Legends of Fighting to slug it out Friday 

click to enlarge Tom McKenna
  • Tom McKenna

Legends of Fighting Championship brings LFC 53, "The Memoriam" to the Eight Seconds Saloon on Friday, June 15. The LFC is the largest and most established mixed martial arts promotion in Indiana, bringing fights to Indianapolis since 2005.

The LFC is responsible for bringing a number of fighters to a world-class level. Fighters such as Chris Lytle, Matt Mitrione, and Dave Herman fought in the LFC cage before moving on to the UFC. Recently, the Indiana National Guard signed on as a sponsor.

LFC 53, "The Memoriam," will also celebrate the life of a close friend of the local MMA scene. Johnny Parker, 34, died after being hit by a drunk driver, while leaving LFC 52, on April 24th.

Sims says, "Johnny was a friend to the fight game in Indy. He was with us [the LFC] from the beginning, helping with set-up and just about anything that needed to be done. This night is for him."

Sims says that fans can expect to see thirteen to fifteen fights.

In the main event, Sergio Pettis (4-0) of Wisconsin will face Louisville's Tom McKenna(6-1-0)for the Tachi Bantam Weight Tournament title. The winner will advance to the Tachi Palace Fights in California. A win there could possibly lead to a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championships.

According to promoter Scott Sims, winning this fight equals opportunity. "To go to the Tachi championships means you are one step from the big time, the UFC."

Only 18 years-old, the undefeated Pettis has MMA in his blood. His older brother is UFC superstar Anthony Pettis. But Sergio doesn't feel as if he is living in his brother's shadow. He says, "To have a brother who is one of the top ten fighters in the UFC is a huge advantage. I work out with him, and he teaches me what he knows. Plus, I've had the opportunity to watch how he has grown as a fighter, from an unknown to a top ten contender."

Anthony and Sergio share more than a love for mixed martial arts. Their father was brutally murdered when Anthony was 15 and Sergio was nine. Coach Duke Roufus, who trains both fighters, said, "They've both gone through a lot. I think that's what's made them so disciplined and focused."

Sergio Pettis has been fighting since he was 14 years old. Even though he is younger than McKenna and has had fewer professional fights, he thinks he is more experienced. Roufus agrees. He emphasizes the top-level fighters who train with Pettis. "He works with his brother, obviously. He's also been working on his wrestling with Bellator champ, Ben Askren. "(Askren was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team.)

Since graduating from high school in 2011, Pettis has committed himself to full-time training. "I train twice a day, Monday through Friday: two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. In the afternoons, I work on my cardio and do weight training."

Pettis sees the importance of this fight and has been training hard to make sure he's one step closer to his dream of being a world champion. "I went from a great training camp to a fight I won and then back to the gym. I'm in great shape with no injuries. So I'm ready to go."

Roufus sees this fight as a battle between two upcoming prospects. "Both are solid prospects and are great strikers. I think Sergio will pull it out by his strikes."

Tom McKenna, his opponent, predicts a different result. He feels prepared no matter whether the fight takes place on their feet or on the ground. "I have size advantage, so we've been working on my boxing. But I'm okay with it going to the ground. I've won my last four fights by submission."

A full-time firefighter, McKenna also owns a lawn service and works security at bars on the weekend. Even so, he has been training twice a day for this fight. "I workout in the morning and then again in the evening. I balance strength training and cardio."

Jason Weihe, McKenna's promoter and trainer, sees a victory for his fighter. "Tom has a really good ground game, with a strong wrestling background. Not only that, he has the longer reach, giving him an advantage in the stand-up. I see Tom winning by submission."

McKenna, 23, realizes his size advantage but is not taking his opponent lightly. "He's probably the toughest fighter I've faced. But, then again, I'm the toughest fighter he's faced." The co-main event features Zach Jenkins facing Brady Hovermale in a bantamweight fight. Both fighters are coming off a loss and hope to return with a win.

Tickets range from $20 for general admission and $70 for VIP seats and are available through Ticketmaster. Fans can purchase General Admission tickets for $10 only at the Eight Seconds Saloon box office, before the day of the fight. Or call (317) 538-5210. Doors open at six. The fights start at eight.

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