ATLANTIC CITY — Cesar Balmaceda became a champion Friday night.

The Atlantic City native earned a first-round TKO over Chicago’s Damian Norris to win the interim Cage Fury Fighting Championships lightweight title at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

“This means everything to me right now,” Balmaceda said. “This puts me one step closer to even bigger and better things.”

Balmaceda (6-0) ended the scheduled four-round bout just 1 minute, 44 seconds into the first round.

Both fighters threw a few kicks and punches in the opening minute while feeling each other out. Balmaceda then connected with a left hook that put Norris (10-3) on the canvas. Balmaceda immediately jumped into action, unleashing a six-punch flurry that prompted referee Liam Kerrigan to stop the fight.

Balmaceda climbed to the top of the cage in celebration while a large contingent of fans at Borgata’s Event Center cheered.

“I predicted a first-round knockout, and I was able to get it,” Balmaceda said with a smile. “Then again, I predict a first-round knockout for all my fights because that’s my goal. If it doesn’t happen, I just try to knock him out in the second or third round.”

Balmaceda, 23, became the third local mixed martial arts fighter to earn a regional championship. Mays Landing’s Jeff Lentz won bantamweight belts for both Ring of Combat and Cage Fury. Millville’s Tim Williams is the former CFFC middleweight champion.

Balmaceda, a 2013 Atlantic City High School graduate, was initially scheduled to fight reigning CFFC lightweight champion Joe Lowry, but Lowry was seriously injured in a car accident last month and will be sidelined indefinitely.

When CFFC owner Rob Haydak approached Balmaceda and his trainers about fighting Norris, they immediately accepted, despite the fact Norris had won six fights in a row and was regarded as a tough opponent.

“When Lowry had to drop out, they gave us a couple of names,” Balmaceda co-trainer Dom Urso said. “Damian’s a very good fighter and has a huge following on social media, so we figured it would be good for Cesar’s career if he fought him and knocked him out. Cesar didn’t care who he fought. It doesn’t matter to him who’s in there with him.”

The tentative plan is for Balmaceda to fight Lowry when he is recovered from his injuries, but there may be another option.

Given Balmaceda’s crowd-pleasing style and undefeated record, it would not be surprising to see him get a call from the UFC.

“That’s what I really hope happens,” Balmaceda said.

Balmaceda-Norris was one of three title fights on the CFFC 71 card.

Featherweight champion Pat Sabatini (10-2), of Bristol, Pennsylvania, retained his crown with a four-round unanimous decision over Da’mon Blackshear (6-3), of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Russian Alexander Keshtov (9-0) won the bantamweight title with a three-round unanimous decision over Andre Bernardo (8-6), of Philadelphia.

In other fights, former UFC welterweight Jonavin Webb (12-2), of Evesham Township, earned a three-round unanimous decision over St. Louis’ Hugh Pulley (7-4). Everitt, Washington, strawweight Miranda Granger (5-0) used an arm bar to submit Philadelphia’s Jamie Colleen (4-3) in the first round.

In the opening bout, Long Branch bantamweight Justin Clarke (1-0) scored a one-punch knockout over Daniel Rodriguez (0-1) of the Bronx, New York. Middletown featherweight Paul Capaldo (1-0) dropped Bobby Malcolm (0-1), of Philadelphia, with a roundhouse kick in the second round.

Texas City, Texas, featherweight Josh Altum (3-0) used a triangle choke to submit Jackson’s B.J. Young (3-2) in the first round. Queens, New York, welterweight Tajuddin Abdul Akim (8-1) took a three-round split decision over Marco Smallman, of Pontiac, Michigan.

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Contact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com Twitter @PressACWeinberg

Sportswriter/columnist

Member of The Press sports staff since 1986, starting my 25th season as The Press Eagles' beat writer. Also cover boxing, MMA, golf, high school sports and everything else.

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