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Battle of the Border I to combine boxing, MMA and pro wrestling

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Garrett Downing

Yuriorkis Gamboa embraces members of his entourage after his knockout victory over Roger Gonzalez on Jan 9, 2009 at the Star of the Desert Arena in Primm, Nev. The undefeated Gamboa fights for his first title tonight when he takes on Venezuela’s Jose Rojas for the interim WBA featherweight world title.

Vargas in Studio

Former World Champion Boxer and current Promoter Fernando Vargas joins Alex Adeyanju to talk about the Worlds Collide event going on on Saturday.

Fernando Vargas didn't understand what all the concern was about.

The boxing promoter had just announced his debut project, a fight card including both boxing and mixed martial arts, which he dubbed "Worlds Collide." The event would be held at Buffalo Bill's Casino in Primm, on St. Valentine's Day, 2009. To a former two-time world champion boxer, it sounded like a great idea.

His friends however, were quick to offer some constructive criticism.

"A lot of people told me that was a bad day to have it and I was like, 'Why?'" said Fargas. "Then they told me that most people already have their plans for that day a month in advance. And I thought, 'Man, you're right.'"

Known for his gritty determination in the ring, Vargas put that same quality to work to make sure his first event wasn't a failure. With the help of a fan base from his days as a competitor and the advice of his co-promoter Roy Englebrecht, the 31-year-old still managed to turn the event into a successful one — packing in a crowd of more than 4,000, according to Englebrecht.

This weekend, Vargas is at it again, teaming up with Showtime Sports and Lucha Libre Wrestling to create Battle at the Border I. Buffalo Bill's Star of the Desert Arena will play host to this triple-threat of combat sports, the first time that all three events will occur in the same arena in the same weekend.

"I have checked with the powers that be in Nevada and I have checked with Guinness World Records, and what is going to happen this weekend has never happened before," Englebrecht said. "This is the first time ever that there is going to be three combative sports, all professional, in the same ring, in the same location in three days. This weekend, Primm will be the fighting capital of the world."

It's an exciting accomplishment for Vargas, considering it's just the second event he's promoted since retiring from boxing. Although he's seen the boxing world through the eyes of a fighter his entire career, Vargas has already shown the potential of a premiere promoter. His idea of events that alternate between boxing and MMA matches may revolutionize the way fight fans meet newcomers, as all Worlds Collide events are open only to fighters with a limited number of professional fights.

"I think it's a great idea, I want to take the show on the road to Arizona, Texas, Chicago - everywhere," Vargas said. "I've been very fortunate that my fans will follow me and I'm humbled by that. It's nice that I've been able to make the switch from a fighter and make my presence known in the promoting world."

Battle at the Border I could get off to an exciting start Friday night, with Cuban featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa (14-0, 12 KO), an Olympic gold medalist in 2004, competing in his first world title fight. He'll take on Venezuelan boxer Jose Rojas (25-6-1, 17 KO) for the interim WBA featherweight world title. Gamboa returns to Buffalo Bill's for the second time this year, following a 10th round TKO victory over Roger Gonzalez on Jan. 9.

"I'm going to demonstrate once again the talents I possess in the ring, only this time it's going to be for a world title," Gamboa said. "It has always been my ultimate goal, both personally and in my professional career, to become world champion and I know I will accomplish it."

Worlds Collide will follow on Saturday, featuring a long list of relatively new MMA and boxing competitors. Three Las Vegas residents will get a chance to compete at Vargas's event.

"It's a great experience for me, it's just my third professional fight and it's a little step up for me in a tougher opponent," said Johnny Frazier (2-0, 2 KO), who trains at Johnny Tocco's Boxing Gym in Las Vegas. "It will be great to have a lot of people there to watch, it's going to be a real test for me."

With so many quality fighters set to face each other in the ring (an extra rope is added for the MMA bouts) this weekend, Vargas doesn't have as much to think about as he did the first go-round. Still, in the world of promoters, he says it's the little details that matter, which is why fans attending the second version of Worlds Collide will be treated to an orchestra of Mariachis as opposed to just three earlier this year.

"It's the little things, last time we only had three Mariachis and they were pretty sauced up and you couldn't hear nothing," said Vargas, laughing. "We were all like, 'Wow, this doesn't look too good.' There will be a whole orchestra this time so it's nice and loud."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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