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A man on a mission

Rodolfo Roman

Featured in MMA Times magazine

Growing up in South Florida, Mixed Martial Arts fighter Luis “Baboon” Palomino was a teenager with adversity.

His parents separated and he couldn’t overcome his family’s issue.

However, anger drove him into combat sports, which shed a positive light on his life that would lead him to become a successful mixed marital artist.

“I was an angry kid growing up,” said Palomino, who was born in Lima, Peru, in a phone interview.

In order to control his rage, he joined Capoeira, a Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, sports, and music. Learning the art led him to compete in MMA eventually making his presence felt in the sport winning three belts from different promotions.

Palomino is the XFC featherweight and G-Force and USFL lightweight champion. He is the first ever Hispanic to hold three titles in different promotions.

“I feel like I have accomplished something that no one has,” he said. “I feel great to represent the Hispanics. I am the first Peruvian to do this and its just the beginning.”

Taking a break from his training at MMA Masters facility, Palomino (18-6) is ready to set a standard in the world of MMA. He is preparing for his upcoming main event fight against Pete Grimes in April at Mixed Fighting Alliance’s New Generation 5 at the U.S. Century Bank Arena on the campus of Florida International University in Miami, Fla.

His love for fighting career began at a young age. Palomino, who moved from Peru to California, boxed as a boy. But, at 15 years-old he moved with his mother to Miami. However, boxing wasn’t as appreciated in South Florida compared to how it was on the west coast, he said.

“When I got here I was mad at life,” he said. “In California, boxing is different over there. The love for boxing was lost here in Miami.”

Attending Miami Beach Senior High School, he remembers getting in a lot of fights on the streets.

“I would get kicked out of school,” he said. “I was mad at the world. I was serious. At the time I was growing up in Miami, there were a lot of gangs. I was on my own. I wouldn’t let anyone mess with me. I never joined a gang because I thought only cowards were in it.”

Palomino had several friends involved with gangs. He knew that if he went down their route it would only lead him to disaster.

“A lot of them are now in jail,” Palomino said referring to his high school friends. “Some of them are either dead now because of drugs.”

Lucky for him, a friend of his introduced him to Capoeira.

“Capoeria kept me out of the street,” said Palomino. “It kept me sane. It disciplined me a lot.”

The Peruvian also remember watching the film Only the strong, which showcases the art.

Further down the road, Capoeria master Cesar Carneiro trained him. Carneiro is now the main striking coach of MMA Masters.

Needless to say, he became an instructor of Capoeria. He also learned Portuguese. Palomino also speaks Spanish and English.

Although he felt he accomplished enough learning Capoeria, he wanted to take his competition to another level and was motivated to participate in MMA after watching the sport on television.

“I told him (Carneiro) I wanted to fight and do it professionally,” he said. “I just couldn’t be a striker.”

Carneiro introduced him to Daniel Valverde, who holds a black belt in Jiu Jitsu. Marco Fermin later became his conditioning coach.

“He told me if I wanted to fight professionally, I needed to learn Jiu Jitsu,” he said.

He was victorious in his first three fights. He remembers rage driving him through each bout.

“The anger carried me for the first ten fights,” he said. “I was like I almost wanted to kill someone.”

As a professional mixed martial artist, Palomino has competed in several promotions including Bellator. In the beginning, he started off coloring his hair red.

“I wanted to stand out and I wanted for people to remember me,” he said. “The way I finished my fights I was knocking out people out. They never forgot the guy with the red hair.”

Before he started off with the red, he experimented with other colors but he chose red as It represented Peru’s colors.

He tasted defeated in his fourth fight, which became a learning lesson.

But as his experience increased he matured as a person and fighter. He now steps inside the cage with a Peruvian flag and no longer sports colorful hair.

His fighting has changed since he said. He no longer fights with anger, but with skill and technique.

“Now, I want to look good kicking your ass,” he said. “I want to be the better fighter and best conditioned.”

Currently, he is not sign to any promotion, but he plans to collect gold.

“My goal is to keep collecting belts and build a win steak,” said Palomino, who has a child, Vince Palomino. “I am making more money than a lot of the newcomers in Ultimate Fighting Championshp and Strikeforce.”

With more than 20 fights under his belt, Palomino, who holds a brown belt in Jiu Jitsu, credits Capoiera for helping with his kicking. But, he emphasizes on wrestling and Jiu Jitsu.

Recalling his childhood, he hasn’t visited his birthplace. But he wants to return.

Peru is home to Inka Fighting Championship, which is a large MMA promotion in South America.

“I have a strong following in Peru,” he said. “I am dying to go to Peru and fight. The day I go back to my land it’s going to be to fight.”

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