Go east young fighter

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

If a hockey player from Thailand wants to get better, he goes to Canada.

If a Muay Thai kickboxer from Canada wants to add something to his game, he goes to Thailand.

So that's where Winnipeg's (Dangerous) Dave Zuniga went last fall in an effort to become a better fighter.

"I learned a lot of new tricks out in Thailand," Zuniga said yesterday. "The training there is not as intense. It's laid back, because it's so long. They train seven hours a day."

New skills

Zuniga will put his newfound skills to the test on Friday night when CFC 2 is held at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Zuniga will step into the ring with Toronto's Alex Ricci in the lone Muay Thai fight of the night.

"I fought him once about three years ago, and I beat him, but he's won about 10 in a row now," Zuniga said. "He's real hungry for a rematch. He's earned it, so we're going to give it to him.

"He's improved a lot since we fought the first time, so we'll see."

In the main event, Joe (El Dirte) Doerksen, a New Bothwell native who became the first Manitoban to fight in the UFC, will take on France's Greg (Blade) Babene in a mixed martial arts bout.

Doerksen was supposed to fight Wisconsin's Ron Faircloth, but the latter had to pull out due to undisclosed medical concerns.

Another prominent local on the card is Sagkeeng First Nation's Chris Fontaine, who will step into the ring with Kenora's Jesse (Water) Bongfeldt.

Other Winnipeggers scheduled to fight are Serge Rochon, Mark Durant, Justin Barnard, Dominick Blais and Eric Perez, who fought in the controversial bout at CFC 1 that put Dean Lewis in the hospital for five days.

As we told you several weeks ago, Lewis will be at the Convention Centre on Friday night and will be in Perez's corner for his fight against Montreal's Dmitri Waardenburg.

National sport

Zuniga not only got to train in Thailand, where Muay Thai kickboxing is the national sport, but he also got to step into the ring at Rajadamnern Stadium, which is famous for its fights.

"Every second Sunday they have a foreigner night, so foreigners fight Thais or foreigners fight other foreigners," he said.

Zuniga fought a local at Rajadamnern and scored a victory, although he noted Thailand's top fighters are usually 130 to 140 pounds. Zuniga is in the 170-pound range, so his opponent wasn't very experienced.

"It's not the greatest," he said. "It's still a big experience, but it's not the most prestigious thing out there."

Zuniga enjoyed his experience so much that he's going back, only this time for a longer period of time. He is even taking a year's leave of absence from his economics studies at the University of Winnipeg to spend three more months in Thailand.

"I'm going to fight as much as I can," he said. "I'm just doing it for the experience. I love doing it. It's not really about the money. It's just being out there and experiencing it and living out there."

And he's not going back for the nightlife, either.

"The camp that I went to was just outside of Bangkok," he said. "There was nothing to do but train. The training, sadly, was the most exciting thing every day that we would do. There was nothing else to do.

"No pools, no beaches, no markets, no malls, there was nothing. Just training every day."


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