Freedom Fighters top hit parade

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:22 PM ET

They call him "Farmer."

Surely, it has to be because Craig Brown, a locally grown Freedom Fighter, developed the strength to plow opponents with jaw-planting rights by heaving bails of hay on the family spread -- along with milking the cows and doing his other chores, right?

Wrong, the ''Farmer'' says yesterday during a trip to the Market.

"It's because I'm from Kemptville," Brown, a 29-year old government worker currently on "daddy leave," explained as he leaned back in his chair at the Hard Rock Cafe. "I've never even been on a farm.

"I'm just a big, strong kid. I don't work out. I'm like a farm boy."

Finding out first hand tonight at the Palais des Congres in Gatineau will be John Clarke of New Haven Conn., as he squares off with ''Farmer'' Brown in one of 10 bouts in a joint effort between Freedom Fight Productions and Apex Championship Fighting.

Five of the 22 combatants are from Ottawa and area -- Brown, Nick Castiglia, Jamie Hellmer, Mark Holst and Nabil Khatib.

Freedom fighting combines boxing, grappling and every other martial art known to mankind, and differs from Ultimate Fighting in that it is held inside a ring, not a cage.

DEBUT LAST SUMMER

It was a big hit when it debuted in this area at the Robert Guertin Centre last July, and Freedom Fight Productions owner Pete Rodley is excited to see an even better response this time.

As of yesterday, less than 300 of the 2,200 tickets for tonight's card were still available.

"To me it's the most dynamic sport in the world," said Rodley, who has a four-event deal with TSN. "If you're going to win in the Freedom ring, you're going to be a warrior."

Despite its vicious moments, Rodley says the sport is not dangerous -- tonight's card, which also has six Canada-vs.-USA bouts, is sanctioned by the Quebec Athletic Commission -- and that in his 11 years of involvement he has not witnessed a single serious injury.

"Over 150 fights and I've only had one night (taking a combatant) to the hospital," he said. "And that was because of dehydration."

''Farmer'' Brown also says there's no fear of injury, although his wife Carrie-Anne doesn't believe it. She will only watch his bouts on tape, after she knows he survived safely.

"You'll never get hurt in this ring, never," said Brown. "The ref is there to stop it, even if you're too dumb to tap out.

"For 15 minutes of work, I get paid very well. But I've got to look after my kid (Lochlan) for two months before I go back to work,'' he said. ''I'm not going to let somebody break my arm."

At the same time, tonight's main event is between a couple of 200-pounders who were invited back by the demand of fans.

CONFIDENT OPPONENTS

Montreal's Stephen Potvin has an "axe kick" that left the mat red with blood last time he was here, and Art Santore, from Temecula, S.C., really does not want to walk into.

"I'm thinking I'll win in the second round, submission, arm triangle," Santore, clearly not concerned about tipping his game plan in the newspaper, says of the move that has worked well for him in his last two fights. "I'm giving him a little heads-up."

Potvin is also confident.

"I expect a good fight, a clean fight," said Potvin, who is also calling for a second-round victory. "And more blood."

AT A GLANCE

- What: Freedom Fight

- Where: Palais des Congres

- When: Tonight (doors open at 6 p.m., first bout at 7 p.m.)

- Ticket prices: $35 and up (at the door); for the last of the preferred $100 tickets, call the Freedom Fight Box Office (705-662-3483)

- The Card: Nick Castiglia (Ottawa) vs. Dan Grandmaison (Sudbury)

Jamie Hellmer (Ottawa) vs. Jerry Spiegel (Albany)

Randy Newell (Kitchener) vs. Shaun Krysa (Georgetown)

Mark Holst (Ottawa) vs. Shane Savage (Barrie)

Nabil Khatib (Rockland) vs. Chester Post (Strathroy)

Kevin Manderson (Winnipeg) vs. Nuri Shakir (Nashua, N.H.)

Wagnney Fabiano (Toronto) vs. Matt Fiordirosa (Fox Lake, Ill.)

Craig "Farmer" Brown (Ottawa) vs. John Clarke (New Haven, Conn.)

Nick Rondinelli (London) vs. Kevin Engel (St. Louis)

Stephen Potvin (Montreal) vs. Art Santore (Temecula, S.C.)

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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