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2013 Southwest Fight News Awards: Breakout Star Of The Year

The newest award to the end of the year awards from Southwest Fight News is dedicated to the new era of MMA and the youth movement that seems to be taking over the landscape of combat sports all around the world. New Mexico boasts so much talent within the confines of mixed martial arts and we are starting to see a trend of fighters emerging through the ranks as being very young in age but rich in martial arts knowledge. 2013 has been a year full of talented fighters in their young-20’s emerging as premier talents in the area but there was one in particular who stood out above the rest with a busy schedule, perfect record and marquee wins to solidify his placement as this years “Breakout Star of the Year”.

Without question, FIT NHB’s Ray Borg (5-0 pro, 4-0 amateur) is this years “Breakout Star of the Year”.

Borg has won four of his five professional bouts this calendar year and in doing so has cemented himself as one of New Mexico’s premier fighters and arguably one of the brightest prospects in the entire region. He started off the year with a win over veteran Gene Perez who was much more experienced than Borg who came into the bout with just one professional bout. Borg would rattle off two more wins within the King of the Cage banner and would go on to get the biggest opportunity of his young career.

It was announced in late-July that Borg would move up ten-pounds to fight in the Bantamweight weight class against long-time veteran of New Mexico MMA Angelo Sanchez who would be making his debut at 135-pounds after making a career at 145-pounds. Sanchez was a former King of the Cage Champion and would have more than five-years of active experience advantage over the much-younger Borg. The result of the bout was much different than most fight fans could ever have expected and in conclusion really made a statement for the young Borg.

After a 4-0 year, Borg became a hot name in the area especially after his dominant win over fan-favorite Angelo Sanchez.

After a 4-0 year, Borg became a hot name in the area especially after his dominant win over fan-favorite Angelo Sanchez.

On August 18th, the Triple-A-MMA “North vs. South” main event saw the 20-year old Borg methodically and thoroughly put on a clinic of well-rounded, functional MMA talent against Sanchez and win a unanimous decision. Borg used an impressive wrestling-based gameplan to consistently put Sanchez on his back where many thought Sanchez would have an advantage. Borg fought off every submission Sanchez attempted and found himself in very minimal danger against an opponent who holds a notable win over former teammate Donald Sanchez at 145-pounds. The win really opened up a lot of eyes and threw Borg into a discussion as to whether or not he was New Mexico’s premier Flyweight.

Borg would use that momentum from the marquee-win to capture a promotional title in Oklahoma over an opponent who had Bellator experience and an impressive record. The win capped off a perfect 2013 that progressed in a fluid manner that saw Borg start with low-profile wins, transition into a marquee-win and capped off by the first title victory for the 20-year old fighter.

Borg’s Wrestling Coach Jon Judy chimed in as to the reason Borg has become so successful,

“He absorbs material like a sponge and is capable of applying that knowledge across a broad spectrum of the fight game.  Many fighters have a general knowledge of basic moves in MMA.  There are not many fighters out there who don’t know how to throw a basic jab or the proper mechanics of say an arm bar, but many of them don’t have the ability to translate that knowledge into an effective mode of fighting.  Ray has been able to make that translation and apply it to the appropriate situations in his fights. He does the right things at the right time…another benefit of a relentless work ethic and desire to grow in the sport.”

Winning “Breakout of the Year” means a few things and it should be mentioned that Borg very well could have run away with “Fighter of the Year” as well; the reason for this award however was that this time last year, Borg was labeled by most as simply a very talented young fighter. Fast-forward the calendar year and Borg is heading into the New Year as one of the most talked about local fighters with the most optimism to find success at the next level. When fighting in the region, it is unfortunate but as fans we see a lot of “hype” fizzle-out and with Borg we have seen someone take the necessary steps to progress smoothly making him literally “breakout” as an athlete in our area.

Coach Judy shared an interesting sentiment about Borg that goes hand-in-hand with an article we posted recently about New Mexico’s premier flyweights:

I think there’s a couple things that sets Ray apart from other 125-pound fighters, or any weight class for that matter.  For one, Ray has a tremendous work ethic.  He is constantly working to improve his fight game and puts the time and work into each and every workout day in and day out.  Second, he’s a thinker. He not only has the ability to absorb new information and apply it to many different situations, but he’s constantly evaluating his progression in MMA…he’s not content with simply “winning,” he strives to continually improve and sharpen his skill set.”

Borg’s Head Coach Tom Vaughn also shared why he felt Borg has found so much success and what that means going forward:

“I think Ray truly believes in himself . I don’t care how talented a fighter is , if they don’t believe they are worthy , they usually aren’t. I can see Ray climbing the ranks in any promotion. FIT NHB has proven time and time again what we can do with the right clay, and Ray will be another work of art . The “more prominent” promotions are filled with fighters that cut their teeth in the promotions that Ray is already excelling in.”

Borg’s coaches touch on several points that really solidify Borg as the “Breakout Star” that we are acknowledging today. The confidence from a head coach isn’t uncommon but the faith and belief that they have in the young athlete speaks volumes as they have also coached very successful fighters like Tim Means, Frank Baca and at one point in his career, Carlos Condit.

Phil’s Award Commentary: This selection was unanimous and one of the easiest decision for these awards. I have been a big believer in Borg since I first saw him in his first two amateur bouts inside the Buffalo Thunder Casino in Pojoaque. Despite those two bouts being his debut fights, he had poise and a fluid maturity in his delivery. He very quickly worked his way to his opponent’s back and sunk in rear-naked choke. I would watch him again in his pro-debut and he progression was evident despite having that same smooth delivery in his strikes and grappling.

Borg represents the new era of MMA, the hybrid styled fighter who can do just about anything inside the cage. I think his talent level has always been high-caliber but this year has been a year of exposure for him. His team has groomed him well, booking fights outside the New Mexico region where his marketability will not be solely limited to the area and also exposing him to fighters from different regional circuits which prepares him for so much more going forward. His win over Angelo Sanchez turned him into a local star and that is so important for him in becoming a “Breakout Star”. Since Borg comes from a small-town, his fan-base doesn’t have the monstrous numbers like fighters from Albuquerque or even the north like Sanchez; but beating Sanchez breaks him into new audiences and into the minds of fight fans all over New Mexico.

I am very excited to follow Borg in 2014, a year that if Borg continues to find success may be his very last as a regional fighter.  

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