"A fight in the backyard"
By Todd Irwin
The last time Charlie Brenneman was in a mixed martial arts fight at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown was nearly two months ago.
The next time he fights, he'll be in the shadow of his native Hollidaysburg.
Brenneman, who holds an 8-1 record after his second-round tapout win over Chris Thomas in May, will fight Mitch Whitesel (12-12) in the main event at 8 p.m. July 24 at the Jaffa Mosque.
"I'm super excited for it," Brenneman said. "I've been fighting for two years, and I've basically been in my hometown the last two fights. When I started fighting, I never imagined this happening."
"I think it will be a little nerve-wracking for Charlie," said his personal coach, Tony Valera, "but I doubt it. It might motivate him a little more. Once he gets into the cage, it will definitely be helpful."
The event, promoted as the "Broad Avenue Brawlers" by Lionell Royer, has 15 other fights on the card, including five pro and 10 amateur. The co-main event features Altoona's Bruce Monroe fighting Johnstown's Blaine Balicki.
Altoona pro fighters Justin Finnegan and Jeff Pender will take on each other. Former United wrestling standouts Jesse Garshnick and Eli Garshnick are on the pro card. Jesse faces West Virginia's Robert Conner, and Eli takes on Baltimore's Dan Root. Also, Frank Armstrong faces Virginia's Mike Olsen.
Many other local fighters are on the amateur card.
"I'm doing my best to sell a lot of tickets," Brenneman said. "Me and my team, which is basically my family, are doing our best to spread the word. I'd like to have as many supporters as I possibly can for the fight."
The 28-year-old Whitesel, a native of Ohio, has a .500 record, but he's won four of his last five fights, including one on the card at the War Memorial. He lost his last fight by unanimous decision on June 12.
"He's a tough fighter," Brenneman said. "He's got a 12-12 record, but he has a lot of fights against really good guys. I'm confident though that I can pull out the victory. You have to go into every fight thinking you're going to win. Very few people train as smart or as long as I do."
The former Hollidaysburg and Lock Haven University wrestling standout's only loss so far was by unanimous decision to current UFC fighter John Howard in September at Ring of Combat XXI. Brenneman, nicknamed "The Spaniard," has won three in a row, including the win at the War Memorial.
"That couldn't have gone any better," Brenneman said. "I had a bunch of fans there. I fought great. It was everything I expected it to be."
"I think his career is going good," Valera said. "He can definitely go better from here. I think he can definitely go all over the United States and Europe. His ground game is phenomenal and his standup has definitely improved. He's turning into that well-rounded fighter."
In the midst of a hard week of training, Brenneman expects the time leading up to the fight to be a grind.
"Physically, mentally and emotionally, it's going to be a pretty trying couple of weeks leading up to the fight," he said. "Everything is going as well as it possibly can. Without a doubt, MMA is growing in popularity. I want to the live in the moment."