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Nate Cullison and Alyssa Garcia, two amateur mixed martial arts fighters wanting to make it big in MMA fighting train at Jackson's MMA Gym in Pueblo, Colorado. (Kevin Malella for PULP)

Breaking into the cage

Two very different amateur fighters in Southern Colorado have the same goal: to join the professional MMA ranks.

To look at Alyssa Garcia and Nate Cullison, you would hardly suspect they were accomplished mixed martial artists – weighing a fearsome 240 pounds of solid muscle (that’s, of course, if they both stepped on the scale at the same time).

Weighing in at a mere 125 pounds, Cullison, 23, is the heavyweight of the two top performers at Jackson’s MMA Colorado in south Pueblo. He competes in the flyweight division and has won all five of the mixed martial arts (MMA) fights he has ever competed in. While Garcia, a 28-year-old, 115-pound, straw-weight, has won four out of five of her matches.

For those unfamiliar with MMA, the sport includes a variety of disciplines among them Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, and wrestling. One might say that Garcia and Cullison are on opposite ends of the MMA spectrum. Garcia is a petite (5’ 2’’) powerhouse in wrestling and jiu-jitsu, while Cullison at 5’ 6’’ specializes in boxing and jiu-jitsu. Besides their sexes, the two are very different in other respects as well.

One might say both fighters are on opposite ends of the MMA spectrum. Garcia is a petite (5-foot-2-inch) powerhouse in wrestling and jiu-jitsu, while Cullison at 5-6 specializes in boxing and jiu-jitsu. Besides their sexes, the two are very different in other respects as well.

An overachiever

“I’ve come from a heritage of wrestlers,” Garcia said, adding her father and uncle were both accomplished in the sport. Her father, Pastor Charles Garcia, had his Olympic wrestling dream dashed when, in 1980, the U.S. and other countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics because of the then-Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

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An overachiever

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