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Hernandez back from injury, headlines No Mercy 9

Reese Hernandez of Thief River Falls is the headliner at No Mercy 9, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20 at Shooting Star Casino. Submitted photo

Reese Hernandez of Thief River Falls, MN (14 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw) has recovered from what was potentially a career-ending injury and will headline No Mercy 9 at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen. 35-year-old Hernandez will square off with well-rounded striker Matt Lagou (6-4) in the night's main event on Saturday, October 20.

Hernandez has proven to be nearly unbreakable throughout his 12-year MMA career and wasn't about to let a lacerated spleen stop him in the biggest nationally televised fight of his life. He was fighting for one of the biggest promotions in the world and facing his toughest test against an 8-1 world-rated prospect named Kassius Kayne. Just ten seconds into the fight, Hernandez says he was crippled by the gruesome injury. Yet Hernandez not only fought on, but he also battled through fifteen minutes of combat and came out victorious. It has been over two and a half years since the fight and it's one that Hernandez remembers vividly.

"There was an exchange, I switched to southpaw and was caught with a kick," said Hernandez. "I knew something was wrong but didn't know how severe it was at the time. I knew I just had to keep moving. If you get tired and become a target, it's not good. After the first round, I knew that I was in trouble. I just didn't say anything. I didn't think I was internally bleeding, I just thought I got hurt really bad. It turned out that my spleen was lacerated. They wanted to take it out later but I told them no. I didn't want any missing organs because I was worried they wouldn't clear me to fight anymore. It was probably the toughest thing physically and mentally I've ever been through."

Hernandez appears to be a natural fighter but says competing in MMA was never a goal. His family grew up on Kodiak Island, Alaska before making their way to Minnesota when he was around five-years-old. That is when Hernandez began wrestling, which he stuck with until graduating high school. Shortly after graduating, he met fighter Kyle Jensen where he began his journey in mixed martial arts.

Promoter Jeremy Bjornberg says that Hernandez was one of the top UFC prospects in all of MMA before the injury in his last fight. No Mercy 9 will be a chance for the Thief River Falls native to get back on that path.

"His hard work and bravery got him back to this point and of course he insisted on a tough opponent. I'm looking forward to his comeback" said Bjornberg.

Hernandez will face Matt Lagou, who is originally from Las Vegas where he trained for years at the Wand Fight Gym before moving to Saint Cloud and opened his own gym. The Driller Promotions Middleweight champion Hernandez says that his fight with Lagou will be at heavyweight but that he hopes to return to 185 pounds in the near future.

"I know he's (Lagou) been around a long time," said Hernandez when asked to talk about his opponent. "Someone told me his name was Panda, I'm guessing that's a nickname. I did see "Muay Thai" tattooed across his chest. I always respect someone who's got tattoos because they're willing to commit (laughing). Honestly, I don't know much about him at all. I heard he trained out in Vegas and that he's in Minnesota now. I always do a good job of staying calm during a fight and I plan on keeping that part of me. I'll wait to see what it is that he wants to do in the fight. Then we'll make him do things he doesn't want to do. Training camp has gone pretty good. I appreciate all of the support from everyone. It really motivates me. It feels good knowing that people still want to come to watch me fight. I hope we put on a good fight and I think the fans will get one."

No Mercy 9 tickets available online at starcasino.com or at Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen. Tickets will also be sold at door with the fight card scheduled to being at 5 p.m. Saturday, October 20.

NO MERCY 9 AT THE SHOOTING STAR CASINO, MAHNOMEN, MN

PROFESSIONAL

Matt Lagou (6-4) vs Reese Hernandez (14-3-2) 220 LBS.

Dino Saracco (2-7) vs Ben Wicks (3-16) 200 LBS.

AMATEUR

Matthew Dodd (0-0) vs Aaron Shaw 215 LBS.

Gary Spears (0-3) vs James Norris (1-2) 265 LBS.

Nick Joramo (3-3) vs Andrew Case-Allen (1-1) Super Heavyweight

Quang Le (3-2) vs Jesse Ward (1-0) 140 LBS.

Jonny Rodriguez (0-0) vs Danny Olson (2-2) Heavyweight

Joey Hart (4-1) vs Jamie Naasz (4-2) 170 LBS.

Nick Olson (0-0) vs Andrew Yatskis (1-2) 160 LBS.

Alphonse Weah (2-3) vs Noah Hawkins (4-2) 150 LBS.

Kyle Belgarde (0-0) vs Kaleb Mcauliffe (0-1) 170 LBS.

Ryan Ferguson (1-2) vs Hunter Pederson (1-1) 150 LBS.