A former standout wrestler at Central Valley High School, 23-year-old Mike Tubera has amassed three wins, no losses and one draw since joining the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) amateur circuit in November 2012.
Tubera will fight for a pair of titles in a two-week span this year.
"I'm a little nervous about it," said Mike, who's won by knockout twice and submission once in the 125-pound flyweight division. "It's a big deal. It means a lot just to have a shot at it. It makes me want to train harder. I don't want to disappoint myself and anyone else. Everyone is rooting for me. If everything goes well, I'll start training for pro. You only live once. I'm going to pursue that dream. I don't want to have any regrets."
Tubera's first shot at a championship will take place this Sunday when he travels to Oroville to compete at the IFC Warriors Challenge four-man single-elimination tournament. Mike was awarded an opening-round bye.
On Aug. 3, Tubera and Oakdale's Michael Gall will compete for the Art of War (AOW) Amateur Flyweight Title at Chicken Ranch Casino in Jamestown.
"I'm confident but not cocky," Tubera said. "I still have my worries. I'm not going to underestimate anybody."
Mike had a successful MMA debut at the Rogue Warrior Championships on Nov. 10 in Laughlin, Nev.
He knocked out Jaime Munoz Jr. in the opening round with an overhand right.
Mike won by third-round submission (rear-naked choke) over Carlos Campos at the Art of War Productions' Game Face-Respect the Game event on Jan. 19 at Chicken Ranch.
Tubera improved to 3-0 with a first-round victory over Grizzly Flats' Steve Gruber at the IFC King of the Cage on March 3 in Oroville. Mike floored Gruger with an elbow.
Gruber, who has since joined the professional ranks, beat Gall by split decision in 2010.
Tubera and Madera's Alfonso Perez fought to a draw on the Art of War Stand & Deliver card at Chicken Ranch in May. Mike would have won if he didn't receive a two-point deduction for a personal foul.
"Everyone was booing," Mike said. "It shouldn't have gone to the judges' table. I should have finished it. I was too comfortable. I didn't fight my fight. That was my downfall."
Tubera works 60 hours a week at Foster Farms in Denair and raises his three-year-old son Ezekiel when he's not training or competing.
Mike works out up to four hours a day at MMA Shape UP & Cardio Kickboxing in Modesto.
"The time I put in the gym is unreal," he said. "I get frustration and anger out. It's a real relief for me. I'm constantly learning new things. My stand up has gotten so much better. I'm more comfortable on my feet. My ground game is good."
Tubera admits he gets real nervous the day of a fight.
Mike's focus turns to the task at hand before combat. He likes to mean mug his opponent during the stare-down.
"Once I'm up on deck, I'm in the zone," he said. "I envision my entire fight before I fight. I always have a couple of game plans in my mind."
Mike plans to join the professional ranks soon.
"It was a hobby at first," he said. "The more I'm in the gym, I think about it being a career for me. I enjoy competing. Everything is a competition to me."
Tubera graduated from Central Valley in 2008.
Advised to forego his senior season with the Hawks after suffering a knee injury, Mike resisted and made a triumphant return to the mat. He captured the Valley Oak League 121-pound title, finished third at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV championships and qualified for Masters.
Tubera was named Central Valley High School Male Athlete of the Year.
Ezekiel has already started to follow in his father's footsteps.
"He loves to wrestle," Mike said. "That's the first thing he wants to do in the morning. I have a good job and a great life."