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Richmond MMA fighter, 21, eyes pro career after debut wins

McNair alumnus Melvin Panganiban is catching people's attention after winning his first two amateur MMA bouts

When he’s not cooking or packaging health gummies, Richmond’s Melvin Panganiban is dreaming of something far removed from his day-to-day job.

What 21-year-old Panganiban really craves is a shot at turning professional as an MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter.

The McNair secondary alumnus has only been practising MMA for a little over a year and has already won his first two amateur bouts this spring in the lightweight division of the Vancouver-based Battlefield Fight League (BFL).

(Watch Panganiban's second fight here)

Hoping to turn pro in the fall

In fact, Panganiban – who is taking a gap year from his communication studies at Kwantlen and works at Richmond-based Herbaland – is hoping to turn pro after his next fight in the fall.

“I’m going to take the summer off for a rest, as I’ve been at it non-stop since last year,” said Panganiban, who lives near No. 4 and Williams roads.

“I will have one more fight between September and December and then possibly go pro and then have some more fights locally and then look to fight outside of the province after that.

“Pro just really means getting paid; I’d still be working outside of the MMA.”

Older sister urged him to try muay Thai

It has certainly been a sharp learning curve for Panganiban, who only fell in love with the idea of participating in MMA about two years ago, when his older sister introduced him to her passion for muay Thai

“I have a background in boxing from about Grade 4, but it was basketball for me at high school,” explained Panganiban.

“I re-started boxing after high school and then, after a couple of months doing muay Thai, I got hooked and started watching UFC.

“The muay Thai (place) offered MMA and Brazilian jujitsu, so it just transitioned from there to where I am now.”

All paths led to his first MMA fight in February, at the Fraserview Banquet Hall in Vancouver.

“I was nervous, I didn’t know how it was going to go and it was in front friends and family. You don’t want to lose, all that stuff,” recalled Panganiban, who fights out of Pinnacle MMA in Richmond, near Home Depot.

He need not have worried, winning his first fight and then his second last month in convincing fashion at the Harbour Convention Centre in Vancouver.

Panganiban said, if he turns pro, the next step would be to fight at a higher level and outside of the province.

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