Wall to wall fights

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Giuseppe DeNatale had to leave the country to get the inspiration to formulate what he hopes will one day be Canada's top fight promotion.

"We're in Winnipeg, but it really looks like we're in Las Vegas with a Japan touch to it," DeNatale said last night as he surveyed the raucous scene at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. "I was inspired in November, when I was cornering (former Winnipeg UFC fighter) Joe Doerksen in Japan. I saw the setup there, the big screens, the big walkway, the all-white ring. What I saw, I did."

Relatively new

Did he ever. DeNatale, who is relatively new to the promotional game, came back from Japan and created the Canadian Fighting Championship, or CFC as he hopes to brand it.

Last night was the inaugural CFC show, consisting of seven mixed martial arts bouts and three Muay Thai kickboxing tilts. The latter is near and dear to DeNatale's heart, as he was a former kickboxing champ himself until a car crash several years ago ended his career.

Three large video screens were up on the wall last night, allowing spectators to see the blood-soaked action up close no matter where they sat. The large walkway paraded the fighters through the crowd while their motivational music blared over the speakers.

"We have about 2,500 out right now," DeNatale said. "This is the biggest fight event in the last couple of years. It's probably the biggest fight event since the last time I fought in Winnipeg, and that's no bulls---."

Local celebrities like Blue Bombers Doug Brown and Obby Khan were in the crowd. A pair of bikini-clad women served as ring card girls. The Fight Network was on hand to film the 10-fight card, which it will air later this month.

It was all part of DeNatale's plan to build the CFC into something special north of the border.

"The goal is to build a brand with our national TV deals, to build a brand where we're the leader in fighting and mixed martial arts in Canada," DeNatale said.

Winnipeg's Bobby Mottola, who owns Pizzeria Gusto, has been to almost every fight card in Winnipeg for the last decade, and last night's endeavour was the best one he's seen yet.

"It's really second to none," Mottola said. "Giuseppe DeNatale has pulled out all the stops. I guess he's trying to mimic the UFC type of a feel. You walk in, and you truly don't think that you're still in Winnipeg. The fights are good, they're well-matched, the room is great. It's set up really well.

"Whatever he did, he did it right. He did it because he wants to make himself one-stop shopping for this kind of sport in Winnipeg."

Last night's undercard featured several fighters who have headlined other promotions, including Lindsey Hawkes, Robin Black and Chris Fontaine.

"I'm bringing the fight game in Winnipeg, and Canada for that matter, to a new level," DeNatale said. "High-level Muay Thai kickboxing and good mixed martial arts is what you're going to see in the CFC.

"You're not going to see entry-level fighting. You're not going to see novice fighters. You're going to see well-experienced fighters. ... Everyone is well-matched. There are no tomato cans."

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THE RESULTS

Undercard

- Muay Thai -- Jon Henderson, Winnipeg, def. Justin Smethurst, Windsor, Ont. (TKO, 1:46, second round)

- MMA -- Eric Perez, Wpg., def. Dean Lewis, Ft. McMurray, Alta. (unanimous decision)

- Muay Thai -- Mark Durant, Wpg., def. Neal Fox, Milwaukee (unanimous decision)

- MMA -- Dominick Blais, Wpg., def. Corey Knapp, Edmonton (rear naked choke, 1:01, first round)

- MMA -- Lindsey Hawkes, Wpg., def. Joseph Latour, Brampton, Ont. (TKO, 41 seconds, first round)

- MMA -- Robin Black, Toronto, def. Stephane Poirier, Moncton, (triangle choke, 2:57, first round)

- MMA -- Chris Fontaine, Wpg., def. Dan Chambers, Lethbridge, Alta., guillotine choke, 1:10, first round)

- MMA -- Justin Barnard, Wpg., def. Brandon McArthur, Fernie, B.C. (unanimous decision)

Co-Main Event

- MMA -- Rodrigo Munduruca, Wpg., def. Heath Roth, Blaine, Minn. (arm bar, 36 seconds, first round)

Main Event

- Muay Thai -- Dave Zuniga, Wpg., vs. Mark Holst, Ottawa, late


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