Tucumcari man holds martial arts title

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

When you take a look at Abel Cullum, it’s a stretch to assume the 5-foot-7, 135-pound man is an accomplished mixed martial arts fighter.

But then again, that’s what inspired him when he was 15.

“I was a fan,” Cullum said. “Seeing all of the little guys … it inspired me.”

Now Cullum, a 2005 graduate of Tucumcari High School, is a league champion less than one year after his first fight.

Cullum, 11-1, won the junior bantamweight title last weekend in the Desert Xtreme competition in Socorro. Cullum earned the title with a victory over Thomas Urquidez.

Cullum and the rest of his team gathered Wednesday at the Tucumcari Pizza Hut to show video of his victory and sign photos.

Abel’s father John Cullum, who has trained Abel for the last three years, said it was a satisfying moment for Abel when he won, but it was even more satisfying because they had opted to stay in Tucumcari and train instead of move to Albuquerque, where there are more fighters to fight and train with.

Abel’s first title defense hasn’t been scheduled yet, and a fight will take place June 17 in Los Lunas to determine who will have the right to face Abel. Hopefully, John said, having a champion in Tucumcari will persuade Desert Xtreme to have an event here as well.

“That’s what we’d like,” John said, “to have him defend the championship for the first time at home.”

The fans that would show up, either in Tucumcari or another venue, would see a no-holds-barred competition, Abel said.

“Anything goes — kickboxing, wrestling. I’m more of a wrestler,” he said.

Abel and other fighters insist the sport is safer than other combat sports. Robert Vargas, who has fought for nearly a year, said mixed martial arts (MMA) is safer than boxing because boxers often take long stretches of blows to the head and most MMA matches are over quickly.

“The referee will stop it before anything bad happens,” Vargas said, “and you have the power to stop it by just tapping out.”

Abel won his fight over Urquidez by submission, using a triangle hold. The triangle hold involves one fighter on the floor, putting his legs around the other fighter’s neck.

Despite the violent appearance, Abel said many MMA fighters are good friends out of the ring and would not intentionally cause permanent injury to an opponent.

It’s a balance the fighters have handled well, John Cullum said.

“We know their limits,” John said. “You try to train as safely as you can. They’re all friends, but they go at it pretty good.”