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NEO-NAZI FIGHT CLUBS HELD MMA TOURNAMENT in SAN DIEGO AREA

by SOCAL RESEARCH CLUB

UPDATE 31 AUGUST 2022, 3:00PM: This article was updated to include additional images and identifications—and some juicy interpersonal Nazi drama

On August 20, neo-Nazis held an MMA tournament in an undisclosed location in San Diego. It was organized by three fascist groups: one local, one national and one international. The event marks the culmination of RAM founder Rob Rundo’s long-time efforts to bring organized white nationalist fight clubs to the U.S.

Two sweaty and shirtless men wearing matching black and white Will2Rise branded boxing gloves compete in a one-on-one fight. A small group of white men surround one side of the makeshift boxing ring and look on in excitement. At the exact moment this photograph was taken, the fighter on the right (wearing black shorts) has connected his right fist to the jaw of his opponent, a muscular fellow who dons a red tartan kilt with a hint of blue undershorts peeking from below the waistband. Two female spectators are watching from the folding chairs while some of the other would-be fighters wait for their chance to get knocked out.
At least they’re only beating the s**t out of each other— for now.

The tournament, which was first called “Rebirth of a New Frontier” (then was oddly renamed “Birth of a New Frontier” nearly a week after the event), billed itself as “the first of its kind for the nationalsit [sic] scene in the US. This was a show of unity and strength between nationalsit [sic] from all over the US.”

The tournament was promoted and covered by Media2Rise, the fascist propaganda outlet operated by RAM founder Rob Rundo. Through Rundo, Media2Rise has forged ties with multiple white supremacist and fascist groups throughout the U.S. and Eastern Europe, where Rundo has lived in self-imposed exile since fleeing the U.S. One of those groups is White Rex, a Ukrainian fascist lifestyle brand whose seminal 2013 MMA tournament, Birth of a Nation, was the very obvious source of inspiration for the U.S.-based event.

As LCRW previously covered, the appearance of Media2Rise signaled a “worrying fusion between the tactics and aesthetics of some of the most violent fascists in the modern international movement.”

Just five months later, it’s come full circle: The first organized, euro-style fascist fight tournament was held in Southern California— the same place the most modern incarnation of the U.S. white nationalist fight club scene first originated.

RISE ABOVE MOVEMENT’S CONTINUING OUTSIZED INFLUENCE ON THE U.S. FASCIST SCENE

In a Telegram post the day after the event, Media2Rise stated, “This event set a new milestone for the US scene.”

While statements like this are usually little more than boastful propaganda, the threat isn’t idle. The event may be the beginning of yet another phase in the ongoing rise of fascism in the United States, especially considering the outsized influence RAM has continued to have on the white supremacist scene since they first gained national attention for their perpetuation of violence at political rallies and protests.

The SoCal street-fighting crew fell apart after its founder fled the country and its members were prosecuted for their roles in planning and participating in the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017. Yet, just a few years later, there was a sudden, simultaneous emergence of “active clubs” springing up across the country that took its place.

Now members of these active clubs have come together alongside other white supremacists, neo-Nazis and skinheads for an event that was intended to strengthen alliances and fuel momentum within the white nationalist scene.

Screenshots of four Telegram messages written by Ian Michael Elliott read as follows: [1] “Anyone in San Diego?” [2] “Wild trip in San Diego guys, catching up on messages now” [3] “I drove 36 hours for the San Diego fights. Spend time and resources for your Race.” [4] “One of the best events I've been in so far, and there are so many good ones. Other organizations have had all kinds of in house tournaments, but this was a massive ice breaker for different crews getting together, clasping hands, cracking knuckles, throwing salutes. For the Race.”

Would you rather: (A) Ride around in the back of a hot, cramped U-Haul that smells like beef sweats and march through neighborhoods where you’re not welcome? (B) Drive 36 hours to hang out in a musty, crowded gym that smells like beer farts and throw Roman salutes alongside other neo-Nazis?

For Patriot Front member Ian Michael Elliott, the answer is: (C) All of the above.

The tournament was an invite-only, private event but it wasn’t limited to local fascists. Participants and spectators traveled to the cramped San Diego venue from multiple states.

So far, four out-of-state members of Patriot Front have been confirmed as participants and spectators. 

Patriot Front leader Thomas Rousseau was spotted both in the crowd and in the post-tournament promo. Graham Whitson, who is heavily involved with Patriot Front, Media2Rise and Will2Rise, was briefly seen chatting with another member of the group while wearing an official M2R shirt. Conor Patrick Moran, who was last seen being de-hooded and arrested in Coeur D’Alene, ID, also traveled all the way from his home in Texas for the event. Ian Michael Elliott, Patriot Front member and personal security for the group’s leader wrote on Telegram that he drove 36 hours from his home in Alabama to attend. 

All four men are among the dozen-plus Patriot Front members who posed for a series of propaganda shots in Coronado the weekend of the tournament.

Patriot Front leader Thomas “Tommy” Rousseau is visible in all three photos posted here, his shoulder length hair is pulled back half up half down. Beginning left to right, he is shown behind Sean Kauffman wearing a white tank top and a blue lanyard around his neck. Next we see two shots of Tommy wearing khaki pants and a dark blue button down camp shirt, the sleeves are rolled up to the elbows and the same lighter blue lanyard is around his neck. He is standing front row outside the ring holding a camera and seems to be cheering on a fight in progress.
Tommy and his boys traveled all the way from Texas to California: By plane, by car, by UHaul? Who knows.

Another out-of-state participant was Sean Kauffmann, (pictured above) whose signature red kilt made him impossible to miss. Kauffmann, who traveled to the event from Arizona, has a history of not only participating in neo-Nazi fights locally, but also extremely violent behavior, stockpiling unregistered firearms, and advocating for acts of terrorism— and rape.

Antifascists in Philadelphia recognized one of their local neo-Nazi’s who had made the 5,400 mile round-trip: Joseph Phy, a long-time member of Keystone United (formerly known as the Keystone State Skinheads). Phy has had known ties to RAM and in 2020 he was “modeling” for Our Fight Clothing, yet another of Rundo’s international business ventures.

(Left) A color still of Patrick Kelly Mushaney, he is shirtless and wearing black shorts as he kicks towards his opponent. He has short dark hair, dark full beard, and a massively receding hairline. His tattoos are blurry because this is a video still, but frankly they are pretty ugly anyway so you aren’t missing much. Behind him, the faces of the audience have been sloppily edited out in an attempt to conceal their identities (lol). | (Right) A color photo of Joseph Sty wearing a black short sleeve shirt with white screen printing of crossed hammers and some sort of Odin-esque graphic. His heavily tattooed arms are identifiable in part due to the Celtic cross on his left forearm, as well as others on his hands and fingers. He appears to be wearing a black wedding ring (yikes).
Neo-Nazis who are new to the movement, such as Patrick Mushaney, fought and mingled with old boneheads like, Joseph Phy.

Johnny Benitez, a second-rank leader for both So Cal Active Club and White Lives Matter’s California chapter, confirmed his involvement in the event. He later shared his disappointment over not being featured in the official event promo video, but has more than made up for it through self-promotion via his Telegram channels.

Other members of SoCal Active Club, as well as some of their close associates from local skinhead crews, were also spotted both in the crowd and in the ring. San Diego resident and SoCal Active Club’s leader, Robert Wheldon, participated in the event, as did SoCal Active Club’s newly identified propaganda drone pilot, Norco resident Patrick Mushaney.

Close associates of Ryan Sanchez, the neo-Nazi former RAM member also known as Culture War Criminal, are also said to have participated in the fights. Sanchez confirmed his presence as well.

(Left to Right) Two Black and white photos depicting Ryan Sanchez (Culture War Criminal) as he surveyed the scene inside the warehouse. In the first, the Stars and Bars confederate flag and an old school “R🌲SE” logo banner is visible in the background. Ryan is wearing a dark sport jacket and tucked in white Havana shirt. Tommy Rousseau can be partially seen to his right while he is chatting with an older man whose face we cannot see. Another black and white photo of Ryan in the same location, here he is half smiling and we see more of his face as he is turned slightly more towards the camera. Next, a color photo depicts Ian Michael Elliott hazily gawking at the camera from alongside the ring. In the background, a woman is holding an infant in her arms as she watches the fights from the folding chair gallery. In the last photo, a bald Johnny Benitez is wearing a white long sleeve spandex shirt. He is standing just outside the ring over the bare chested right shoulder of Robert Wheldon, who appears to be in the middle of a fight. Wheldon’s Celtic cross tattoo is visible on his left breast and his bushy horseshoe mustache is dripping with sweat. The white corrugated metal walls of the warehouse are visible in the background.
Smug faced Ryan Sanchez and sweaty boys Ian Elliott, Johnny Benitez and Robert Wheldon.

Obviously Rundo wasn’t able (or rather, willing) to make the trip back to the states to attend the event but two of Rundo’s right-hand men were present. The first was Media2Rise’s chief propagandist, Allen Michael Goff. Goff, who tries very hard to sound European by using the pseudonym “Lucca Corgiat”, has a long history of violence within Montana’s white power movement. The other was Grady Mayfield, a Patriot Front member and San Diego native who was kicked out of the Marines last year for his close ties to white-nationalists— specifically to Rob Rundo. After his very short stint in the military, Mayfield took off to Eastern Europe to traipse around with Rundo and his crew, which he’s now joined as a “Will2Rise athlete and writer.”

Left: Approximately 13 men are pictured standing clustered in a group. All but 3 of them have their faces obscured by the white gaiters and khaki hats commonly associated with Patriot Front nazis. Ever the thirsty promo model, a shirtless Grady Mayfield is standing in the foreground. His black and white Will2Rise branded boxing gloves are pressed together in an attempt to look tough, and a black and white silken flag is draped around his shoulders like a cape. To his left, Conner Patrick Moran wears matching Wil2Rise gloves, and a Patriot Front fasces flag as his topcoat. He stares off blankly, seemingly looking past the camera and hopefully reconsidering his life choices.  |  Right: Wearing a backwards black snapback hat and a faded black muscle shirt that says “Bad Boys Good Habits” in white print, Grady sits on top of a cement fence on the beach with his comrade Goff, who wears a black tshirt with orange and white screen print that says “Thought Criminal” is smirking at the camera.
Left: Patriot Front members Grady Mayfield and Connor Moran traded their signature white balaclavas and khakis for capes and gloves.  |  Right: Rundo’s right-hand men Grady Mayfield and Allen Goff.

While some participants of the event have been open about their involvement, others are being tight-lipped. But as additional footage of the event has trickled out, participants will continue to be identified.

USHERING IN WHITE NATIONALISM 3.0—THROUGH RAM 2.0?

While Media2Rise likely did much of the larger-scale planning, the event was co-organized alongside Patriot Front and SoCal Active Club. SoCal Active Club’s logo was featured almost as prominently as Will2Rise’s inside the venue.

Left: A black & white photograph depicts a small crowd of people standing on three sides of a homemade arena. In the center, the “ref” holds up the arm of the winner, while a fan in the crowd puts up a Roman salute in a gesture of fascist respect. The back wall of the warehouse is covered in homemade banners that were made with stencils on canvas drop cloths. Left to right: [1] the SoCal Active club logo and the words: Revolt & Rise Above. At the bottom, “SoCal Active club” is partially covered by a group of spectators. [2] a very large W2R logo extends the length and width of the drop cloth, it towers above the crowd at the center of the scene. [3] The narrow banner at the top is the ripped-off Obey logo that Will2Rise uses, with the word “RISE” at the bottom. Below, there is another smaller banner with the SoCal Active club logo - a Celtic cross with two palm trees at 10 & 2. On the wall to the right, hangs a very large American flag and smaller Stars and Bars confederate flag below it. | Right: A black and white photograph taken directly above the square boxing ring. The “Rebirth of a New Frontier” logo is at the center of the floor with the words “WILL 2 RISE” emblazoned upon it. The SoCal Active club logo is painted beside it.
SoCal Active Club’s janky stencil banners seen hanging alongside W2R branded banners inside the small venue crammed full of neo-Nazis.

The latter two groups have been seen working closely together in the weeks leading up to the event, which included heavily crossposting, promoting and even appearing in one another’s propaganda on Telegram.

In June, Mayfield, SoCal Active Club and Will2Rise, another arm of Rundo’s propaganda network, began posting a series of RAM-inspired propaganda on their Telegram channels.

“Inspired” is an understatement—the photos and videos consisted of members and affiliates of SoCal Active Club and Southern California skinheads recreating the most recognizable of RAM’s original propaganda, down to the details and locations.

Top: An infamous RAM propaganda photo from 2018 depicts a group of young men wearing skull face masks sitting on a concrete staircase. A filter has been applied making the photo appear painted, and “R.A.M.” is printed in the bottom left corner in tall white block letters, the caption on the screenshot reads: “RAM 2018”. To the right, the men are posing on the same staircase, this time with books such as “No Risk Abs” and “Men Among the Ruins” to obscure their faces. | Bottom: A redux of the infamous RAM staircase photo was taken in June 2022, there is a filter applied making it appear to be drawn with pastels. Most of the members shown here are either wearing masks or have had their faces blurred, while others like Grady Mayfield and Robert Wheldon choose to show us exactly who they are. This time the white block letter “R.A.M.” is on the bottom right corner and the screenshot caption reads: “Rise Above Movement 2022”. To the right, another photo redux (because why have sort of original idea), has the same group of guys from June 2022 on the same staircase with books that they’ve likely never read used as props to obscure their identities (nice try by the way).
It’s like 2017 all over again, but somehow worse.

All of this appears to be a rather transparent attempt to rebrand SoCal Active Club as RAM Redux— and just in time for the gathering of various violent fascist factions.

Another Telegram post hinted at an upcoming joint venture between the groups. It featured Mayfield, SoCal Active Club and an assortment of skinheads posing for yet another recreated RAM photo and said, “SoCal uber alles. We got more in the works.”

Photos taken from the same propaganda shoots were also reused by Patriot Front. Though there obviously exists a close alliance between the two groups, Patriot Front presented the photos as if they only contained members of their organization and made no mention of SoCal Active Club, the OC Hammerskins or the other groups many of the men actually belong to.

UNIFYING WHITE SUPREMACISTS, ONE VIOLENT TOURNAMENT AT A TIME

Whether or not SoCal Active Club actually does manage to become a prominent presence within the U.S. white nationalist scene remains to be seen. The overall concern, of which all active clubs are a major part of, is the attempt to establish coordinated, organized and centralized neo-Nazi fight tournaments. When violence is a movement’s biggest motivation, could there even be an easier way to unite the various factions within it?

If the online reactions of white supremacists to the event are any indication, the answer is ‘no’— and there’s already enthusiastic discussion about the date and locations for future MMA tournaments, including October 1 in Tennessee and a second San Diego event in December.

images of Patriot Front members posing in front of a house alongside fight participants wearing capes and boxing gloves with a separate google earth image of the house they stood in front of below
A comparison of Media2Rise propaganda to a Google Earth image of the building adjacent to the warehouse the fights were held in.

On August 27, Media2Rise released a cringe-inducing promotional trailer on their Telegram channel. The organizers claimed that the event was held in Huntington Beach, and even went so far as to include outdated aerial footage of the pier, in an effort to conceal the actual location— which has since been found and confirmed. 

The organizers kept the tournament’s location secret, but LCRW identified it from their propaganda footage. However, we won’t name the business because it was clear to us the owner didn’t realize what he was getting into and didn’t approve of what took place once properly informed. The owner told LCRW the neo-Nazis had rented out the space from him, but said the group didn’t tell him who they were and that he wasn’t aware they were neo-Nazis until LCRW contacted him. The owner did not wish to make a public statement but told LCRW he won’t do business with that group again. 

LCRW also sent the owner a list of resources on the neo-Nazis involved in the tournament and offered to consult with the business and anyone they know in the community any time there’s a threat from hate groups trying to organize in their area. If you suspect a hate group is trying to use your business to organize—or, in general, if you suspect a hate group is organizing near you, reach LCRW at leftcoastrightwatch@protonmail.com.

SOCAL RESEARCH CLUB

SoCal Research Club is an independent research cooperative monitoring far-right extremism in Southern California, with a focus on local active clubs, neo-Nazi crews and affiliated hate groups, their online spaces and the connections between broader extremist networks. 

You can find them on Twitter @SCResearchClub.

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