New Orleans, LA: Many may consider him a little rough around the edges, a loud and colorful character, but behind all the fight, Joe Ancona has a heart of a nurturing grandfather.
Ancona grew up in the streets of New Orleans, a graduate of Jesuit, and at the age of 15, he began a Korean martial art, Kuk Sool Won. By the age of 20, he had received his first black belt under mentor and now long time friend, Ken Duncan. As time passed, Ancona also took an interest in competitive boxing and kickboxing.
“I feel most satisfied about is breaking that barrier between the old time boxers and martial artist”, Ancona said. “I crossed the line and made them accept me as both a teammate and friend. For years boxers wouldn’t have anything to do with us karate guys. (haha) At times in the beginning of being in the mix, I kept going to the gym and putting my time in sparring and getting my a** handed to me. Those guys tried their best to run me out, but I persisted, got better, and ended up having a nice career in PKA kickboxing thanks to my growth in boxing. I have fought some of the best in the world in the 80’s and 90’s while traveling the world and having the time of my life. I Trained under some wonderful boxing coaches such as Vince Arnona, Willie Pastrano, Frank Gerard, & Phil Mull. All these experiences were incredibly rewarding.”
As his fight career came together, Ancona became more interested in local business opportunities, one being opening Ancona’s Martial Arts and Gym in the early 80’s. Being a graduate of University of New Orleans in Biology and Exercise Physiology, this fit his interests, along with being able to become more directly involved in training mixed martial arts fighters as the sport grew to popularity.
Ancona was one of the first MMA Promoters in the State of Louisiana, which did not come easy. He became actively involved in getting the sport of MMA sanctioned, licensed, and regulated by the Louisiana Boxing and Wrestling Commission. He then became more involved in the Commission by becoming an Official in the sport.
Prior to MMA sanctioning, he began to promote PKA Kickboxing as early as 1981. As time went on the sport gained regulations and Ancona launched the “Battle of New Orleans” (BNO) series, which features semi-professional and professional MMA fights in and around the crescent city area and has been very proud to lead many local Louisiana fighters to a victorious career in the sport.
“BNO began when I was coaching Melvin Guillard (UFC Veteran), along with many other promising fighters”, Ancona said. “At this time in 2002, not too many states allowed MMA, but our good and faithful, the Louisiana Boxing and Wrestling Commission, started to really get behind the sport of MMA at that time. Along with being able to host MMA in the state, and my gym doing extremely well, there was so much excitement in this new sport so I wanted to give the fighters a chance to exhibit their skills and put them and Louisiana on the map!”
Ancona had many successful promotions, wrapping up his last event around 2011 with Battle of New Orleans 23. He retired his gym in 2011, spent some time away from the sport, then moved into real estate development and construction, but then he realized something was missing. As many seasoned professionals in the MMA industry will admit, it is hard to leave the sport, watching it on the sidelines as it grows into one of the largest sports in the world, especially when you were there at the beginning of the sport.
“I’ve been enjoying the peaceful life but everywhere I go people always ask me if I’m going to coach again or promote fights,” Ancona said. “As time has gone by in the last few years this has been a question I started to ask myself. Not until recently, was I really just ok with fishing (haha). More frequently local fighters started reaching out to me to try and get me back involved. A business offer came up that made real good sense and one that I couldn’t turn down, AND still would allow me to fish (haha). Well, there’s no turning back now, here I come!”
Ancona has returned to coaching MMA fighters, and dedicates his extra time at Mushin MMA in Harahan, Louisiana. He will be making a big comeback presenting, Battle of New Orleans 24, on Friday, April 21st in New Orleans along with good friend and fellow promoter, Justin Verdin. For tickets, call Fight Sports Entertainment at 504-810-2101 and stay tuned at www.facebook.com/BattleofNewOrleansMMA for updated event information.
By: Angela Chustz