Friday, May 25, 2012

Nichole Long Castillo Interview

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: ISO Photo Studio
Photo 2: NAAFS

Fight Night in the Flats is NAAFS highlight of the year every year. It always provides a great mix of pro and amateur talent. This year is no exception as it is highlighted by two title fights. Kyle Baker returns to the same venue where he scored a KO win over Nick Duell to win the title as he takes on Bellator veteran and home town favorite Chris Lozano. Also in a highly anticipated fight between two fighters who clearly do not like each other, Frank Caraballo defends against Tony Castillo. The architect AKA matchmaker of these great NAAFS cards, is Nichole Long Castillo. While being due to give birth just about a week after Fight Night in the Flats, Nichole has still been working hard as ever, showing why so many fighters are loyal to her and want to fight with her. Here is my interview with Nichole about Fight Night and other things of topic.

Q: Fight Night in the Flats is about a week away. Why is this such a big show for NAAFS?
A: It's always been one of the biggest fights of the year. Not only is it always a great card, you are always seeing the veterans fight in the pro and amateur rankings. These are guys pushing to the next step for the title. With the pros you have a lot of ex amateur titleholders and a lot of title fights most of the time. Not to mention there is no atmosphere like Fight Night in the Flats. The venue is beautiful, right off the water, you get chills when you walk in. You can't get that anywhere else.

Q: You usually start working on this card a lot earlier than most cards don't you?
A: Most years yes. This year was one of the shortest times I've had to work on it. This one and Night of Champions, you will find me working these out sometimes four months ahead of time.

Q: The main event is Kyle Baker defending against Chris Lozano. Obviously Chris is the bigger name, but seems to me that people are underestimating Kyle just like they did when he fought Nick Duell, do you get a sense he is being underestimated?
A: If you look at it, Chris is fighting in his hometown. Look at his nickname, The Cleveland Assassin. Of course he is gonna have the local fan base. A lot of local fan base doesn't base their choice on who the better fighter is or who they think has the upper hand. They just go with the local name, the guy they know. Both guys deserve to be where they are at. Chris is coming right out of Bellator so his name is a little more well known, but at the same time, yeah, I think a lot of people are underestimating Baker like they did when he came in and took the title from Nick Duell. He is a very talented fighter and our champ right now. So look out for the Alley Cat.

Q: The other title fight is Frank Caraballo defending against Tony Castillo. When I interviewed Tony he said this fight isn't even about the title for him. Have you seen this much hatred between two fighters before?
A: You know, I have, but the fight wasn't even happening between the two of them. It was Chris Lozano and A.J. Aeschlimann at weigh-ins. They never got two fight because Chris went down in weight class for his career choice, which was one he had to make to progress forward to Bellator. But that's the last time I have sen this much fire and hate behind a fight. It will be nice to see a fight come to fruition where we are seeing all this bad blood with. I hear it all the time, no it isn't about the belt for Tony at all.

Q: Knowing how bad they want this fight and are talking, even though it's not listed as the main event, does it seem this is the fight people are most looking forward to?
A: Actually, yes. For the local people and even non local fans, because people are on Facebook, and these two have been talking for months, even before Tony's fight in February and Frank's fight in April. The heat started way before that. Everyone is following their Facebook's and Twitter's, so yeah, this is probably the biggest hyped fight on the card. NAAFS didn't even have to hype it, these guys are just at each others throats. I get the question all the time, "is this a show, is it something they are doing to help ticket sales?" I can assure you, it's not.

Q: The fight I am actually most excited about is Khama Worthy vs George Comer. You have two former amateur champions. This fight to me is being overlooked, but would you agree this can be a very exciting fight?
A: Yeah, it depends on where this fight takes place. Champion vs Champion, everyone wants to see it. If it ends up being a stand-up fight, or an exciting and moving ground fight, that would be great. If it happens to be a stale-mate or dead on the ground, it can go that way to. You never know when you have fighters at two ends of the spectrum. Khama always wanting a stand-up war and George always wanting to go to the ground cause that's where his wrestling accolades are. So you are looking at two different fighters here. It has the potential to be one of the best fights we will see and fans should not miss this one. They are champs for a reason, they went through that series all year long to get where they are, and twice in George's case. Neither guys is a joke and with George at 0-1 he wants this win and in Khama's debut he also wants it. They will be out to get it, neither wants a loss at this point.

Q: No secret I am a big supporter of women's MMA. You have Sarah McLeod vs Amber Ignatowski. Sarah made a lot of fans last time she was here and Amber is undefeated with a ton of potential. You are also a big supporter of women's MMA, as a fan how excited are you about this fight?
A: I have been excited about this fight forever. The night that I got word from both girls and it was a done deal, I was bouncing around the house happy as hell. I have always been a huge advocate of women's MMA, one of the pioneers in Ohio with it. This fight in particular because there is a lot of hype around both girls. With Sarah, don't look at her record and judge her talents. Sarah takes fights constantly and at weight classes that weren't always beneficial to her. Not to mention, she has fought a who's who of MMA already. She did come in and knock Ronda Gale out and made fans of everyone who saw that fight. We have Amber who is brand new to the NAAFS, but is 5-0 and a young young girl with so much potential. She is eighteen or nineteen, just graduated from high school. So much potential for her to go far. She has not fought the who's who list that Sarah has, so it will be interesting to see, will age and experience win or this little bombshell still new to the game? It is a fight that should only be on Fight Night in the Flats. It is the amateur main event and there for a reason.

Q: Another fight people are talking about is Tyler Saltsman vs Jarrell Hodge. Does the winner in your mind become the favorite in the amateur title chase?
A: I think more people are talking about whats going on outside the cage than inside the cage to be honest with you haha. Tyler hasn't fought at 135 for the NAAFS, he has fought at 145, so he is still ranked there. A win will put him back into the bantamweight rankings and on his way back towards a title opportunity. Jarrell right now is at the top of the rankings. He is coming off a huge win over Cody Garbrandt who had all the hype around him of being the best amateur bantamweight in the state. You are looking at Tyler who has been in it a couple years with us and went to the finals last year and Jarrell, someone new who is coming in and proving it every time. He is here to stay and I see him ending up in the top four for sure this year. It will be a great fight and show each others skill. Who will win? Who knows? That's what makes it fun, I don't wanna know who will win, I wanna go in excited like the crowd.

Q: I hear often people ask if it hurts NAAFS to have so many fighters moving on to Bellator or Stipe Miocic going to UFC. To me, the amateurs on this card, it will show there are a lot more Stipe's or John Hawk's or Jessica Eye's coming up who can be just as big, would you agree?
A: We are always trying to build up the new class. This amateurs we are watching will be our pros in a couple years. Just like our pros who are not yet being looked at by Bellator and the UFC will be revolving upwards. My goal is take them from amateur to pro to the next level. We don't wanna keep them here. If you go to the next level and come back, this will always be your home, but we don't wanna keep you here, we want your career to advance. People always say "doesn't it hurt when you lose them?" No, I am like a proud mother bird feeding their kids. I have worked with a lot of them since their first amateur fight and it is fun to watch them on the big screen and advance to where they are. They are all doing so well. Stipe and all those fighters at the next level.

Q: Speaking of Stipe, he looks like he will be in the UFC for awhile with his success, has there been any talk of what to do with the heavyweight title?
A: He has a year to defend and that's coming around the corner here. When you get a contract on a show like UFC, we extend it a little bit. There hasn't been to much talk with so many fights coming down the line. We do have meetings this summer in regards to that. I don't foresee him leaving the UFC anytime soon.

Q: You have done a couple shows in West Virginia and Pennsylvania coming up. Obviously you like to get hometown fighters for those cards, does it make it harder for you to have to make sure there are enough hometown fighters?
A: Throughout my years matching in Ohio, I have noticed with Pennsylvania having MMA illegal for so many years, most of them have fought in Ohio for some time. SO going to there is like being at home here in Ohio. So it doesn't affect me at all. Going into West Virginia was scary the first time. They don't have as many camps as some other states. That was an issue going in, but at the same time, I can always match good fights for NAAFS, even if we have to bring fighters from further away to get a quality fight. We have had great fights in West Virginia, great crowds, it's going well.

Q: I have made it known I am not a fan of rankings, but that being said, most rankings for amateur women rankings have a ton of girls who have or do fight for NAAFS, is that a good sign that NAAFS has a great amateur female division?
A: I was really excited when I saw those come out. There is always someone who thinks they should be higher, but the fact that there is enough girls for rankings is awesome. Two years ago they didn't have enough girls. It was top ten, now you have top thirty. There are good girls who cant even get on there now. Its impressive there are this many females making women's MMA progress as fast as it is. Having so many of our girls there was a great feeling. We had girls in every weight class. That's our goal, to keep it pumping. We have the largest amateur series on this side of the states and Tuff-N-Uff has it going on the western half with a really good series. It's good to see them have options to go places and to have so many girls from our roster on these rankings. Plus to see Jessica Eye and Aisling Daly our current champ still ranked high in the pros shows we are trying to get them noticed. They make us look good cause they keep doing better and getting ranked higher.

Q: Does it give a possibility of Night of Champions having multiple women's fights?
A: Well, we had two last year. I am not sure. It depends on where their weight classes fall. Just like the guys we make them work during the year. Of course we will have to bring girls in to fight them cause there isn't as many girls as guys. With the guys there are five hundred at one weight class, and there aren't as many females. Also depends on what I can get approved because a lot of female fights still don't show on the National Data Base and we have to follow the rules of the athletic commission. I am hoping we can get a few more in but I cant make predictions that far out. Anything can happen is what we always say.

Q: People know you are very close to giving birth, does being pregnant make your job harder?
A: Oh yes haha. Between doctors appointments and everything, and I am high risk, so that doesn't help any. It is harder to sit at a desk or run around at events carrying extra weight. You get frustrated when you don't feel good or want to deal with people, but it's something you have to do. I have done well so far. I worry about fighters and cards, so regardless of how I feel, I have to put it aside and make sure I do my job, like I have to do my job when I am at home with my kids and husband.

Q: Will you take any time off?
A: I think it depends on when I actually have our son. As of now, I will probably take that week off and that's it. We have so many fights coming. I used to work every day and take Sundays off. So maybe when not traveling I can take Saturdays off also to have more family time and rest cause I am sure I wont be getting any sleep.

Q: Before we finish, anything you wanted to add?
A: The biggest thing is I wanna thank anyone who ever fights for us. Some of them don't feel like they get enough thanks for what they do. I understand without them there is no show. I have to thank them. People say stuff about me getting awards, but its the fighters who make me look good. They let me do my job. Also the fans who come to our shows, and Greg (Kalikas) for seeing what he saw in me when he hired me, and our whole NAAFS family, we aren't just workers, we have each others back. Also you people who interview us. My husband for putting up with me to haha.

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