Border war takes to ring

MIKE BEASLEY -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:42 PM ET

Even though the Gatineau Olympiques season is still a couple of months away, there will be some serious brawling going on tonight at the Robert Guertin Arena.

Honour, pride and North American bragging rights will be on the line as the best Mixed Martial Artists from Canada and the U.S. square off at Freedom Fight 2005.

Nine extreme fights will be held over the course of the evening, highlighted by the five Canada-U.S. bouts which involve two teams of five fighters each. They will throw punches and deliver round-house kicks in three five-minute rounds.

The other four bouts will feature fighters from throughout North America.

ANXIOUS TO START

Freedom Fight owner and promoter Pete Rodley appeared to have more butterflies in his stomach than most of the participants at yesterday's official weigh-in at a restaurant in the Byward Market. Rodley couldn't wait for the bell to ring at tonight's fights.

As the fighters stepped on the scales and struck a pose for the cameras, Rodley explained how the event came together.

''A lot of the Canadian fighters were tired of going to the States to fight in high-profile events,'' he said. ''We (Freedom Fight Productions) decided to bring a high-profile show with an Olympic theme to Canada so that the fighters could be showcased at home. Our goal is to create several events like this throughout the world.

''Unfortunately, the event could not be sanctioned in Ontario although we have done our best to incorporate the Ontario market with our pre-fight activities. Only the fights will be in Quebec.''

American Tito Ortez, one of the most recognized Mixed Martial Artists in the world, has lent his very large hand to the cause as captain of the U.S. squad. Gary ''Big Daddy'' Goodridge will captain the Canadian side.

Ortez likes the direction his sport is taking and predicts a prosperous future for Mixed Martial Artists.

''Bringing an event like this to Canada is pretty historical,'' Ortez said. ''It's a true indication that MAA is getting bigger and bigger everywhere.

''It seems that it took boxing 100 years to accomplish what we've done in 10 years. It just shows how fast and so much better the athletes are now,'' he said. ''The athletes are not just street fighters or bar brawling guys like they were in the beginning. Everything is sanctioned now with rules, mandatory gloves, mandatory weight classes, rounds and can be looked at as a professional sport.''

Ortez expects an exciting show tonight and that fans will get their money's worth.

''Mixed Martial Arts is not like boxing where guys are just punching each other the whole time, it's like a chess match,'' he said. ''During one of our bouts, you'll see submissions, chokes, kicks, knees and elbows. There is so many different ways of winning a match, that's what makes it so exciting for the fans.

''I really believe that the sport can only get better and attract more and more fans, both male and female.''

Goodridge, though, believes it may take awhile for the sport to catch on in Canada, but has noticed a change in attitude here.

''Canadians seem to be losing the attitude that MAA is taboo and that it was like a human cock fight,'' Goodridge said. ''More and more people want to come out and see the sport live. Unfortunately, it seems to be the politicians and some decision-makers keep pushing it under the table. But a lot of people are starting to catch on. It's just a sport, people like violence, they like this kind of stuff.''

FREEDOM FIGHT 2005

Canada vs. U.S. match

Following is tonight's card at Robert Guertin Arena (doors open at 6:30 p.m.; fights start at 7:30 p.m.)

- # 1. Craig ''Farmer'' Brown vs. Ricardeau ''Long Play'' Francois

- # 2. Jeremy ''Lightning'' Bolt vs. Richard ''The Monkey'' Nancoo

- # 3. Krysztof ''The Experiment'' Soszynski (Winnipeg) vs. Matt ''Suave'' Horwich

- # 4. Jon Fitch (Fort Wayne, Ind.) vs. Jeff Joslin (Hamilton)

- # 5. Tyrone ''Native Warrior'' Roberts vs. Stephane Potvin

- # 6. ''Big'' Lavar Johnson (Fresno, Calif.) vs. Todd Gouwenberg (Langley, B.C.)

- # 7. Tim ''Wrecking Machine'' McKenzie (Stockton, Calif.) vs. Bill ''The Butcher'' Mahood (Prince George, B.C.)

- # 8. ''King'' James Martinez vs. Richard ''Cleat'' Crunkilton

- # 9. Art ''Pachuco'' Santore (Temecula, Calif.) vs. Joe ''El Dirte'' Doerksen (Bothwell, Man.)


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