Tough love

October 15, 2013

By David Hayes

Klahanie MMA fighters are undefeated as a couple

By Ernie Sapiro Photography Dex Montenego gets on bended knee after his match April 27 to propose to girlfriend Amy Cadwell after his successful return to the mixed-martial arts ring.

By Ernie Sapiro Photography
Dex Montenego gets on bended knee after his match April 27 to propose to girlfriend Amy Cadwell after his successful return to the mixed-martial arts ring.

Amy Cadwell admitted that, like most girls growing up, she had many visions of what the moment would look like when she received a wedding proposal.

Never did she imagine it would take place in the center of a mixed martial arts ring, moments after her boyfriend’s professional fight. Dex Montenegro pulled off the surprise proposal April 27 after his return to the MMA ring.

“We had talked about getting married,” said Cadwell, 29. “But I had no idea it was going to happen that night.”

But it turned out well, as they both had many friends and family in the crowd that night to see Montenegro fight and win. So it became a moment to be shared and enjoyed for the couple who live together in Klahanie. To Montenegro, also 29, the setting only made sense. They had met in a gym a little over a year before, and both had experience in full-contact sports.

When the ring announcer who was declaring Montenegro the winner continued talking, was suddenly reaching into his pocket and handing the fighter something, Cadwell knew something was up.

“Then, Dex got on one knee, and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’” she said.

Of course she said yes, creating a rarity within the sport — a fighting couple.

Cadwell also fights professionally within the octagon cage, having successfully won her second fight Oct. 12.

Fight promotions for her match incorrectly stated it was her professional debut. However, she’d already done that in February, when she avenged a loss from when she was still in the amateur ranks.

She’d just compiled an unimpressive 2-4 amateur record and was even second-guessing her decision to go pro.

“It was just a confidence thing,” she said. “I just had to mostly move past mental blocks.”

After she got past the jitters and won her match, things were different the second time out. Armed with more confidence, she also had the additional strength of her now fiancé Dex rooting for her in her corner. Not that she could hear anything with the large crowd cheering ferociously ringside.

“Except for the main event, the crowd cheered loudest for her match,” Montenegro said.

He, too, was supposed to have fought that night. Unfortunately, his opponent was a no-show, the second time the same fighter bowed out of match against Montenegro. This freed him up to devote all his energy rooting for Cadwell.

“I couldn’t hear him, but I could see him, slamming the mat, getting excited,” Cadwell said.

She actually gave him a lot to be worried about. Her match against Hadley Griffith went Cadwell’s way in the first round. But Griffith got her in a submission hold that nearly had her tapping out, only to be saved by the bell.

In the third round, Cadwell said she regrouped and finished strong, defeating Griffith with a submission hold of her own, the rear naked choke, to notch her second professional win.

Montenegro gave he and Cadwell the moniker Team Amex, combining elements of their names.

“Since Team Amex was formed, we’re 4-0,” he boasted.

Montenegro trains full time. But Cadwell works as a nurse by day. She admits that she sometimes shows up for work wearing the scars of her profession.

“One time before we met, I went into work with my face looking pretty mangled,” she said. “It caused some of my co-workers to cry for me.”

Both are looking forward to actually fighting on the same night, at their next bouts Dec. 7.

Now, however, the couple doesn’t just work out together in the gym.

“She’s my No. 1 sparring partner,” Montenegro said.

Don’t think their love for each other gets in the way in the ring. Cadwell fights at 115 pounds while Montenegro is getting his fighting weight down to 135.

“You need to tap me out to beat me,” she told him. “Don’t think it will get you out of anything. Being hands-off with me will get you beat up, but good.”

“Tough love,” Montenegro responded.


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