Sports

Mixed martial arts strikes chord with Devela

Hometown favorite Cory Devela of Bonney Lake gets in a kick during Saturday’s action at ShoWare Center in Kent. - To view or buy photos go to www.courierherald.com   Photo courtesy of Strikeforce
Hometown favorite Cory Devela of Bonney Lake gets in a kick during Saturday’s action at ShoWare Center in Kent.
— image credit: To view or buy photos go to www.courierherald.com Photo courtesy of Strikeforce

A young boy sat with his father in their living room watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout on television, not knowing what the future would hold.

Today, that youngster is known as Cory “The One” Devela, a 24-year-old Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) middleweight fighter with the Strikeforce Challengers.

Strikeforce, based out of California, is an up-and-coming organization that is providing top prospects with the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in a nationally-televised market.

Devela said his father still reminds him about watching his first UFC bout.

“My dad told me when I was a little kid in elementary school, I turned to him and said, ‘I can do that, I can do that one day,’” Devela recalled.

Devela, of Bonney Lake, started wrestling while in elementary school and continued through middle and high school. While a member of the Sumner High wrestling squad, he placed fifth and sixth at state his junior and senior year.

“I played two years of football, but wrestling was my main sport,” he said.

After graduation, Devela attended Yakima Valley Community College on a wrestling scholarship to continue his career.

“I still wanted to wrestle and have fun,” Devela said. “For most guys who finish high school, there wrestling goes bye-bye.”

While at YVCC, he wrestled the first year and was redshirted the second year because of a neck surgery.

Devela fell into mixed martial arts while in college. He said a couple of his friends were fighting as amateurs in Idaho, making about $100 a fight and an extra $100 if they won.

He has been fighting professionally since 2004.

Currently, Devela is training with veteran fighter Dennis “Superman” Hallman at Victory Athletics in Yelm, Wash.

He said he and some other fighters helped Hallman build a training facility in Hallman’s back yard.

“We helped him build it from the ground up, even pouring the concrete,” Devela said. “And it made it easy for us (fighters). He opens it up for us to train and workout.”

He said Hallman gives the fighters that “personal one-on-one” training from one of the best submission fighters in the world.

“He’s not only my coach, but a good friend,” he said.

Strikeforce holds its bouts in an octagonal, caged enclosure with 6-foot walls of metal, chain-link, fence coated with black vinyl. Each bout consists of three, 5-minute rounds, but can be extending if the fight is for a championship.

All competitors must fight in approved shorts, without shoes. Shirts or long pants are not allowed. Fighters must wear approved lightweight, open-fingered gloves that include at least an inch of padding around the knuckles that allow fingers to grab.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Devela said he considers himself “a pounder.”

“I am a wrestler by trade and stay out of submissions and beat them in the face,” explained Devela, who holds the Strikeforce Oklahoma middleweight title. “I like to be in close, clinch them and throw them to the ground and beat them out.”

Staying in shape is important, he said, noting he tries to get to the gym at least three times a week.

Devela’s quickest victory was in 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

He said one of his favorite moments as a fighter was a bout at the Playboy Mansion.

Strikeforce offered its fighters who sold the most tickets for their Tacoma Dome show a chance to fight at the mansion.

“We sold tickets for $5 each. I sold 520 and a friend of mine sold 500,” Devela said. “So we both fought at the mansion. I was really hard focusing on the fight with the Playboy Bunnies sitting on the front row.”

Strikeforce’s MMA fight card at the Tacoma Dome Feb. 28 produced the largest live gate in the history of any boxing, MMA or kickboxing event in the state.

“We do a lot of promoting ourselves as well as the events,” he added. “We have autograph signings, do press releases and other things to get our names out there. Our sport is relativity new, but is catching on quick.”

He compares UFC to Strikeforce as Coke to Pepsi.

“UFC has its own brand and fighter and Strikeforce is the same exact fighting – just a different name,” Devela said. “UFC has so many guys now and Strikeforce offers other fighters another venue to perform.”

While fighting, Devela has meet some of the sport’s most popular fighters such as Frank Shamrock and Dennis Sanchez of UFC.

“I like to be in the spotlight and I love the one-on-one competition,” he said. “I like to have a good time and be upbeat. If I’m the quiet-type, no one’s going to want to come and see me. But if I am having a good time, the crowd will like me more and the promoters will want me to come fight more so I can make more money.”

At Friday’s fight, Devela was the first bout on Showtime’s Strikeforce Challengers live telecast from the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash.

With a host of family and friends in the stands, Devela lost to Luke Rockhold. Rockhold stepped on Devela’s left foot and pounded him with repeated right-hands after he fell on the canvas. The fight ended when Devela “tapped out” from Rockhold’s rear-naked choke hold 30 seconds into the first round.

Devela said among the fighters, there is camaraderie and respect for each other and after a fight, fighters may go out and talk about their bout.

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