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January 29, 2015


SALEM, NH (January 28 2015)- Rising MMA star Jake "The Gorilla" Pilla climbs back into the Combat Zone cage on Friday night to put his undefeated record and his amateur featherweight championship belt on the line against New York invader Danny Abad. The main event of Combat Zone 52, which promises to rock the Sports Club at Rockingham Park, is one of three title fights on the special all-amateur "Proving Grounds" stacked card featuring some of the best mixed martial artists in New England and the Northeast.

The 21-year-old Pilla (4-0), who has never had an opponent last through the first round, has a skill set, stand-up attack, and ground game that are devastating. He's so well respected that matchmakers have had trouble finding anyone willing to take him on, but Abad (3-2) didn't back down from the challenge.

"He's a tough kid and he's going to come at me and be aggressive. He wants to prove something. Let him try. I'm not scared. I'm going to do what I do in every fight. I'm going to go in there and handle my business," said Pilla, who trains at the powerhouse Wai Kru studio in Boston and has aspirations of making it all the way to the UFC. "If the fight doesn't make it out of the first round, I'm not going to be shocked. If it does, I've got the cardio to go the full five rounds."

Abad, who has two wins and a loss from three pervious appearances on Combat Zone cards, will carry the standard for Chainsaw Army out of  upstate New York.

"If he makes a mistake, I'll take advantage. Anywhere that I see blood, I'm going to attack," Pilla said, who earned his belt in Combat Zone 48 and has successfully defended it since. "He's taking a long drive out here to fight me. I'd tell him 'Don't expect to go home with anything that's mine'."

In the other two title fights, JT Harold (4-1) battles Nick Alley (2-0-1) in the welterweight division and Xavier Vargas (3-2) from Haverhill takes on Crowsneck Boutin (6-6) in the light heavyweight class.

The Harold-Alley fight has been a long time in the making. They were supposed to match up last year, but the fight was a late scratch and is one of five that have been called off for Alley recently.

"I feel like I've been training for this for a very long time," he said. "Everyone is saying this is big test for me, but I've had five fights against guys who were all ranked in the top five, and one who was top ranked, fall apart at the last minute. It happened five times. This is a huge step in my career, but it is not a step that I am unprepared for. I am super psyched and wicked excited. This is my time, and it's about time that people will see what I can do."

Alley (2-0-1), who is a mechanic at the Bonneville & Sons auto dealership in Manchester and is the roommate of professional MMA fighter Kenny Murphy, is physically strong and mentally tough. The same can be said for his opponent, JT Harold (4-1).

"JT hits like a truck. He's got good strength, is explosive, and is quick in the cage," said Alley, who stands 6' 0 and has an excellent ground game. "But I've got the reach and I'm pretty strong myself. I might surprise some people."

Two of Harold's four wins have come via KO or TKO and that's how the former football player at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth plans to take the title for himself.

"Striking is my strength. I want to keep the match on my feet and use my stand-up game. But I am an athlete and if it goes to the mat, I can compete and will be prepared. I have trained my butt off for this fight," said Harold, who works for the Massachusetts Department of Social Services and counsels troubled kids once they enter the court system. "My idea is to get a knock-out as quickly as possible, get the belt and call it a night."

The same can be said for Alley, who insisted that he will be coming into the cage in the best shape of his life.

"I am constantly thinking about it," he said. "I wake up in the morning thinking about fighting. I go to bed thinking about fighting. I dream about fighting. I meditate about fighting. I don't think JT has fought anybody like me before. I know he's a tough kid and has some good victories, but it's going to be cool when I win the belt. It's going to be a war. This is not a fight you want to miss."

Doors open at 6:30 PM and the first fight is at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $40, $50, $75, $90 and $120 and may be purchased on the website at or by calling co-promoter Jamison Kattar at 978-3616772. Parking at the racetrack is free.

The full card, subject to change, is:
145 lbs.- Kyle Adams (0-0); Derry, NH vs. Raphael Duran (0-0) Plaistow, NH
152 lbs.- Will McCall (1-1) Brewster, ME vs. Mike Scappachio (2-0) Plaistow, NH
147 lbs.- Jacob Laughlin (1-0) Manchester, NH vs. Dan Ward (0-3) Plaistow, NH
155 lbs.- CJ Kelvin (0-1) Gilford, NH vs. Peter Ishiguro (0-0) Boston, MA
155 lbs.-  Brian Cosco (2-1) Revere, MA vs. Ryan DiBartolomeo (2-3) Leominster, MA
** Light Heavyweight Amateur Title Fight **
205 lbs.- Crowsneck Boutin (6-6) Portland, ME vs. Xavier Vargas (3-2) Haverhill, MA**
** Welterweight Amateur Title Fight **
170 lbs.- J.T. Harold (4-1) Andover, MA vs. Nick Alley (2-0-1) Hooksett, NH
*** MAIN EVENT ***
** Featherweight Amateur Title Fight **
145 lbs.- Jake Pilla (4-0) Billerica, MA vs. Danny Abad (3-2) Watertown, NY