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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Fresh off big amateur win, Spokane’s Erik Mendez will make his professional MMA debut at Combate Global 35

Erik Mendez of Spokane makes his MMA professional debut on Friday as part of the Ivan Castillo-vs.-Claudio Quintana card at Combate Global 35 in Miami.  (Courtesy of Katie Hartwig)
By Charlotte McKinley For The Spokesman-Review

Top mixed martial arts amateur fighter Erik Mendez of Spokane will make his professional bantamweight debut on Friday, fighting Jair Lozano at Combate Global 35 in Miami as part of the Ivan Castillo-vs.-Claudio Quintana card.

Mendez’s professional MMA debut comes on the heels of a big win against Ethan Goodwin, the previous No. 1 amateur bantamweight in the country. Since Mendez had “no trouble putting him away,” according to Mendez’s head coach and owner of Spokane’s Warrior Camp, Pablo Alfonso, it was easy for promoters to get excited about him.

Mendez signed a two-year contract with Combate Global ahead of the fight and was picked up by Showtime Group, an MMA management company run by former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight champion Anthony Pettis, shortly thereafter.

Mendez said that he was thrilled when he was picked up by Showtime Group.

“Anthony Pettis follows me on Instagram (now),” Mendez said. “I was like, ‘Oh snap!’ ”

Going into this fight, however, it’s not all smiles for Mendez. He faces an unknown opponent, which makes preparation difficult.

“I don’t really know much about (Lozano),” Mendez said. “All I know is that it’s also his pro debut.”

With the uncertainty of his opponent and the daunting nature of a professional debut, Mendez has encountered nervousness he has not experienced ahead of other fights.

“I am a lot more nervous for this than I ever have been in (the) amateur (division), because amateur (fights) don’t really matter,” he said. “Everything I do now (as a pro) is going to stick with me in my record.”

Another dynamic that makes it difficult leading up to the fight is maintaining weight and staying in peak condition.

“The hardest part has been eating healthy,” Mendez said. “The training part isn’t that hard.”

In preparation for the fight, Mendez has worked on several plans, according to Alfonso.

“We had to prepare for a ghost,” Alfonso said.

“I’ve been working on what I’m good at,” Mendez said. “I have (had) nothing to prepare (for) what he’s good at. I’m just gonna go out there and use what I’m good at to win the fight.”

“With zero footage of the opponent yet an opportunity for a multideal contract, we have to trust in Erik’s skill and his corners to get him the (win) for the fight,” Alfonso wrote in an email .

Mendez started training at the School of Boxing and later Spokane Valley Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu before he found his way to Warrior Camp.

According to Alfonso, Mendez is a “major part of the team.”

“His last gym was missing the support he needed and left him rethinking MMA altogether,” Alfonso wrote. “We let him come in and explore (at) his own pace and created opportunities for him to self-guide and find success.”

That success came through hard work and consistency.

“Erik trains every day. His family also trains with him daily at the gym and are equally talented,” Alfonso wrote.

For Mendez, MMA is a family sport.

“It’s just something I ended up liking, and then my brother started training so that was fun training with him, and now my sister trains,” he said.

Mendez’s brother Jose is an amateur fighter. For his sister Julissa, however, she is training for the fun of it.

“We’re gonna convince her to take a kickboxing match,” Mendez said.

Warrior Camp teammate and Combate Global veteran Gillian Noll joins Mendez on the card, taking on Kristina Pettigrew.

Combate Global 35: Castillo vs Quintana can be watched live on the streaming service Paramount+ with the preshow starting at 7:30 p.m. and the card beginning at 8.