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Aleo, DKO Ready for MMA’s Final Four


EAFL: Datrelle Kozeluh and Nate Aleo

Datrelle “DKO” Kozeluh and Nate Aleo are ready to represent Team Illinois against Virginia for the Elite Amateur Fight League.

by Matt Lo Cascio

The Elite Amateur Fight League returns to Chicago on Saturday and Team Illinois (aka Illinois Inferno) is one win away from advancing to the finals.

The EAFL pits state vs. state in a tournament and Illinois is matched up against the team from Virginia in the final four. If they win they will face the team from Arizona for the championship.

If you’re a fan of Chicago MMA, you’ll know all the names that represent Team Illinois:

  • 115 lbs. – Anna Somers (Victory Martial Arts)
  • 125 lbs. – Datrelle Kozeluh (MMA Stop/MTC)
  • 135 lbs. – Javi Coronado (Wrecking Ball)
  • 140 lbs. – Chris Sanchez (MMA Stop/MTC)
  • 145 lbs. – Michael Parker (MTC)
  • 155 lbs. – Rafael Ramos (Team 110)
  • 170 lbs. – Tyler Veal (Team One MMA)
  • 185 lbs. – Nate Aleo (MMA Underground)

It’s a roster filled with local title holders and contenders. A group of savage wrestlers and fierce strikers, the type of fighters that make you jump out of your seat.

The format is different from what these fighters experience throughout the year and it offers them an opportunity to test themselves against the best amateur fighters from other states.

XFO Outdoor War 13: Datrelle KozeluhDatrelle Kozeluh takes a post-victory stroll after his XFO Outdoor War 13 victory. (Photo Credit: Rudy Comeaux)

“Fighting for Team Illinois is definitely a unique experience,” Kozeluh said. “I not only get to fight for myself but for my teammates and my home state. It adds a little pressure but gets me more excited to go out there and get a win to show the MMA world what Illinois is all about.”

Middleweight Nate Aleo has fought for a local title and taken on the very best in his weight class. He sees this as a unique opportunity to gauge where he compares to fighters from around the country.

“I started competing because I knew I had what it took to fight the best out there,” Aleo said. “I’m getting that chance with EAFL in this tournament. I’ve fought the best amateurs Illinois has to offer and I’m taking that experience with me. I am going for the finish in every round.”

Nate Aleo vs Abel HernandezNate Aleo does damage in his three-round war against Abel Hernandez at XFO Outdoor War 13. (Photo Credit: Rudy Comeaux)

The format reminds me of a cross between the old IFL and NCAA wrestling. The IFL was a team concept that featured top fighters coached by MMA greats. It didn’t last very long, but the EAFL is different in that it pits the best fighters from each state against each other. People always want to see the best compete against the best, especially when civic pride is involved.

“It reminds me of my wrestling days when we would duel another team,” Kozeluh said. “To me, it’s not much of a difference because when the cage door closes it’s still only me and my opponent. I don’t know much about my opponent other than he’s from Virginia. I wish him luck but you can expect a classic “DKO” one-sided victory.”

Michael "Thunderbolt" Parker

Michael Parker dominated en route to winning the XFO Lightweight Amateur Title in 2015. (Photo: XFO)

This tournament has been great for Michael Parker, a former XFO champion. Parker had been in the limbo between getting the most out of his amateur career but not being able to find solid pro fights. He jumped at the chance to join the team and put his pro debut on hold. He also recently joined the team at MTC. After a stellar ammy career, this tournament, and the decision to surround himself with top fighters at MTC, Parker will most certainly be ready when he turns pro.

“Joining MTC has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” Parker said. Like Kozeluh, he doesn’t know much about his opponent, but it’s not a concern for him.

“I’m ready for anything, I see this fight going my way. TKO, submission, or unanimous decision…either way I’ll win.”

The Elite Amateur Fight League: Illinois vs. Virginia takes place Saturday at the Aragon Ballroom. Watch the video for ticket information.

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About Matt Lo Cascio

Matt Lo Cascio is the co-founder and editor of Chicago's MMA. He is the former play-by-play announcer for the XFO and other organizations, and he has been published by ESPN.com, DraftKings, The Comeback, FanSided, and more.

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