By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
For diehard mixed martial arts fans, they can give a two-word shout-out in unison that sums up the latest hoedown of legalized violence: Welcome back.
It’s been more than three months since the last MMA event. That was Just Scrap 20 in May at Hilo Civic, which featured Chris “Maverick” Cisneros in the main event. He lost to Nissen Osterneck by technical submission (injury).
Cisneros will fight in front of the locals again at Just Scrap 21 on TGIFT (Thank Goodness It’s Fight Time) this Friday at the Edith Kanaka’ole Multipurpose Stadium, bringing back old friend “Iron” Mike Aina in one of the co-main events, alongside the Maverick.
Chad “Brahma Bull” Thomas, perhaps Hilo’s most popular MMA combatant, will headline the main event, fighting heavyweight Tinei Sua, who’s from Honolulu’s Hawaii Fighting Arts, and throwing into the octagon three of Hilo’s finest on a single card.
As per the understated, inconvenient custom in any MMA event, the Local Three’s opponents are subject to change, even at the last second. Cisneros is scheduled to knock coconuts against Javier Torres, of the Las Vegas scary-sounding club Syndicate MMA, in a 170-pound welterweight contest.
It’s also a “Welcome back” affair for Iron Mike, who last punched, kicked and did other technical brutal pretzel-bending to some poor guy more than three years ago. He won by decision in August 2010 at Just Scrap.
Aina’s foe three weeks ago was the aptly nicknamed Johnavan “The Immortal Warrior” Vistante, who suffered one of the most frightening knockout losses to Cisneros at the Hilo Civic in a Toughman Hawaii bout. (The YouTube 2011 video is startling.)
On Just Scrap’s Facebook page, a post on Sept. 10 and 17 has Aina’s opponent as Mike De La Torre, from Arizona’s MMA Lab, in a 155-pound lightweight battle. Whomever Aina fights, one thing is guaranteed: He’s ready to bust up somebody good.
Iron Mike, Maverick and Brahma Bull are from Boss MMA, coached by Ross “The Boss” Ebanez and Chad Hao “U Doing,” and run out of BJ Penn’s Training and Fitness Center. The Local Three are all pros and fight for paychecks, unlike the amateurs who basically fight for free and don't get paid a dime.
Aina has been out of the MMA people-hurting business because he’s been busy raising his two daughters, Mikaila, 5, a soccer-playing kindergartner, and Kaila, 2, with wife Kuulei, who works for Geico. He’s a mechanic tech at Mauna Kea’s Keck Observatory.
The high-altitude air up there stretches his lungs when he takes a training jog. That’s a good thing for his stamina. When he returns to sea level, Aina sometimes feels sluggish and stuck in a mental fog. That’s a not a good thing when someone is firing punches to your face.
He’s more than a full-time worker and part-time MMA pro. Aina also helps coach his daughter’s soccer team. He knows soccer; the 1998 Waiakea graduate played football and soccer back in the day. He’s also a chauffeur, taking young Mikaila to hula and gymnastics.
Aina was part of coach Tim Lino’s Waiakea football dynasty, when the program won Big Island Interscholastic Federation championships from 1994 to ‘97. Thomas, a 1995 Waiakea graduate, was also a football Warrior and is connected to the Lino blue-blood lineage. (A ton of old Warriors are still very close to their ex-coach/mentor/role model, who’s living on the mainland.) But on the sports landscape, Aina identifies himself as Iron Mike.
“Most people know me from MMA,” said Aina, who’s 12-6-1-1 (win, loss, tie, no-decision). “That’s a big part of my life since I was 21 years old. It’s a big part of who I am. I stopped competing, but I kept working out with the guys. That’s something I enjoy. I never slowed down. My priorities changed. But now my daughters are older and the older one can take care of herself, and we have a lot of help.
“I’m pretty versatile. I go into a fight with a game plan, but let the fight flow and can go anywhere. I grew up as a boxer, kickboxer, but I’ve developed jiujutsu. But when I get a takedown and go to ground-and-pound, that’s almost unstoppable.”
For the locals, that’s music to their ears, and they can show their appreciation with a two-word shout-out when Iron Mike walks into the octagon for the first time in three years: Welcome back.
Editor’s note: visit bjpenn.com for Just Scrap 21 fight information.