The first two episodes of Mayans M.C.'s third season premiered on Tuesday and introduced several intense storylines. One featured the other clubs and their presidents, a group that included an actor from the Frank Grillo-led MMA series Kingdom. Several fans recognized the visage of popular referee Mike Beltran.
The real-life referee made appearances in both episodes while returning to the role of Ibarra, the leader of the Tuscon chapter of the Mayans. He is easily recognizable due to the long facial hair that has graced several MMA fights in recent years. The first episode shows a quick glimpse of Beltran as he stands on a bridge, but he has an expanded role during the second. The Tuscon president sits down at the table to discuss a major proposition.
@MayansFX on @FXNetworks and @hulu didn’t disappoint. Wow, what an awesome experience playing Presidente Ibarra, Mayans Tucson, Az Chapter Prez. Everyone on set treated me well and helped me out. Gracias @thereal_Rocco @JDPardo @lvnproof619 and @EmilioRivera48 pic.twitter.com/7DlUS5eFjk— Mike Beltran (@RefMikeBeltran) March 17, 2021
A former United States Marine, Beltran first fell in love with the sport of Mixed Martial Arts after beginning to train in Santa Fe Springs. He went to several shows and decided that he could become a referee, leading to a fateful meeting with legendary referee "Big" John McCarthy. Beltran has since presided over several bouts during his career, including one featuring Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson. He is also the man who oversaw the majority of fights during Kingdom's three seasons while adding a level of authenticity to the series.
"I did some small B-movies back in the day, as a referee, because they needed some guy to jump in there, so I did it," Beltran told The Athletic in 2020. "But Kingdom was the first breakthrough for me, which got me introduced to the world of Hollywood. Jonathan Tucker, Matt Lauria, Frank Grillo, and all those guys. Actually, Jonathan Tucker came out to see my son wrestle for the first time as a freshman, see him get his first victory."
During its time on DirecTV, Kingdom drew praise from critics, but it experienced lower ratings overall. The show has since found new life on Netflix, and many viewers are raving about Grillo and his co-stars, as well as the stories they told during the three-season run. They have also called for a fourth season to tie up some intense loose ends. However, Grillo has cast doubts that these episodes will ever materialize.
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"We’re all in different places four years later, and we’re doing different things," says Grillo. "The idea of it would be awesome, but I think the show ended perfectly. I really do. It ended the way it should end, and to try to come back and try to recapture lightning in a bottle is a very dangerous thing."
Kingdom starred Grillo as Alvey Kulina, a former MMA fighter, gym owner, and father. Nick Jonas and Jonathan Tucker (Justified) played his sons in the series. Kingdom also starred Matt Lauria, Kiele Sanchez, Joanna Going, Paul Walter Hauser, and Mac Brandt. The series revolved around Navy Street, the gym where retired MMA fighter Kulina trains his sons and other fighters. Beltran regularly appeared as the referee for the high-profile fights.