Tony Spinella has a new passion.
Three years removed from enjoying a standout athletic career at Ceres High School, Tony longed for another competitive outlet.
"I felt washed up," Spinella said. "I wanted to get into something that related to wrestling. I grew up watching UFC."
Tony, a newcomer to the amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) circuit, improved his overall record to 2-0 earlier this month in Oroville.
"I have a wrestling background," Spinella said. "I know how to push myself. I'm tough and got a lot of heart. These fights are practice. I'm trying to get more comfortable in the cage. I definitely need to get better at my standup."
Spinella won by first-round TKO with a rear-naked choke against Lake Port's Armando Vazquez (2-1) at the IFC Warriors Challenge on July 21 at the Feather Falls Casino & Lodge.
"I dropped a couple elbows when he was on the ground and he gave me his back," said Spinella, who competed at 160 pounds. "I choked him out. I did exactly what I wanted to do. It's a confidence booster. I'm used to fighting bigger guys. I was way more comfortable this time. Hopefully, I keep it going."
Unable to afford a gym membership or cover the cost of specialized training, Spinella implemented his own workout regimen. It consists of running four miles, hitting the bag for two hours and sparring with fellow MMA fighter/close friend Tielor Issac on a daily basis.
"My living situation is hard," Spinella said. "It's tough to pay bills. I want to turn pro so I can make some money."
Spinella made his MMA debut on March 3.
Tony won by TKO (punches) versus Chico's Ryan Hamilton at the 1:54 mark of the second round during their meeting at the IFC Warriors Challenge 30. Hamilton won the first round in dominant fashion.
"I definitely surprised myself," Spinella said. "I pushed through getting beat up."
Tony plans to fight again in November.
"I'm going to continue working out and hopefully I find a gym," Spinella said. "I'm an adrenaline junkie. I love the feeling before the fight. My stomach is full of butterflies. As soon as I hit the cage, it's on. It's definitely a cool experience. I love getting my hand raised."
Spinella had a memorable final season with Ceres High's wrestling team.
Tony brought home 145-pound titles from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV and VOL championships. Spinella just missed securing a berth to the CIF State Meet following a 2-2 showing at the Masters Tournament. He would have locked up an automatic berth had he won his quarterfinals match.
Tony posted an impressive 8-2 record during the postseason.
Tony wrestled one year at Modesto JC.