TEXAS RAGE IN THE CAGE: Yoakum native in it to hit it at MMA event

Kody Perez, wearing red, wrestles with Cody Barker during the first round of their 155-pound mixed martial arts fight during Friday night's Texas Rage in the Cage.

Kody Perez loves contact.

It's why he played middle linebacker at Yoakum in high school.

It's also part of the reason he was the first to initiate contact in his first ever cage fight.

Seconds after touching gloves with Cody Barker in the third fight of Friday night's Texas Rage in the Cage - Out for Blood TRCAA Sparring Event, Perez swung his right leg at his opponent's legs.

The sudden, quick kick threw off Barker, and from then on, it was Perez's fight to win.

"That first kick landed where I wanted it to," Perez, 19, said. "It kind of threw him off because I know he wasn't really used to that."

Perez, who trains at the Strength Within Martial Arts gym, was declared the winner by TKO in the first round after referee Johnny Leija ended the fight with Perez pounding away at Barker. With it being his cage fighting debut, the quick bell made the victory all the sweeter.

"It's amazing. It's awesome," Perez said. "I'm going to keep fighting and hopefully keep winning."

Despite the quick victory, the fight didn't go the way Perez wanted it to.

He wanted it to be faster.

"He got a hold of me a few times and I had to slam him down to get rid of that," the southpaw fighter said. "I'm serious about this. This isn't just something I do on the side. I want to go somewhere with this."

In fact, mixed martial arts is something Perez has been serious about since he was first introduced to the sport four years ago.

Like any young teenager, Perez's parents wanted him to do something to fill his free time with.

He did karate as a little kid, so mixed martial arts figured to be a good idea. With training sessions usually lasting two and a half hours for six days a week, there wasn't much time for aynthing else.

"I wanted to do it," Perez said. "MMA is a little more violent than karate, too. So, I did it, fell in love and have been fighting ever since."

Perez said training in the various disciplines of mixed martial arts helped keep him out of trouble. But there were more benefits that just that.

"It helps you focus more. It develops you into a better person," he said. "It helps you a lot in other sports to, like football, because of the agility work."

Friday night figures to be the first of many mixed martial arts fights for Perez. For now, though, he'll keep training as hard as he can.

"I'm going to keep training as best as I can and get ready for another one, hopefully, in another three months," he said.