Amateur MMA cards all over the country are filled with fighters hoping to move up the ranks and ultimately achieve superstar status as the next UFC champion.
Adam Gentile, who will fight for the fifth and final time in his amateur career on a King of the Cage card Saturday at Eastside Cannery, has no such fantasy.
Gentile, 40, owns and operates Palomino Club in North Las Vegas.
“This is competition, this is fun, this is a hobby. I enjoy it. I don’t have delusions. I’m a strip club owner. I run clubs. This is what I do, it’s my career. This is who I am,” Gentile said from his office in the club, complete with arcade games and horror movie memorabilia.
“What I do when I’m not here is train in martial arts every day, and the cage fighting was an opportunity to pit myself against others that are doing this. I’m putting myself against guys that really do want to be the next Chuck Liddell, so it lets me put myself against guys that are probably training more hours than me, that are half my age, and it lets me test myself against them.”
Gentile took his first amateur fight more than two years ago. It didn’t end well. He had dropped from 307 pounds to get below the heavyweight limit of 265 in about three months and thought he was in shape, but he ran out of gas in the third round and had to verbally submit to avoid further punishment.
He has since won three straight fights, all by submission, while training out of a gym he built in a warehouse behind the club. It’s one of many improvements he has made on the legendary property since taking it over during dramatically dark times more than eight years ago.
Gentile, who played football at Bishop Gorman and has been participating in martial arts nearly his entire life, says Saturday night’s bout against Austin Haggerty will mark the end of his MMA career regardless of the outcome.
“I can’t go through it anymore. It’s too much. I’m scared every day now. I woke up today scared. I’ve been kind of sad every day because (on Saturday night) my world is going to end in violence, no matter what,” he said. “There’s a guy half my age waking up each morning, and the first thing he’s thinking when he wakes up and the last thing he’s thinking before he goes to bed is, ‘I’m going to kick that old man’s ass.’ ”
Gentile trains in the gym with Brent Jordan, who also works as a VIP host at the club. From time to time, other employees decide training with them sounds like a good idea. Usually they will last a few days before changing their mind.
A small, dedicated group sticks to it. One such pupil is Allison Hillman, a bar manager at the club.
She is the only female among the group of six or seven regulars, and Gentile says the transformation in her since she started in the gym in March has been “amazing.”
Hillman, who said the most difficult adjustment was getting comfortable hitting someone, agreed.
“It gives me a sense of confidence that I didn’t have before,” she said. “It’s a high like nothing else when you get in the ring. It’s pretty cool. There’s just an overall sense of accomplishment doing something like that most people won’t do.”
Gentile says he will continue to train and work with Hillman and others who want to train in MMA, or even compete, but he won’t take any more fights.
“I am honored to have done this. I would not give it up,” he said. “I’m so thrilled to death I did it, but eventually you have to set it aside. I love doing this, I love the camaraderie and the competition and I’m so glad I did it, but I have to take into consideration that it’s exciting, but it’s also so hard on my loved ones. It’s just not fair to them.”
Saturday’s King of the Cage event begins at 6 p.m.
■ HENDERSON KNOCKED OUT — Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson was knocked out by Rafael dos Anjos midway through the first round of the main event of Saturday night’s UFC card in Tulsa, Okla.
Jordan Mein overcame a bizarre incident to finish Las Vegan Mike Pyle in just 72 seconds. The welterweight’s father and coach, James Lee Mein, was arrested the day before the event on charges of felony sexual battery for allegedly assaulting a maid at the Hyatt Regency in Tulsa. Mein was released from custody on bond, but the UFC decided to bar him from working his son’s corner at the event.
Also, Thales Leites knocked out Francis Carmont 20 seconds into the second round of a middleweight bout.
■ WHITE FIRES JUDGE — In most locales where the UFC hosts events, judges and referees are assigned and overseen by state or regional athletic commissions. When there is no such commission in place, the organization self-regulates.
That was the case for Saturday’s event in Macau, where UFC president Dana White made the call to essentially fire one of the judges in the middle of the event.
After Howard Huges was involved in two controversial split decisions, he was given the rest of the night off.
“He was involved in the first fight and the second fight,” White said at the post-fight press conference. “I told the guys to go let him grab some beer and some popcorn and go sit down and start watching some fights, not judging them.”
The judges were not needed in the two featured bouts of the evening. Michael Bisping knocked out Cung Le in the middleweight main event, and Tyron Woodley needed just 61 seconds to knock out Dong Hyun Kim.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.