by Galen Okazaki
The first time I saw Jose Palacios fight in person was in March of 2011 when he fought Joey Pagliuso. It was a tough fight that almost went the distance. But with only 15 seconds left in the fight, Jose unleashed a head kick that knocked Joey out cold. A few months later I saw Jose fight in person again at Battle in the Desert 2, when he took on Scotty Leffler. In a blur, he knocked out Scotty with an overhand right 20 seconds into the fight. At this point I really started to take notice of Jose Palacios, how could you not? His next fight with the up and coming Artem Sharoshkin at Stand Up Promotion’s National Muay Thai Championship fight card was highly anticipated. That fight ended up going the distance with Jose winning it by unanimous decision. With three strong wins in a row over well regarded opponents he had improved his professional Muay Thai record to 5-2. Jose had made a career breakthrough and he was on the rise. Next up, was a fight with the re-emergent Kit Cope and his 23-0 pro Muay Thai record at Lion Fight Promotion’s Battle in the Desert 4.
Jose Palacios was born in Managua, Nicaragua. When he was six, his parents left for the United States with his two older brothers, leaving Jose and his younger brother behind. The feeling of abandonment left Jose with a healthy dose of anger as he ended up getting into many fights as a young boy in Managua. After he turned eight, his parents finally sent for Jose and his younger brother. The reunited family settled in the San Francisco bay area. What Jose remembers of his early childhood was that he wanted to be a fighter. In Nicaragua, boxing is a very popular sport and it was the fighting style that Jose always wanted to pursue. Once here, his family was not able to afford to send him to any kind of formal martial training, so he and his friends formed fight clubs and fought in garages, alley ways and other hidden venues.
When Jose got into high school he was able to join the wrestling team for which he made varsity as a freshman. While wrestling served as somewhat of a martial release, it certainly wasn’t boxing and Jose found that he really didn’t enjoy it. So his junior year in high school Jose quit the wrestling team and promptly got into trouble.
Once out of high school, Jose not really knowing what he wanted to do looked at enlisting in the military. He took the AF exam and looked into what it would take to go in as an officer. He found that he would first have to take some college courses to build up the credits. While he was studying for the military he found his way to fighter and trainer Cung Le and soon he was training in Sanshou. Sanshou is a Chinese combat sport that incorporates kick-boxing, that allows the use of single/double leg takedowns and hip throws. As it turns out, Palacios was a natural at Sanshou and within six months he was competing in national level tournaments. After seven months he ended up winning the USAWKF National Championships. He next won the Chinese Martial Arts Gold Medal. In 2005, Jose represented the United States at the prestigious World Wushu Games. He ended up defeating each of his opponents from China, Brazil and France respectively. Unfortunately, during his last bought against his French opponent, his left eye was injured and he could not continue. As a result, he took the bronze medal for the United States. Given this success, Palacios was now focused on fighting for a living and his thoughts of joining the military faded.
The following year (2006) Jose stepped into the MMA ring for the first time. In a string of victories, he won his first three MMA fights as well as his first professional Muay Thai bout (a victory over Nathan Willet) in between. During his third MMA fight, Jose ended up breaking his right hand. The break was a bad one as Jose ended up have three surgeries on the hand. After being out for 15 months, Jose took an MMA fight with a two time All-American wrestler on short notice and he ended up losing. In a fight soon after, Jose ended up breaking his left hand and he spent another year and a half out of commission.
After recuperating and taking a few MMA fights, Jose had his second professional Muay Thai fight with Raymond Cole. He ended up knocking out Cole with a right cross and body kick. Unbeknownst to Palacios, he had broken his foot during the course of the fight. He had a rematch with Nathan Willet a mere two weeks later. Jose took the fight and ended up losing, due in no small part to the pain he was experiencing from the broken foot.
After the loss and now with yet another bone break, Jose who had been praying for a sign of what to do with his fight career, decided to retire. He had gotten his college degree in Applied Sciences and he decided to join the working ranks of the 9 to 5’rs. Working a full time job gave Jose a good dose of what life would be like without fighting as a part of it. The fighting itch would return.
A little over a year into being ‘retired’ from fighting, Jose got a call offering him a fight with highly regarded Thai fighter, ‘Coke’ Chunhawat. So with little time to train, but a strong desire to get into the ring again, Palacios would take on his toughest opponent to date. In the fight, Palacios won the first two rounds but went on to lose the five round fight in what some considered a controversial decision. Along with the disappointment over the loss, Jose’s biggest take away from the fight was his realization that he lost his fight due to lack of training.
Since his re-entry into the ring, Jose had been training himself. He knew at this point that he needed a trainer if he was going to take it to the next level in this sport. That’s when he brought in former IKF World Champion Rudi Ott. Jose had worked with Rudi in the past when Rudi was a part of Cung Le’s camp. Initially though, the two bumped heads as Jose had been used to training himself. They were able to work things out as they started the training camp for Jose’s next fight against Joey Pagliuso.
Jose’s career has been a series of ups and downs, but this time he is clearly on an upswing. His recent string of victories and his willingness to take any fight must put him into any conversation about today’s top American nakmuays.
Writer’s Note: Jose also does graphic design work. Pictured below is some of Jose’s artwork.