Many established fighters have hailed from New Jersey over the years and many more are sure to come. Because of this, several writers from The Scrap have gotten together for a new column that aims to showcase the best fighters out of their homelands.
New Jersey is home to numerous famed mixed martial artists forefronted by Frankie Edgar and Jim Miller. The state also contains several highly-touted gyms like AMA Fight Club, Nick Catone MMA & Fitness, and Dante Rivera BJJ, just to name a few.
There are currently dozens of talented up-and-coming fighters in the state who will likely reach great heights in this sport. Below are three of the top prospects that people ought to have on their radar before they blow up into stardom.
If you’re a follower of The Scrap, then you probably already know Paul Capaldo from his weekly spot with Sergio Vicente where they breakdown this season’s DWCS cards. Capaldo does a great job breaking down Contender Series fights, but it’s his work inside the cage that places him on this list.
At just 24-years-old, Capaldo has amassed a perfect 6-0 pro record with all of his bouts coming under the CFFC banner. In his previous outing last April, he amazed viewers with a spinning wheel kick knockout that was so spectacular it made Sportscenter.
Capaldo sharpens his iron at Nick Catone MMA & Fitness in Brick, NJ. There he’s trained alongside the likes of Frankie Edgar and Cody Garbrandt. He’s incredibly athletic and has all the tools to one day be a staple in the UFC’s bantamweight division.
Originally, Capaldo was scheduled to appear on DWCS this past week, but circumstances forced him out of the fight. Regardless, expect to see this young stud in the octagon sooner rather than later.
Eric “Night Time” Nolan is a 6-0 amateur welterweight and he has impressed more and more with each outing. The 24-year-old already has a very respectable resume both inside and outside of the cage. A former U.S. Marine and a student at Monmouth University, Nolan possesses a work ethic that’s unmatched.
In fact, just two days after getting out of the Marine Corps, Nolan had his first amateur fight. From there, he hasn’t looked back — rattling off five straight wins since — four of which came via finish including a first-round rear-naked choke this past June. Now, it’s time for Nolan to make the leap into the pro ranks.
“My next fight is aiming to be in December for CFFC. That’s going to be my pro debut. My fight style is more like a combination of kickboxing and wrestling.”–ERIC NOLAN ON HIS PRO DEBUT AND FIGHT STYLE
Nolan trains at Dante Rivera BJJ in Freehold, NJ. If you’ve never heard of this gym, you should get acquainted. There’s a crop of young homeland prospects out of this gym that will not only put them on the regional map soon but also on the national radar.
Amateur light heavyweight Luke Fernandez isn’t just a homeland prospect from my point of view, he’s a hometown prospect—growing up down the street from me in Lacey Township, New Jersey. The 26-year-old is currently 3-0, with his fourth amateur bout scheduled for Oct. 30. He’ll be competing for CFFC under an advanced amateur rule set.
In just three fights, Fernandez has been uberly impressive, demonstrating he can either submit his opponents in a matter of minutes, or he can outlast them to win by decision.
“Realistically, it’s the gym I come from. I train with killers everyday. It’s sink or swim there, if you come in with the wrong attitude you will drown fast in that room. Everyone there has the mindset to get better, everyone’s training for a purpose, and my coaches are just top-notch.”–LUKE FERNANDEZ ON WHAT SETS HIM APART FROM OTHER FIGHTERS
“Our coaches really preach to move as one unit, whether it’s fighting or just hanging out on the weekends. We get together for the UFC fights, we have team dinners together, we all hang out and support each other when we fight. I feel like that really elevates the energy in the room. So like anything less than giving each other 100% just doesn’t make sense because then it’s like stabbing your friend in the back and that’s just something we don’t do.”–FERNANDEZ ON WHAT MAKES DANTE RIVERA BJJ SO SPECIAL
Clearly, all of the fighters at Dante Rivera BJJ are benefiting from the close-knit bond that they have for one another. Make sure to not just watch Fernandez’s fight later this month, but be on the lookout for his anticipated pro debut as well.
What do you think of our three New Jersey prospects? Let us know in the comments below!