Though retirement is far from Keli Manglona’s mind, the U.S. Air Force Airman has already set his sights of someday passing on the various skills that he learned from years of fighting and training.
Manglona, known as the Airman Warrior of Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona, said he’s been working hard so that he could grab every opportunity that he sees.
“I plan to continue training hard. To build my credentials, so that one day, when I come back on Saipan, I may be able to take my knowledge back home and spread it,” said Manglona in an email to Saipan Tribune.
“I plan to also continue working hard to open doors of opportunities, to test and show my skills while competing at the highest levels possible,” added the former Tinian resident.
For now, his next plan is to prepare for the North American Grappling Association Phoenix Grappling Championship, which is the world’s biggest submission tournament, set on Feb. 28. He also competed in the 10th Arizona International Open from Feb. 22 to 23.
Manglona’s mixed martial arts career has gone a long way since being introduced by his high school social studies teacher, Mark Mendiola, in his sophomore year in 2005. Mendiola was a big fan of MMA and taught Manglona better ways on how to resolve confrontation.
“Trench Tech promoter Cuki Alvarez then called me up sometime in August 2007, asking if I wanted to compete in the Rites of Passage III event on Saipan,” said Manglona.
Manglona won his MMA debut at the age of 17 by knocking out Arnold Balbin. “I was hooked then ever since.”
But the call of military service came and Manglona decided to enlist with the U.S. Air Force at the Guam Recruiting office nine months after graduating from high school in 2008.
The last time he was in the CNMI was in August 2012 when he came to Tinian following a death in the family.
He last competed in a Pacific Xtreme Combat event on Oct. 29, 2011, in Guam where he lost by submission on a rear-naked chokehold by Ryan Biggler.
Manglona has also won numerous titles, championships and medals in an almost 10-year fighting career. The latest was the 2015 United Grappling Federation California State Grappling Championships.
He is the reigning Gorilla Warfare Middleweight champion and topped the cruiserweight division in the 2010 Joint Base Balad Combatives Championship while stationed in Iraq. This is aside from winning a number of gold, silver, and bronze medals from four states and three different countries.
The MMA Lab Professional Fight team member is a three-stripe jiu-jitsu purple belt under Royce Gracie and a black belter under John Crouch.