A local martial arts fighter will travel back to Japan in May to compete in the second round of the 2008 Grand Prix Featherweight Tournament sponsored by Dream of Japan.
"It had always been a dream of mine to one day fight in Japan," said Abel Cullum of Tucumcari.
Cullum was in Saitama, Japan, March 8, competing in the first round of Dream's 2008 Grand Prix Featherweight Tournament. He was one of four American fighters selected to compete in the Tokyo tournament.
Cullum said fighters from Korea, Brazil and Japan make up the rest of the field.
"It was amazing," Cullum said. "The minute we got off the bus, the media was surrounding us and cameras were flashing. The media and fans are completely involved and support the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). The experience was beyond my expectations."
In the first round of the tournament, Cullum, 21, defeated Akiyo "Wicky" Nishiura, 25, by way of unanimous decision. Each weighed in at 139 pounds.
"It takes a lot to beat a Japanese fighter by unanimous decision in Japan," Cullum said. "I went into the fight wanting to win and showed them that with the way that I performed."
With a record of 14-2-0, Cullum and U.S. fighter Joe Warren (1-0-0) have both advanced to the second round of the tournament. Chase Beebe of Chicago and David Gardner of Detroit were eliminated after the first round.
Cullum will face Hideo Tokoro (21-16-1) of Japan in the second round of the tournament May 26 at the Yokohama Arena.
"Tokoro is a legend in Japan," Cullum said. "Tokoro has gone the distance against Royce Gracie and Royler Gracie, two well-known fighters in MMA."
Cullum said opposing such a caliber of fighter in his second match will be his motivation.
"I definitely need to step up my game and end this fight," Cullum said. "Fighting against Tokoro, who is such a great fighter in MMA, is an exciting challenge for me."
The tournament's fighters are competing for two titles, the 2008 Grand Prix featherweight Champion and the Dream Featherweight title.
"I am the King of the Cage, flyweight, world champion," Cullum said. "Winning the DREAM featherweight Grand Prix championship and title, and having the opportunity to go back to Japan and fight. That would be incredible."
Cullum said he is grateful that the King of the Cage organization has given him the opportunity to fight in this tournament.
Despite his international travels and exposure, Cullum is still very proud of the two awards he received Feb. 6 at the First Annual MMA awards sponsored by Albuquerque MMA "The Magazine."
"I was awarded the Best MMA Role Model and Best Local Fighter for 2008," Cullum said. "I pride myself on being a good ambassador and representative of this sport."
Cullum said in everything he has done or does, he is also proud to represent Tucumcari and New Mexico.
"I always want to show my support for Tucumcari and New Mexico," Cullum said. "So many people have helped me along the way: my dad, brother and training partners at Cullum Ground Fighting, as well as my sponsors, Quality Lube and Tire and Hamilton Auto Group."