When Frank Camacho isn’t earning fight night bonuses in the cage, he’s helping grant wishes outside of it.
Camacho (22-7 MMA, 2-3 UFC) first met one of his biggest fans, Kaleb Cruz, at an unusual location: the local electric company. When Cruz spotted Camacho, he mustered up the confidence to ask for a picture with the UFC fighter.
“Right off the bat, you could tell he was super excited and was sizing me up,” Camacho told MMA Junkie. “After the photo, I told him it was a pleasure to meet him, and after a few back-and-forths, he said one day he was going to fight and beat me. From then, I remembered the name.”
Fast forward a few months. Camacho was contacted by Make-A-Wish Guam and Commonwealth of Nothern Mariana Islands. At the time, Camacho was preparing for his UFC on ESPN+ 11 bout against Nick Hein in June. The foundation asked Camacho him to make a video for Cruz to wish him the best on his a recently granted wish to go to Disneyland. Camacho obliged.
When Camacho arrived in Stockholm for fight week, he got an unexpected video message.
“When I got to Stockholm for the fight, I received a video from Kaleb saying I better win – and if I did he would get me his favorite candy,” Camacho said. “We have been boys since!”
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MARTIAL ARTS IS MORE THAN JUST PUNCHING AND KICKING! . Congratulations to Kaleb "The Yigo Mangler" Cruz on his 3rd round TKO stoppage win. He was the better man tonight. His timing was on point and the body shots wore me down. I definitely learned a lot, and will be back for my next showing in the cage. Thanks Kaleb for the fight, I am inspired and a better man after today. Si Yuus Maase braddah man! . . There are too many people to thank, I hope I dont miss anyone. Frank & Marie Cruz and family. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to train and share the cage w/ Kaleb. Such an amazing dude! The @makeawishguamcnmi team that made the introduction for this awesome event to happen. The @spk22mma familia for facilitating and helping make this event possible. Founder: @melchormanibusan Announcer: @markbmendiola Cut Man: @ssg.peter.alvarez @xoxo.beans Ref: @rayneewayne Corner: @kurukuru_pa671 @matrat_okidokes22 My wife/videographer @sarah.filush.camacho Aaron Pierce for the Trophies. And ALL OF YOU that tuned in and showed Kaleb all the love and support for his Championship bout. BIBA MARIANAS
Cruz’s well wishes did the trick. Camacho finished Hein with a TKO to pick up his first finish under the UFC banner. When he returned home to the Mariana Islands, Camacho was contacted by Cruz’s parents through the Make-A-Wish board.
“They mentioned he’s a very shy kid and is a huge MMA, UFC and ‘Frank the Crank’ fan,” Camacho said. “He’s always wanted to be an MMA champion. I thought to myself, what the heck? Let’s get some training in and have a big championship fight.”
Camacho contacted Spike 22 gym owner Melchor Manibusan and began to set up an official fight night at the facility. All of Cruz’s family and friends were invited to the event, where they saw Camacho and Cruz square off inside the cage.
What started off as a little gesture turned into a full-blown fight night that featured a referee, cutmen, cornermen, an announcer, a PA system and more than 100 spectators. No corners were cut. All the stops were pulled out.
“Kaleb is a great kid with great energy,” Camacho said. “I knew we would all have a blast. … One thing led to another, and it was so awesome to have so much support from my teammates, families, coaches and Guam. I mentioned to everyone that came, they really all just came to see me get my ass whooped.
“The crowd was chanting his name on his walkout. He used my fight song, by the way: ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ The announcer made me come out to ‘Baby Shark.’ Go figure.”
The fight was scheduled for three 90-second rounds, but in the end no judges were needed. When the dust settled, Camacho was on his back and Cruz was victorious. A late-round body shot was what did the trick, and Cruz picked up a third-round TKO.
Losses never sit well, but seeing the joy in the faces of Cruz and his family made the loss worth it, said Camacho. Usually shy, the 11-year-old MMA came out of his shell that day.
“His parents were worried he wasn’t going to do the event because he doesn’t like loud noises and big crowds,” Camacho said. “It was so so cool – you could tell he was in his element. Martial arts is definitely one of his outlets.”
While Camacho respects all of his past opponents, he is gunning for a rematch with Cruz down the line.
“There is a huge connection two fighters have when you share the cage and fight,” Camacho said. “I have a very unique relationship with all my previous opponents in my career. It was real nice to share the cage with Kaleb. I know we will always have that, and for that I’m thankful for him.
“I told him he owes me a rematch – and that I will be gunning for him.”
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Read more at: https://FrankTheCrank.com Cruz and Camacho went head-to-heart for three 90 second rounds of MMA action at the Spike 22 gym in Tamuning. Cruz, the heavy favorite, put on display all his MMA talents, defeating Camacho in the 3rd round after peppering the UFC star with body shots in the early rounds. Cruz would score knock downs in each round before forcing referee Wayne Mantanane to stop the fight late in the 3rd. Kaleb admitted that Camacho was actually his favorite UFC fighter and Cruz couldn’t hold back how excited he was just to get in the ring with Camacho, after getting his hand raised in victory of course. Kaleb Cruz defeats Frank “The Crank’ Camacho via TKO to become the new World MMA Champion.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: With help from Make-A-Wish, Frank Camacho makes 11-year-old Kaleb Cruz's dream come true