Some wannabe fighters in Edmonton are being used as punching bags by promoters exploiting the growing interest in mixed martial arts bouts, say locals in the industry.
One martial arts instructor said he has seen some guys signed to fight before they've even fought in training. Another green student was plucked from his task setting up the ring to fill a hole in a fight card, said instructor Michael Woodford of Edmonton Mixed Martial Arts, 7361 104 St., yesterday.
"I think (the promoters) either just trying to get some blood, or trying to pad someone's stats," he said, adding that a number of his inexperienced students have been recruited. "I think it's commonplace right now."
He said he was shocked by one student who showed up with a fight contract almost as soon as he joined his program.
"I'm like, 'who would sign you to a contract? You haven't even sparred here yet,' " said Woodford.
The student replied: "Oh no, they said they'll match me with someone at my level."
"Well, someone at that level, you guys won't even know how to block," said Woodford.
"It's bothering me because what are the ethics of throwing (inexperienced) people in the ring? Wouldn't you want to check out if they've fought - if they know how to fight?" he said.
Novice fighters who take bouts with sleazy promoters are putting themselves in unnecessary and unpredictable danger, said the president of Canada's largest MMA league, based in Edmonton.
"When I go to a hockey game, I get 20 guys coming up to me asking about fighting," said Mark Pavelich, president of Maximum Fighting Championship. "I say show up to the gym."
He said the financial success of some promoters - Pavelich boasted that everyone in his family drives a Mercedes for working in the league - have drawn a rush of half-hearted imitators.
They cut corners, he said, to save costs. Many do it as a part-time job.
"There's a lot of non-knowledge people involved in MMA in Edmonton," he said. "The ones in this town are a disgrace to MMA.
"I have the inclination that they're using low-level fighters. They have Joe fighter who's 1-0 versus Joe fighter who's also 1-0. His buddy is in the corner. He doesn't know MMA. He's just holding a bucket."
Pavelich said his company gets up to 300 people applying each month to fight, as well as signing up on the league's website.
Lots of sports fans and self-described tough guys apply.
"There's lots of that, but we don't entertain them. We put them under the file of wannabe," said Pavelich.
Pavelich said his league researches its fighter's training and match background and runs a gamut of medical tests - as required by Edmonton combat commissions.
He said his league pays at minimum $750 per fight, win or lose. But others may pay as little as $100, he said.
A Fort McMurray fighter - who was professionally trained and fighting with doctors at ringside - learned the ropes Friday when he was beaten until his lungs filled with blood and his face bled internally following a match. He's now recovering in hospital.