Longview MMA/ Team 515 is currently one of the teams in East Texas producing some of the top fighters in the region. With the likes of Kevin Aguilar (16-1) and Derrick Krantz (23-10) fighting under their banner, that claim is undeniable. Another fighter in the stable who possesses great potential, is Steven Jones Espinal (2-0). Both of Jones’ professional fights have been under the AKA banner, and he is scheduled to fight on the Rite of Passage 6 card.
Born in Honduras, Jones moved to the Longview, Texas-area ten years ago, when he was eighteen. In Honduras he went to a bi-lingual school, so he is fluent in both English and Spanish.
“I moved to East Texas as I had family here already. My parents wanted me to come here to go to school in the States. It was a culture shock at first, but I quickly adapted.”
Although Jones participated in sport as a youth, it wasn’t until coming to the States that he became involved in combat sports.
“I took karate when I was six for a couple of months, but that doesn’t really count as having done martial arts. I always enjoyed kung fu movies as a kid. I never thought I’d be doing it professionally. When I came here I was interested in American Football. We didn’t have it in Honduras. I tried it in college. Once I was done with that, I went back to soccer. I had a son, so had to start working.”
It was actually through some chance encounters that Jones started training in MMA.
“The idea was put in my head. I was buying a burger in Dallas and a guy asked me if I was doing MMA. He said I looked like a fighter. The same thing happened in New Orleans and it planted a seed.
I moved to Longview and was working and met Kevin (Aguilar) at a friend’s party. People were talking to him about his fights. I ran into him a few days later and asked him about it. He put me in the direction of the gym and when they trained. That was five years ago, I went and signed up immediately.”
Having started training specifically for MMA, Jones has focused on all the disciplines of the sport.
“I’d like to be a well-rounded fighter. I try to balance my standup and my grappling. On the most part, people compliment me on my standup. At one point I wasn’t getting MMA fights, so I focused on my boxing and did Golden Gloves. At the time I’ve been training, wrestling was coming naturally. I didn’t know how I’d fare exchanging hands, so focused on boxing for a while.”
In fact both of Jones’ professional fights were first round stoppages. At Ark-La-Tex Konflict 1, Jones dispensed of Romalice Thomason (0-2) in 3 minutes and 32 seconds.
“When I watched the replay I was disappointed. I felt I could have done more. I’m not a brawler; I like to be patient, find my range and pick apart my opponent without taking damage. I could have been more accurate and patient. I felt good in the fight, I felt comfortable.”
Jones is a fighter who appears in good shape, and strength and conditioning plays a role in his training schedule.
“It’s an important part of my training, in fact I started the day with strength and conditioning at 9 AM, then did sparring and finished with wrestling. I have to stay in shape because I sometimes have to take fights at short notice. For my pro debut, I took the fight on four days’ notice, so by staying in shape I’m able to do that.
“Early in my career, I would gas too quickly as the pace of a real fight is different to sparring. In my third fight, I knocked my opponent down and thought I would finish him. By the third round I was gassed. I started working to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.”
For Jones, MMA isn’t just a hobby; he has goals as a fighter.
“It’s all or nothing. I wasn’t interested in doing this just for fun. I have a little kid to take care of. I believe in spending time doing something you love. It’s a job, but I enjoy it. My goal from the get go, was to get to the UFC. My goal ultimately is to reach the legendary status of the game. Like when people still make T-shirts of you after you are dead.
“I’d like to thank the guys at Reach Advantage, for providing me with gear. Thanks to Josh Gonzalez and Holly Gonzalez with Athletic Performance of Texas. Also thanks to my coaches and teammates at Team 515. Special thanks to my friends and family here and also in Honduras. Although I don’t see the people in Honduras, they keep in touch and support me on social media.”