Puder Feeling ‘Tough Enough’ For Shamrock vs. Gracie Bout

March 5, 2006; New York, NY….World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) “Tough Enough” reality show winner, Daniel Puder (1-0), will return to his roots when he faces Jesse Fujarcyk (2-0), in a heavyweight contest during “Shamrock vs. Gracie,” California’s historic first mixed martial arts fight card that will take place on Friday at San Jose’s HP Pavilion.

“I want to beat down a lot of people (laughs), but I haven’t set specific goals yet because I want to get past this first fight,” said the 6 foot 3 inch, 235 pound Puder, whose blonde hair, blue eyes, and surfer’s tan give him the All-American look that the sport has sought in an effort to further its mainstream appeal. A former protégé of “Shamrock vs. Gracie” main event constituent, Frank Shamrock, the 24-year-old has since been taken under the wings of American Kickboxing Academy trainers Javier Mendez and “Crazy” Bob Cook as well as Jiu-Jitsu expert Dave Camarillo. “It would be nice to knock him out in the first minute or two or armbar him. I don’t care if he takes me down or if he wants to stand up.”

The pinnacle of Puder’s run on the UPN-televised reality show, which aired between October and December 2004, came when he was granted the opportunity to grapple with 1996 Olympic Gold medalist and professional wrestling legend, Kurt Angle. To the amazement of WWE officials and the millions of TV viewers looking on, Puder successfully placed Angle in a “kimura” submission hold, bringing about a tremendous upset victory for the young contender.

Puder’s first place finish on the show earned him a one-year contract with the WWE, which he completed in October. “I probably learned more doing WWE for one year than I did in five years of my life just because I was on the road so much, I was by myself, I got to read the Bible a lot,” he noted. “I got to talk to a lot of my friends on the phone, but I wasn’t around too many people, so it was a good time.”

To date, Puder remains the only professional athlete officially endorsed by Myspace.com. According to the fighter, his presence on the wildly popular business and social networking website helped him capture the attention and gradually win the affection of “Tough Enough” viewers whose votes cast after each episode influenced the process by which competitors were eliminated from the show.

Puder’s big heart holds more than his love for sport combat, which explains why he dedicates a great deal of his leisure time to helping the youth of Northern California. His two non-profit organizations, “Puder Strength Training” and “Tough Enough Kids,” the

second of which sends him on hospital visits to lift the spirits of terminally ill children, have had a significant impact on the community. “It’s a big reason why I’m doing professional sports,” he said. “Its nice to go into to a hospital where there’s a dying 12 year-old sad as hell and, when I walk in, he couldn’t be happier.”

Before he became a recognizable TV star and hero, Puder made his professional mixed martial arts debut in Japan on September 6, 2003. He earned a three round unanimous judges’ decision over fellow American Jay McCown.

The 13 bout “Shamrock vs. Gracie” card will be headlined by the long-awaited showdown between bitter rivals Shamrock (20-7-1) and Cesar Gracie (14-0) as well the mixed martial arts debut of Cung Le (16-0), who will face seasoned veteran, Mike Altman (19-8). Rising stars and former collegiate wrestling standouts Josh “The Punk” Thomson (10-1) and Clayton Guida (19-3) will square off with each other while undefeated prospect, Gilbert Melendez (10-0), will do battle with Harris Sarmiento (18-12). Fan favorite, Eugene “The Wolf” Jackson (12-7-1), will make his long-awaited return to action when he meets Jorge “The Naked Man” Ortiz (7-2). In the event’s other heavyweight matchup, Mike “Mak” Kyle (14-4) will take on Krzysztof “The Experiment” Soszynski (9-4).

Tickets for “Shamrock vs. Gracie” are officially on sale and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster (408-998-TIXS) outlets and Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com) as well as at the HP Pavilion box office (408-287-7070). Fans can also purchase tickets by logging on to the official “Shamrock vs. Gracie” website, www.shamrockvsgracie.com, and clicking on the “Tickets” link where a ticket order form is located. All completed forms should be returned for processing to Ms. Julie Lin either via fax: 408-863-0153 or email: juless8000@aol.com. Ticket prices start at $30.

Doors to the event will open at 5 PM Pacific Standard Time on Friday. The first preliminary bout will begin at 6 PM.

The “Shamrock vs. Gracie” bill is being promoted and produced by Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment (SVSE, www.svse.net), a leading producer of major sporting and entertainment events and the exclusive producer of such events for San Jose, California’s largest entertainment arena, the HP Pavilion. SVSE’s many properties include “Miller Lite Fight Night,” world championship boxing; the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks; and the annual ATP men’s professional tennis “SAP Open” event.

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Michael Afromowitz