crowd.
“I hope to show everyone that has doubts about me that I'm the real deal,” Piña said. “I'm going to show everyone that I'm going places… It's the best feeling in the world to walk out to a crowd that loves you and supports me the way they do. My fans and supporters are what drive me to be somebody. I've never thought I would be loved the way I'm loved here in Tucson but to me it's one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
Piña and Payan aren’t the only fighters looking for a taste of bloody glory at WFF 29, however, and more than one Tucsonan is looking to impress.
Also from Tucson is Joe “The Barber” Madrid (5-3), who is coming off of a split decision victory against Matt Almy at WFF 23 last August. Madrid is facing off against Hawaiian-born, Phoenix-based “Sleepy” CJ Soliven (1-1). Soliven was last seen fighting under the WFF banner as well, losing by unanimous decision to Justin Rascon at WFF 22 last July. Madrid and Soliven will be facing off in the 135-pound bantamweight division.
While plenty of vetted professionals will make an appearance at WFF 29, there are some amateur fighters from the Tucson scene looking to make a step up to the big leagues. Ralph Pacheco of Tucson and Manuel “Tick” Huerta of Torrance, Calif., will both make their professional debuts in the 125-pound flyweight division.
Whether professional or amateur, male or female, WFF cofounder and matchmaker Thom Ortiz believes some of the region’s most promising mixed martial artists will all come together on July 23 for a night full of non-stop MMA action.
“It really is a blessing to be able to come out and put on a show, not just for the fight fans, but also for the fighters themselves,” Ortiz said. “These guys and gals put it all on the line when the cage doors close—and to be part of that is an honor.”
Though WFF hosts events throughout the state, Ortiz said that fights in Tucson have a certain energy hard to find almost anywhere else.
“The fans here in Tucson are always hungry for fights,” Ortiz said. “I love seeing a solid MMA culture and community continuing to grow in Tucson.”
Tickets to WFF 29 are available online
. Full card information will be released as the fight draws nearer.