MMA Expo getting plenty of attention

MATT KIELTYKA, 24 HOURS

, Last Updated: 5:23 PM ET

Mixed Martial Arts is big business and you don’t need to look further than next month’s MMA Expo at the Abbotsford Tradex Exhibition Centre for proof.

Stars from the combat sport’s past and present – including the likes of Shonie Carter, Sean Sherk, Bas Rutten, Clay Guida, and Bibiano Fernandez – will be on hand to meet and greet fans at the expo which takes place April 10 and 11.

The sheer volume of vendors, autograph sessions, fight seminars and tournaments stuffed into the two-day event proves just how popular MMA has become, according to Toronto-based organizer Gerald Chopik.

“We started this a few years ago and it was an uphill battle,” said Chopik, who also runs the MMA Expo in Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia and Atlantic City. “People really didn’t get it. But now this is part of the mainstream. The industry has really come on big.”

And the key word is industry.

Countless MMA gyms have popped up across the country and the demand for trainers, fight gear and live events is at an all-time high.

And then there are the millions of fans who don’t fight, but have jumped on the bandwagon and snapped up every new Tapout shirt.

“It’s somewhat about the fights but also about the party,” said Chopik. “There is a whole lifestyle around it that is very attractive to the 18- to 35-year-old demographic.”

The expo comes to Vancouver at an opportune time.

The City of Vancouver is currently in discussions with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to iron out the final regulatory and insurance details needed for the popular professional circuit to host a pay-per-view event at GM Place June 12.

The city’s deputy chief licence inspector, Tom Hamill, said the deal could be finalized in a “couple of weeks.”

Honour Combat Championship, the organization that held an amateur event at the Edgewater Casino in November, is looking at a May 7 date for their second show at the Plaza of Nations but has yet to confirm details.

Several other organizations are trying to get in on the action, but are waiting – some impatiently – for the city to get a licensing framework in place.

“Vancouver is a hot area and there is a lot going on out there,” said Chopik.

For more information on the expo, visit mixedmartialartsexpo.com.


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