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John Kolosci
MATT ERICKSON | THE TIMES John Kolosci trades with Rocky France during a May 2 fight in Warsaw, Ind. Kolosci fights Scott Sands on Saturday night at the Duneland Classic VI at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point.

As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to grow, so too does the list of fighters trying to make it to the big time.

What separates John Kolosci from the vast majority of those fighters, though, is that he's seen the big time up close and personal. And the desire to get back to the UFC-level of the sport is what made him put aside his computer networking job to train full time.

The road back hasn't been easy for the Portage resident. After dropping his only official fight in the UFC, to Matt Arroyo on the season finale of Season 6 of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter," on which he was a contestant, Kolosci battled through about 16 months of setbacks before finally getting back in the cage.

But at 3-0 since April -- and fresh off yet another minor injury that forced him out of his last scheduled fight at the War in the Yard event in Anderson, Ind., -- Kolosci looks to make it four straight on Saturday at the Duneland Classic VI at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point.

Kolosci (11-5) meets unbeaten Scott Sands (4-0) in a welterweight bout on a card stacked with local talent and put together by Keith and Justin Wisniewski of Duneland Vale Tudo.

Kolosci said though he doesn't know much about Sands, he knows his reputation as a wrestler.

"I'm sure he's going to throw big punches and try to get the fight to the ground," Kolosci said. "I don't really create gameplans for fights because they tend to go out the window once you get punched a few times."

Kolosci said his training at Gilbert Grappling in the south suburbs, part-time home of UFC lightweight star Clay Guida, as well as at L.A. Boxing in Merrillville have helped him be a more well-rounded fighter and in what he calls "the best shape of my life."

"The fight starts standing, so I'll look to knock him out and land some nice punches," Kolosci said. "If standup is going well, I'll keep it there. If it goes to the ground, I'll look to be on top. If I'm on my back, I'll look to submit him or escape to my feet. I'm just going to let the fight go where it goes. That's why I train to be as well-rounded as possible."

While Kolosci knows a win against Sands is crucial and isn't looking past him, he said he hopes to fight perhaps two more times in 2009 before taking another run at bigger promotions.

"I hope to get one or two more (fights) in this year and if I win them all, I'll be looking at the bigger shows," Kolosci said. "Five or six fights in one year is a lot, and it's definitely keeping me busy. I tend to learn something new every fight, from diet to training to the fight itself. It's been a great year thus far, and I hope to keep it going."

Kolosci said he's also working on the promotion side of the MMA business and hopes to put on his first show later this fall at the Porter County Expo Center. And earlier this spring, an up-and-coming MMA apparel company, Riot Gear, based out of Chicago, hooked up with Kolosci, joining Aberrant Tattoo and Jordan Family Chiropractic as one of his main sponsors -- crucial when it comes to being able to train and fight full time.

Also on Saturday's card is unbeaten Team Corral star Jared McMahan, who meets Miguel Torres-trained prospect Eric Oria. And Duneland Vale Tudo stars Darren Elkins and Josh Shockley both look to remain unbeaten.

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Duneland Classic VI

When: Saturday

Where: Lake County Fairgrounds, Crown Point

Fight card

155: Josh Shockley (8-0-1) vs. Jeff Green (6-3-1)

135: Jared McMahan (10-0-1) vs. Eric Oria (3-1)

155: Darren Elkins (9-0) vs. Ted Worthington (26-18)

170: John Kolosci (11-5) vs. Scott Sands (4-0)

135: Charles Wilson (14-8) vs. Yusup Saaduleuv (5-0-1)

190: Brad Levin (2-1) vs. Rob Morrow (5-5)

170: Jeremy Downs (3-2) vs. TBA

205: Stephen Roberson (0-0) vs. Mike Heartline (0-0)

155: Don Peckler (1-0) vs. Nick Wayne (0-1)

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