For the first time in eight years, Anthony “El Toro” Birchak is fighting in his hometown.
Birchak, a Tucson native, will take part in Saturday’s Combate America’s MMA event at AVA Amphitheater.
Birchak’s bantamweight contest against Adam “The American Bully” Martinez (5-1) of Colorado Springs, Colorado is the co-main event. John “Sexi Mexi” Castaneda had to pull out of the main event against Erik “El Goyito” Perez due to a staph infection. The originally-planned co-main event card of Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano and Erendira “Aketzaly” Ordoñez got bumped up to top billing.
“I think it’s definitely something that I deserve to have coming home,” Birchak said. “I’ll definitely be representing Tucson, south Tucson and Sahuarita to its fullest.”
Saturday’s fight will be a return to where Tucson-born, Sahuarita-raised Birchak made his MMA pro debut April 2010. He began his amateur career in Nogales the summer before.
Birchak then moved on to UFC at the end of 2013, where he fought for three years. Birchak was then picked up by the Rizin Fighting Federation, a Japanese MMA organization. He fought three times in Japan.
“That was the most active I’ve been in a very long time,” Birchak said.
“The organization kept me fighting.”
Competing in Japan was a different experience. Birchak, who’s Mexican-American, struggled to find familiarity in both Tokyo and Yokohama. It was the first time he felt disconnected from his own culture.
The 32-year-old said he had never been to a large metropolitan area where you couldn’t hear people talking or dogs barking.
“It’s kind of eerie, but it’s just such a peaceful place,” Birchak said.
“When I came back here, I tried bringing that same type of peace I would get before a fight and try to spread that around here and try to teach people about the samurai way of Bushido, which is just love and respect, but still with tons of intensity and ferocity for your martial art.”
The fight at AVA Amphitheater came about much faster than usual, forcing Birchak to have less time to train in preparation. He’ll lean on the experience he gained in Japan to carry him through.
“The experiences I got over there, I couldn’t change or exchange them for anything,” Birchak said. “I learned a lot about me as a fighter.”
Birchak said he knows Martinez will be a resilient fighter. Martinez submitted and choked out a 2008 Cuban Olympian wrestler in his last fight.
But while Martinez will seemingly be coming in with a head of steam from his last fight, Birchak sees a path to victory.
Birchak notice that Martinez takes plenty of hits in his fights. Birchak figures he can use his size — he usually weighs about 165 pounds, but cuts down to 135 for fights — to his advantage.
Martinez’s opponents have typically been closer to 125 pounds.
“If he takes the amount of damage that he’s used to taking with these little guys, if he tries that with me, it’s most likely going to be a short fight,” Birchak said.