- Andrew Plante, ESPNDallas.com
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On Jan. 13 at the Grapevine Convention Center, Southwest MMA will have the honor of hosting DFW’s first mixed martial arts event of the year.
“Battle at the Vine,” the promotion's inaugural show, will also be the debut MMA event for the city of Grapevine. With so many firsts associated with the upcoming event, it makes sense to have somebody involved who knows a thing or two about producing quality MMA shows. Luckily for SWMMA, Grapevine, and DFW, there is such a person. AJ Soliz -- a former partner of the now-defunct Art of War, a wildly popular DFW MMA organization -- is the owner and operator of the new Grapevine-based amateur promotion.
“Yeah this is my baby, my company,” Soliz says. “I'm a one-man show with SWMMA. I'm the matchmaker. I've done the sponsorships, the production, and customer service. I'm everything.”
Although SWMMA's owner will be flying solo in his new endeavor, according to Soliz, it's not much different than his time with Art of War.
“This is our first show as SWMMA,” explains Soliz. “But I've done other fights with business partners in Art of War. My main role was event production. I also worked on sponsorships and the fight card. We were only four in the group, so everybody had to wear many hats back then.”
Despite involving himself in all aspects of MMA event coordination, Soliz' true talents are in the realm of developing high-quality events that enhance the spectator experience.
“I come from the production side of things,” Soliz says. “I worked for MTV and House of Blues for a number of years producing concerts. I finally settled into MMA beginning with Art of War.”
Hosting Grapevine's first event wasn't necessarily an internal goal of SWMMA's owner, but being part of the community and hosting its first event in that area just made sense.
“I live in Grapevine,” Soliz explains. “I am very active in the community of Grapevine. There's never been an MMA show in Grapevine. It's a central location and everything just came to play for the first fight in that area. Also, we are donating 10 percent of the gate to the Grapevine Citizen's Police Academy, a Grapevine Police Department non-profit group. They raise money to get their police officers gear.”
As far as what DFW fans should expect from the new organization? SWMMA plans on consistently showcasing the area’s top amateur talent every other month. In addition, Soliz would like to help educate the area when it comes to aspects of proper "cornering" and judging.
“My vision is to produce about six events per year in the DFW area,” Soliz states. “I also am looking into putting on seminars on how to be a corner man; how to wrap hands, treat cuts, and such. I am also looking into developing seminars to be a proper judge on an MMA card.”
Even though "Battle at the Vine" is an amateur card, the main event will include a fighter with quite a bit of experience, so much so that he is currently wearing a bantamweight title belt from another organization. Eli Tamez is 5-0 and holds a 145-pound strap from a Louisiana promotion. He'll be taking on 3-1 Tristan Grimsley. It’s just a matter of time before Tamez makes his professional debut.
Another up-and-comer, Eliasar Rodriguez, plans on making his Jan. 13 bout his last as an amateur. Win or lose, the 3-0 Rodriguez will likely test the waters of the pro ranks after his bout against Joe Gorman in Grapevine.
For more information about Southwest MMA Battle at the Vine or to purchase tickets for the event, go to swmma.com.
Fight Card (subject to change)
Main Event: Tristan Grimsley vs. Eli Tamez
Co-Main Event: Joe Gorman vs. Eliasar Rodriguez
David Colletti vs. Bryan Head
Alfredo Echavaria vs. Matt Morris
Wes Linsley vs. Derrick Ferguson
Rey Lafuente vs. Victor Garcia
Thomas Meng vs. Paul Smith
Ameer Wahdan vs. Jesus Garza
Nathan Red vs. Kendell Carnahan
Vihm Pham vs. Ray Burnett