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ICHY’S FIGHTING ACADEMY HOPES TO PRODUCE PUERTO RICO’S FIRST UFC FIGHTER
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SUCCESS HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING FOR COACH ICHY GONZALEZ, WHO STARTED PRACTICING MARTIAL ARTS AT THE AGE OF 7.
Ichy started training in 1979, starting with Karate and eventually moving on to Kung Fu. “Our teacher always emphasized the area of Kickboxing and Boxing,” said Gonzales. “That was always our strong side. After gaining the highest levels in these styles, competing locally, and with the start of MMA, my heart inclined towards the Mixed Martial Arts.”
Back when Ichy was preparing for an MMA fight with his trainer Bill Martinez and Orlando Tiky Sanchez, he fractured his ribs on two occasions and it impaired his dreams of entering a cage. Because of this undying passion for the sport, Ichy’s Fighting Academy was born. 2002 marked the year Ichy began chasing a new team.
With his trainer’s permission, he started IFA in his father’s front yard with the mentality of helping the community and rescuing teens from the streets. In a short time, these teens became the best Kickboxing, Boxing, Muay Tai & MMA fighters in Puerto Rico. Now, they fight all over, in and out of Puerto Rico; places like New York, Jacksonville, Fl., Tampa, Fl., Wisconsin, and the list goes on.
Today, Coach Ichy trains some of MMA tops prospects. Names like Michael Irizarry and Jason Ramos could get a Contender Series opportunity this upcoming season, and flyweight standout Jonathan Sepulveda represents the Island on Combate Americas. The future of IFA is also in good hands with promising prospects like Jeffrey + Jason Mendez, Wilfredo Gonzalez, and Joey Torres.
The Highs & Lows of Coaching
Like anything else in the world, coaching also has its positives and negatives. If you ask Ichy, he’ll be quick to tell you that the emotions involved are the worst. “AS A TRAINER I GIVE MY ALL; THESE FIGHTERS BECOME MY FAMILY.”
But the best part — of course, it’s the wins. But for Ichy, it means more when he gets the satisfaction of seeing how his fighters that no one knew, turn into public figures while remaining humble. He wants nothing more than to see his Island admire each one of them.
Goals aside, Coach Ichy works his hardest towards keeping kids out of the streets. At IFA, we work with kids who are bullied at school and special needs students. They don’t feel judged when they are at the gym, and that’s a feeling of satisfaction Coach Ichy says it is incomparable.
Goal: Become the first to train a UFC fighter born in Puerto Rico
Although there are few MMA fighters from Puerto Rico, fighting runs deep in their roots. Many have grown up watching and hearing about some of Boxing’s best to come from La Isla del Encanto. So Puerto Rico is no stranger to the fight game. However, there is currently a lack of representation in the UFC.
Influenced by the great, humble minds of Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn, Rafael Cordeiro, Joey Villasenor, and Lenny Lovato, Ichy hopes to bring the first Puerto Rican-born fighter to the UFC. A dream he will stop at nothing to achieve.
When asked what he thought was the key to training a world champion, Ichy replied, “the key is commitment and discipline on both parts.” He believes that both fighter and coach should be equally dedicated. He also had an interesting take on a fighter’s ability; not mentioning it as a key to success. “I DIDN’T MENTION IT [ABILITY] BECAUSE ALTHOUGH IT’S AN IMPORTANT PART, THERE ARE MANY ATHLETES WITH THE ABILITY, BUT DO NOT REACH THEIR POTENTIAL BECAUSE OF THEIR LACK OF DISCIPLINE.”
First things first, Ichy, and the rest of the world, must survive the impact COVID-19 will leave before conquering other mountains in MMA. “Like everyone in the world, understanding that this [pandemic] is difficult for all, but also understanding that this shall pass,” said Gonzalez.
Until then, Coach Ichy will continue to train with fighters individually if need be, because the dream hasn’t stopped. Opportunity comes from uncertainty, and soon enough you’ll be hearing about Ichy’s Fighting Academy in the big leagues.