Saturday night's all right for fighting

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:49 PM ET

Ashort stagger from the downtown alleys of Hull, where guys who'd consumed too many liquids used to end their Saturdays by pounding each other, perfectly sober gentlemen were doing likewise at the Palais des Congres last night.

A lot of people paid good money and brought pretty dates to see it happen, too.

With top tickets going for $200, all 2,200 available seats were rented out as Freedom Fighting returned to Gatineau for the second time in six months.

"We're very pleased with the reception from the people of Ottawa-Gatineau," said promoter Pete Rodley. "As I'm watching this show, I'm matchmaking for the next show, which I plan to bring back here in six months."

Kicking off the evening was Ottawa social worker Nick Castiglia, who connected with a left foot to the, ahem, jewels, of his opponent, Sudbury's Dan Grandmaison.

Incorrectly introduced as a "singer" before the fight, Grandmaison was reaching high notes while the first bout of the evening was paused for about five minutes after that first blow.

"I misjudged the kick and it caught me clean, right underneath," explained Grandmaison, an automotive technician/mechanic in the Nickel City. "Accidents happen, and he said he was sorry.

"You have to take some time after a kick to the groin, to get that feeling out of your stomach. But I'll always continue no matter what the pain is like."

Apparently, so will Ottawa's Jamie Hellmer. Talk about balls.

Making his first appearance in the no-rules, mixed martial arts ring, the software engineer at a hi-tech company in Kanata broke his left hand in the first round of his fight against Albany's Jerry Spiegel.

Did he quit? Not a chance, but Hellmer, while icing a swollen lip under a battered nose, did admit the busted mitt "threw him off a bit."

Not enough to keep him from winning the three-round bout, by unanimous decision.

"I've got heart, but I've got skill, too," said Hellmer. "It's hard out there. You use about 15% of what you train, and everything else is thrown out the window. And then there's the nerves, in front of a big crowd ...."

So why do it? Why put your body through the training, then take such a beating, for a few hundred dollars? Why, when you're an otherwise sane professional with an office job?

"It's a good question," Hellmer's friend/trainer tells him while applying ice to the fighters hand.

"I don't know," Hellmer says. "It's pretty exciting."

No doubt.

The biggest name in the place last night was that of Dan "Hollywood" Henderson, who recently won the Pride welterweight championship in Japan and has a very nice belt to show for it.

He was a spectator at Freedom Fight 2006, however, watching the construction workers, techies and mechanics knock each other silly for much less than the couple of hundred grand Henderson would make for a fight in the Orient.

For Nabil Khatib, this was a chance to promote his (Team Bushido) Martial Arts school in Rockland, and he did so in fine fashion, surviving some early shots and blood loss to TKO Chester Post of Strathroy in the first round.

"It's a good rush," said Khatib, who grew up in Ottawa and had 18 sponsors for the event. Of fighting with the hometown support, he added: "I can go out and have the crowd cheer for me, and it makes me fight harder. Other times, when I've been somewhere I've been booed, I fight even harder. It works both ways."

American Art Santore, a concrete estimator, says training for an MMA fight such as this gives him reason to get in shape. Craig "Farmer" Brown of Kemptville likes that part of it, too. Brown, whose normal "walking around weight" is 225-230, dropped 30 lbs. to make the limit.

He had big plans for after the fight, though.

"I'm going to drink a lot of beer," he said.

He was certainly in the right neighbourhood for it.

FREEDOM FIGHT RESULTS

- Dan Grandmaison (Sudbury) def. Nick Castiglia (Ottawa) TKO, third round.

- Shaun Krysa (Georgetown) def. Randy Newell (Kitchener), submission, first round.

- Jamie Hellmer (Ottawa) def. Jerry Spiegel (Albany), unanimous decision.

- Mark Holst (Ottawa) def. Shane Savage (Barrie), TKO, first round.

- Nabil Khatib (Rockland) def. Chester Post (Strathroy), TKO, first round.

- Nuri Shakir (New Hampshire) def. Kevin Manderson (Winnipeg), TKO, first round.

- Wagnney Fabiano (Toronto) def. Matt Fiordirosa (Fox Lake, Ill.), unanimous decision.

- Craig "Farmer" Brown (Kemptville) def. John Clarke (New Haven, Conn.) TKO, second round.

- Kevin Engel (St. Louis) def. Nick Rondinelli (London), KO, second round.

- Stephen Potvin (Montreal) def. Art Santore (Temecula, Ca.) decision.

- Team Canada def. Team USA 3-2.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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