King of the Cage to be a knockout

TJ MADIGAN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:22 PM ET

Make no mistake about it. At tonight's King of the Cage show at the Stampede Corral, there will be brutal hits and vicious body checks, light years beyond what a certain Anaheim hockey club complained about this past week.

But mixed-martial arts isn't the no-holds-barred street fight its detractors paint it as and none of the participants are thugs looking for a chance to beat the tar out of some random stranger.

Just like in hockey, gymnastics and athletics, MMA fighters are highly-trained, dedicated athletes who are simply following their dream -- albeit along a less-travelled road.

Ben Tycholiz is a young Calgarian who has never fought in a cage before. He debuts tonight and how he'll fare is anybody's guess. There are no dress rehearsals or dry runs. So, after months of training, Tycholiz will jump in the deep end and see if he can stay afloat.

If he can't, the risk of injury is always a looming threat. But if he delivers the goods, Tycholiz has the marketable good looks and likability which could ensure him MMA stardom down the road.

Orlando Ruiz wasn't approached to appear at tonight's show but offered to pay for his own flight from his native Puerto Rico to compete for the World Lightweight title. It's a huge investment, especially for someone living on a fighter's budget.

But Ruiz is willing to take the financial gamble. If he wins the belt, he will receive a guaranteed multi-fight deal with King of the Cage and take his dream to the next level.

Rebecca Sweeney is a 37-year old mother from Ontario. With the support of her 16-year-old daughter, Sweeney is breaking down barriers and pioneering the role of women in cage fighting.

Her match with Thricia Poovey of New Mexico will be the first female MMA bout ever in Calgary.

Vancouver's Blake Frederickson got the call just a few weeks ago, asking if he would fill in for an injured fighter in the welterweight title match.

Most fighters decline matches on short notice because of the incredible amount of physical and mental preparation needed before a cage battle. Fredrickson took up the challenge and will arrive in the octagon ready to rumble.

"The dedication these guys have is incredible," said Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman Sheldon Napastuk, who will be taking in the show at the Corral tonight. "It's fascinating when you understand the technique and psychology of what they do. The audience is more educated about that now. They see it's not just two guys beating each other up. There's so much skill, sacrifice and intense training involved in what they do."

Napastuk incorporates MMA training into his CFL fitness regime. King of the Cage: Karnage starts at 7 p.m. at the Corral, with tickets available at the door or from Ticketmaster. The show will be broadcast as a series of weekly specials on TSN later this year.


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