Judo Blog: Michael Morales; Another Judoka in the UFC!

Judo Blog: Michael Morales; Another Judoka in the UFC!
My blog this week is Danny Segura’s story which appeared in MMAJunkie last year. Michael Morales was born to compete in combat sports in one form or another. At just 22 years old, the UFC newcomer makes his promotional debut Saturday at UFC 270 in Anaheim, CA. He takes on veteran Trevin Giles in a welterweight contest. Although it might seem at a glance that Morales (12-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is just getting started in his combat sports career, the Ecuadorian has well over a decade of experience. Morales got his start in fighting at an early age, and it was all thanks to his parents – both judo black belts.

“Everything started with my family, mainly my mom,” Morales told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “I was around 5 years old when I started with judo. My mom was a judo teacher, and my dad as well. But I started liking this (combat sports) and getting into it when my mom would take me to her competitions.

“I started training judo, and that’s how it all started when I was five. After some time (in judo), it wasn’t really my thing, so they put me in wrestling when I was 10. I began competing at 13 in youth tournaments, and after some time, I was able to compete on a national and then international level. At 15 years of age, my dad took me to a (MMA) gym in a town nearby. Then when I was 14, 15 I fought (amateur), and at 16 I debuted professionally. And that’s how it all started. It’s been a long trajectory.”

Morales’ mom, Katty Hurtado, has the hierarchy in judo between both of his parents. She’s a third dan judo black belt who retired from competition when she was 42. She is currently an international referee in judo. Hurtado has been a huge support of Morales’ MMA career.

“At first she didn’t like it,” Morales explained. “When I was 15, she would watch me spar, and she thought it was too violent. But after my first fight she really began to support me even more than what she did. She never rejected this. She was just simply worried and would tell me to be careful and all that. And now she likes it. She’s my No. 1 fan, and she’s always looking out for me.”

Morales won his ticket to the UFC in September by picking up a unanimous decision over Nikolay Veretennikov at Dana White Contender Series. He’s currently the second Ecuadorian in the promotion along with pioneer Marlon Vera. Morales is now living in Tijuana, Mexico and training out of Entram Gym, which is home to UFC champion Brandon Moreno. Morales is excited to debut in the biggest MMA organization in the planet and represent Ecuador in the octagon.

“For me, leaving my country, it’s something that’s very tough, but I have to follow my dreams,” Morales said. “Now that I have more support from the people of Ecuador, the support of my trainers, and more importantly the backing of my mom, it’s something incredible.

“I didn’t even believe it when they called me to fight at UFC 270 to start the year and debut. This whole experience is incredible, and it’s important for my country. This is big. I always said I never thought I would be debuting (for the UFC) at 22. I thought maybe 25, 26 and maybe even older. But things worked out this way, and I’m ready for war.”

Katty Hurtado (Micheal’s mom) with Dr. Greg Moore, IJF Referees

Another Judoka in MMA, by Kathrine Burne December 28, 2022 for Jits. Magazine - BJJ News.

Danielle Kelly has just had her third professional grappling match in the ONE Championship cage booked, and she will be facing off against Judo black belt Ayaka Miura at ONE on Prime Video 7 on February 10th. Kelly has faced a wide range of opponents in her first few matches for ONE Championship after she became one of the first grapplers that signed a contract with the combat sports promotion.

She made her promotional debut all the way back at ONE X where she fought against MMA legend Mei Yamaguchi and despite a great performance, was unable to finish her and had to settle for a draw.

She returned then at ONE on Prime Video 4 to take on Russian Sambo world champion Mariia Molchanova, serving as part of the ongoing rivalry between BJJ and Sambo in the ONE Championship cage. Although this was slated to be a tough test for Kelly, she passed with flying colors. She was relentless in attacking the back and although Molchanova put up a valiant effort, she was ultimately unable to stop Kelly from submitting her with a rear-naked choke. Now Danielle Kelly will face another new stylistic challenge, as she faces Ayaka Miura in a catchweight bout at ONE on Prime Video 7.

Miura is a Japanese Judo black belt who has used her skills extensively in her MMA career, racking up an 11-5 (1) professional record to date. She has used a brutal kesa gatame (scarf hold) to great effect several times and submitted most of her opponents from that position. It stands to reason that Miura will almost certainly have a distinct advantage in standing grappling and if she finds herself past Kelly’s guard, it will likely be a very long night for the Silver Fox black belt. Under the ruleset there is no penalty for pulling guard, so it’s likely that Kelly does that and attempts to beat Miura off her back with guard-game.

The news that Danielle Kelly had been matched against Judo black belt Ayaka Miura at ONE on Prime Video 7 was announced in a post to the official Instagram account of ONE Championship:


One of the fastest growing dojos in the countryOlymp Fight Club this past weekend held its Winter promotion ceremony at their Hollywood location to a packed crowd. Over 100 students of all ages received promotions ranging from yellow to brown and black belt.

Aram Grigorian owner and Head Sensei along with his team have been dominating national events such as the Golden State Open, President’s Cup, Junior Olympics, and most recently last month’s Grassroots Judo™ Nanka Winter Nationals®.

Here are some photos of my good friend Nori Bunasawa, 9th Dan visit to see his brother Ryuji, who’s on staff at Waseda University’s Judo Program in Tokyo.

Nori and I first met in Pittsburgh when he was an exchange student from the All Japan Team in 1970 at Slippery Rock University. Upon moving to California in the 1985 we became reacquainted and later he helped arrange for my son Nathan and another student of mine, Otari Sadov to go to the International Budo University in Katsurra, Japan 20 years ago..

Just released! Moment of the Year nominees 2022 - YouTube

Welcome to the official Judo channel, brought to you by the International Judo Federation! Here you can watch ALL IJF World Judo Tour events LIVE, ...


January - 2023

28th Saturday - Veterans Judo Open, Plano, TX

February - 2023

5th Sunday - New Year's Annual Kohaku Shiai, San Fernando, CA

25th Saturday - Las Vegas Judo Championships, Henderson, NV

March - 2023

5th Sunday - Taishi's 13th Anniversary Tournament, Cerritos, CA

12th Sunday - Mojica Early Spring Tournament, Baldwin Park, CA

25th Saturday - Shoshinkan's Kosen Tournament, Las Vegas, NV

26th Sunday - Shoshinkan's Shintaro Higashi Clinic, Las Vegas, NV

April - 2023

1st Saturday & 2nd Sunday - High School & Collegiate Nationals, San Jose, CA

15th Saturday - Couchigian Memorial Tournament, Las Vegas, NV

16th Sunday - Amarilis Savon Clinic, Las Vegas, NV

May - 2023

7th Sunday - Nanka Spring Tournament, Westminster, CA

20th Saturday & 21st Sunday - Senior National Championships, Spokane, WA

June - 2023

4th Sunday - Nanka West Coast Invitational, Westminster, CA

16th Friday to 18th Sunday - USA Judo Junior Olympics, Shreveport, LA

24th Saturday - Sensei Gary's Birthday Scrimmage, Claremont, CA

July - 2023

7th Friday to 9th Sunday - USJF Summer Nationals, New York, NY

September - 2023

24th Sunday - Nanka Fall Tournament, Westminster, CA

October - 2023

22nd Sunday - Fresno Invitational Tournament, Fresno, CA

29th Sunday - Nanka Team Tournament, Westminster, CA

November - 2023

5th Sunday to 8th Wednesday - IJF World Veterans Championships, Abu Dhabi, UAE

19th Sunday - National Presidents Cup Championships, Irving, TX

December - 2023

1st Friday to 3rd Sunday - Grassroots Judo Winter Nationals & Clinics, Azusa, CA

I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to gary@garygoltz.com, thanks.

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