Mugger picks wrong victim: MMA fighter

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A convicted felon chose the wrong victim when he tried to rob an ultimate fighting champion Friday night on the Southwest Side and ended up with two black eyes and a gunshot wound to the ankle. Police say 24-year-old Anthony Miranda walked up to a car which was parked near 55th and Kenneth about 11:30 p.m. and asked the driver for a lighter.

“Justin” is 6 feet 2, 250 pounds, with a build that looks like it could split open a suit jacket during a particularly violent sneeze.

But the mixed martial arts expert from Des Plaines insists it was his “training,” not brawn, that allowed him to wrench a loaded pistol from the hand of an alleged mugger who had the weapon pointed at his chest Friday night on the Southwest Side.

“I don’t feel like a hero,” said Justin, who did not want his last name used. “Training matters. If you’re well trained, you have a chance to survive.”

Anthony Miranda’s bruised and battered face – and Justin’s unblemished, chiseled one – leaves no doubt about who came out the victor in the encounter.

On Sunday, Miranda, a 24-year-old felon, was ordered held on $350,000 bond, following a hearing at the 26th and California courthouse. He is charged with armed robbery and aggravated discharge of a firearm in the alleged attack. Police say Miranda shot his own ankle during the struggle with the gun.

Justin, who says he hails from Romania, was happy to talk about the encounter, which he said happened around 11:30 p.m. while he was waiting in his parked car for a buddy to arrive. Justin made it clear there would be no photographs taken during this interview – not even one that showed only his torso.

Justin said Miranda originally approached him and asked if he could have a light for a cigarette. Justin replied that he does not smoke. That’s when Miranda pulled out a gun and shoved it against the side of his head, Justin said.

“He asked me for my wallet, for my phone and my keys,” Justin explained. “I told him I don’t have a wallet, I only have cash. He cursed me – like ‘m—–f—–.’”

Justin said he handed over the $30 in cash he had stuffed in a his car’s cup holder, but Miranda was not satisfied, Justin said.

“At that moment, he backs up the gun and he racks it,” Justin recalled. “The gun jammed. He racked it a second time. He ejected the bullet on the ground. He went down and grabbed the bullet and said, ‘Look, m—–f—–, it’s a hollow point. I’ll blow your brains out.’”

That’s when Miranda ordered him out of the car, Justin said.

Justin said he looked at the man facing him, pistol pointing at his chest, and was pretty certain he was about to take a bullet.

“I wasn’t scared because I’m trained,” Justin explained.

Justin then demonstrated to a reporter the sudden, rather effective maneuver that disarmed his attacker.

“The round went off,” Justin continued. “I put him down to the ground. He was fighting. He didn’t want to give up.”

But at the same time, Justin said: “He was begging me to let him go. He said he has a baby.”

Justin then kept his attacker collared until police arrived.

Asked about his training, Justin offered only vague hints at his background: “Former military,” “high-risk training,” “Hostage rescue.”

He said he makes a living in a variety of ways: “Sometimes I do clubs. I do close protection.”

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