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MMA veterans Alexis Vila, Ariel Gandulla alleged to have involvement in 2011 kidnap, murder

Mugshot for Alexis Vila
Miami-Dade Police

Two veteran mixed martial arts fighters are being charged for their alleged roles in a 2011 murder plot.

Alexis Vila and Ariel Gandulla were allegedly involved in the kidnapping and murder of a man who was having an affair with Vila’s friend’s wife, per an affidavit obtained from the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s office by MMA Fighting. Both Vila and Gandulla are being charged with second-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping, per the affidavit.

Vila was arrested April 17. He is currently being held without bond and with a pending immigration hold at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami, per online records. Vila’s arraignment is scheduled for May 10, according to a state attorney spokesperson.

Another man alleged to have participated in the plot, Roberto Isaac, was arrested April 11 and is being held at Metro West Detention Center in Miami, per online records. It’s unclear if Gandulla has been arrested. Request for comment from the Miami-Dade police was not returned Thursday.

Per a 17-page affidavit written by Miami-Dade police detective Christopher Villano, Gandulla and Isaac are believed to have kidnapped the victim, Camilo Salazar, on June 1, 2011 on the behalf of Manuel Marin and Vila. Salazar was having an affair with Marin’s wife, Jenny. Police believe, through cell phone site and vehicle technology records, that Marin later joined Gandulla and Isaac near the place where Salazar was seemingly killed.

Salazar’s body was found burning on the side of a road in Miami-Dade County the night of June 1, per the affidavit. His hands were bound and his body was partially burnt. An autopsy concluded that Salazar sustained multiple blunt force injuries to the head, a slit throat and burns to his pelvic area.

Cell phone records show, per the affidavit, that Marin, Isaac, Gandulla and Vila had been in contact with each other throughout that day. Vila was in Las Vegas, not Florida, on the day in question. But the police believe Vila was the common link between Isaac, Gandulla and Marin. Gandulla’s finger print was found on Salazar’s car, per the affidavit.

Marin left the country for Europe in the days following the murder seven years ago and has yet to return, leaving behind his wife and two children, the affidavit read. Police believe he left the United States to avoid charges.

Per the affidavit, Vila and Gandulla have known each for years as friends and training partners. Gandulla is a former cornerman of Vila for MMA fights. Vila met Isaac after Vila got out of prison in 2007. Vila was charged at that time for driving his vehicle into a terminal at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Gandulla told police that he steered clear of Isaac, because of his alleged involvement with the Latin Kings gang.

The relationship between Vila and Marin goes back to 1993 and their days in Cuba. Per the affidavit, Vila considers Marin a father figure and Marin assisted in Vila coming to the United States after he defected from Cuba to Puerto Rico. Marin hired Vila for a job at his supermarket and helped Vila open a wrestling studio, per the affidavit.

Isaac and Gandulla told police that they did not know Marin.

Vila, 47, debuted in Bellator just three months after Salazar’s murder. He knocked out Joe Warren in September 2011, which remains his best career victory. Vila followed that up with a win over Marcos Galvao, who later won the Bellator bantamweight title. Vila has compiled a 15-7 record in MMA, last competing for Titan FC in 2016. He also fought for World Series of Fighting.

Gandulla, 41, fought twice in WEC, once challenging Doug Marshall for that promotion’s light heavyweight title in 2007. He has not fought since 2015 and holds an 8-9 record in MMA.

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