More rage in the cage

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 6:50 AM ET

Edmonton has long been recognized as a big puncher in Canada - one of the country's hotbeds for hosting boxing and wrestling events.

But the next generation of fighting - mixed martial arts - has captured the city's attention with two brands bringing shows to town.

The Maximum Fighting Championships returns after a year-long layoff with a show Sept. 9 at Shaw Conference Centre, and King of the Cage is back for the second time this year Oct. 1 at Northlands AgriCom.

SANCTIONED

Gone are the days of no-holds barred fighting - which included low blows, headbutts and considerable weight-class mismatches. Both the MFC and KOTC are fully sanctioned by the Edmonton Boxing and Wrestling Commission.

"This is a legitimate sport," said Mark Pavelich, head huncho of the MFC.

"These athletes are some of the best in the world. It is way more exciting than wrestling or boxing, and more real then both of them put together."

The KOTC drew more than 4,500 to the AgriCom on its previous visit, while the MFC had crowds of more than 4,000 and 3,500 for shows there in 2002 and 2003.

In some corners, controversy still follows the sport, which combines elements of boxing, amateur wrestling, Thai- and Brazilian-style fighting and other martial arts.

Northlands Park received e-mails and calls of condemnation for staging the King of the Cage event back in April, but any complaints to Shaw Conference Centre will be shrugged off.

"I have absolutely no problem with this," said Sam Cordeiro, client services manager for the Shaw.

"Remember, I'm the guy who brought Marilyn Manson here."

The MFC card will be headlined by a light-heavyweight showdown between Jason MacDonald and Chris Fontaine. Also slated to appear is legendary three-time champ Dan (The Beast) Severn, against an as-yet-unnamed opponent.

The King of the Cage card will feature Canada's first-ever female scrap.

Both groups can thank mainstream television for increasing their exposure and fan base.

"People who have never seen it believe it is barbaric," said Keith Crawfrod, KOTC's Alberta co-promoter.

"But now that the sport has been on mainstream TV, they've seen how conditioned these athletes are, the different techniques and skills they have.

"This is not guys getting the crap kicked out of them by people who have no skills whatsoever."

Pavelich took it one step further.

"When people talk about the best fighter ever, they say Sugar Ray Leonard or Sugar Ray Robinson or Jack Dempsey.

"In this day and age, the best fighters are mixed martial arts fighters, not boxers.

"If I put my fighter Jason MacDonald up against Mike Tyson, he'd beat Tyson inside of one round.

"There's still a stigma attached to the sport, but it's by people who live by the motto that ignorance is bliss."

COMPETING

While the two brands may be competing with each other, there is also the feeling they can simultaneously grow in support.

"I'm very happy that there are two promotions. It's just better for the sport," added Crawford.

Tickets for both shows are on sale through Ticketmaster.

The MFC event will be taped for pay-per-view on Viewer's Choice, while the KOTC show will be segmented into four one-hour episodes for tape-delay telecast on TSN.


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