If Hugh McKenna had any jitters about fighting at Madison Square Garden, a surprise walkout song calmed them.
The Astoria-based fighter forgot to choose his entrance music for Bellator NYC on Saturday, but got a laugh when he heard Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” blaring through the speakers as he came to the cage.
“That would be the perfect song you could play for me so that moment was really funny, but also breathtaking,” McKenna said.
Everything else went exactly to plan for McKenna as he earned the first win of his professional mixed martial arts career, defeating NYC’s John Salgado via kimura at 4:06 of the first round during the event’s preliminary bouts.
McKenna (1-1), who grew up in Shoreham and trains at Long Island MMA, envisioned the fight going the way it did before stepping into the cage at Madison Square Garden.
“The gameplan was just to cut the ring off on him, get him really frustrated for a little while and once we got him on the cage to takedown and submit him,” McKenna said. “I have a wrestling background and I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt, it’s my favorite marital art, so I’m definitely looking for submissions on the ground.”
About a minute in, Salgado fell moving back to the cage and McKenna pressed the action, working against Salgado in the clinch in the cage. Once he got position, he picked Salgado up for a big slam that gave the early crowd a chance to cheer.
With just over a minute left in the round, McKenna took mount and went for Salgado’s arm. Salgado made McKenna work, but couldn’t get free of the kimura.
McKenna sold about 60 tickets for the event, but said he had more support than he expected as a group of fans with “Team McKenna” shirts greeted him.
“It’s still a very surreal experience, I don’t believe I’m in Madison Square Garden right now,” McKenna said. “I don’t think it’s going to hit me until next week.”
He wasn’t the only Long Island connection to come away with a win Saturday.
Selden’s Anthony Giacchina earned a submission victory of his own, beating Jerome Mickle via rear-naked choke at 3:40 of the third round.
It was a back-and-forth battle for Giacchina (2-1) and NYC’s Mickle (2-2) as both fighters had each other hurt, but the Stony Brook native said his work ahead of the fight helped him to victory.
“We did a lot of research on him, knew he had a big right hand,” said Giacchina, who trains out of Maxum BJJ in Bohemia. “I’m actually kind of upset I got clipped with it a couple of times.”
Early in the second, Mickle put Giacchina down with a big punch, but Giacchina was able to tie up Mickle and survive, getting the fight back to its feet. Eventually Giacchina brought the fight back to the canvas and began to dominate with top position, chaining punches with submission attempts to close the round.
In the third, Giacchina landed some leg kicks and punches that opened up the grappling game. After working Mickle to the ground with a big takedown, Giacchina slowly but surely advanced the position, eventually taking Mickle’s back and sinking in the rear-naked choke to earn the victory.
This was the second Garden experience for Giacchina including an amateur win in the Theater back in November 2014.
“I love Long Island, I love New York, and I’m more than willing to come back any time they have an event at the Garden ” Giacchina said. “If you want me to box, I’ll box. If you want me to kickbox, I’ll kickbox, it don’t matter.”
Also on the prelims, Long Island MMA’s Sergio Da Silva was defeated by Matt Rizzo via arm-triangle choke at 3:48 of the first round.
Da Silva, who missed weight by over seven pounds Friday, fought a grueling battle with Rizzo and survived multiple submission attempts in the second round, but was unable to stay out of a choke late, falling to 6-9 in his career.