Pride drives 'The Thrill's' ring adventures

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

Finally, Nabil "The Thrill" Khatib can step back, relax and just fight.

No more promoting. No more ticket pushing and delivering. No more sponsorship securing. No more training.

No, it's time to climb into the ring and merely try and out-think and outmaneuver a hungry, determined opponent.

The insanely busy time is over.

Now the job gets hard.

"He's supposed to be a good wrestler," The Thrill says of Ryan "Gatling Guns" Gabourie, whom he faces tonight on the mixed martial arts Apex Evolution. "I heard he wants to knock me out."

That will be easier said than done.

The middleweight superbout showdown is one of 11 fights fans will pay between $20-$200 to see at Palais des Congres in Gatineau.

And if it's anything like a similar card at that venue in January, they'll certainly get their money's worth.

"We'll have over 2,000, which is pretty much a sellout," says Alex Caporicci, one of the show's promoters. "But we'd really like to have to turn people away at the door."

Khatib, who owns his own martial arts school (Team Bushido) in Rockland, is not only one of the evening's attractions but, like other fighters, was also charged with helping round up fans for the seats.

For the show five months ago, he sold $10,000 worth of tickets. For another in Montreal last May, he brought in $5,000 worth.

"I look at it as a business," said Khatib, who has landed himself 17 sponsors. "You cater to clients who want to buy tickets. You deliver them and make sure they have good seats.

''You have to work hard to make them happy."

And then comes the responsibility of entertaining them.

While most top draws earn between $1,000-$3,000 for a fight and newcomers get paid in the $300-$500 range, Khatib signed a five-fight contract believed to be in the $7,000 range with Apex after an impressive performance in January.

The only black mark on the night, in his eyes, was a newspaper photo the next day that captured him bloodied and battered in victory.

'HARD WORKERS'

"That makes it look like the sport is rough, but it doesn't give us the credit we need," he said. "We want to make sure people realize we're hard workers. We train hard and we're respectable people.

''This is not the WWE. We're like boxers, and we want people to look at it that way. We want to turn it into a full-time job. A lot of guys are like me, they also have to work, and have two jobs."

Rooting for Khatib from the crowd tonight will be his wife Tania and their three children: Jonathan (14), Leila (10) and Nada (8). All are involved in the sport and recently received their own brown belts.

"They're nasty," Nabil says affectionately of his kids. "They're tough."

They're also vocal. On the tape of the last show can be heard cries of "Go Dad."

At 36, The Thrill is climbing the charts. Next rung on the ladder, should he continue to rise, would be an appearance on an Ultimate Fighting Championship card in the U.S., where crowds generally gather 10,000-15,000 strong.

"If things go right and my ultimate dream comes true, Pride fighting is the place to be," said Khatib.

In Japan, a Pride show draws 50,000-60,000. Khatib admits he wouldn't be able to hear his kids cheer from a crowd that size, but there would be obvious benefits.

"The event is spectacular, the lighting, the explosions," he said. "And everybody does everything for you."

APEX EVOLUTION

TONIGHT'S CARD

- Middleweight co-main event: Stephan "Rudeboy" Potvin (Montreal) vs. Luigi Fioravanti (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

- Featherweight co-main event: Wagnney Fabiano (Toronto) vs. Bao "Taz" Quach (Irvine, Calif.)

- Light heavyweight superbout: Brent Beauparlant (Montreal) vs. Jason Cecil (Toronto)

- Middleweight superbout: Nabil "The Thrill" Khatib (Rockland) vs. Ryan "Gatling Guns" Gabourie (Kingston)

- Heavyweight kickboxing superbout: Wojtek "Kazz" Kaszowski (Toronto) vs. Lee Mein (Lethbridge, Alta.)

- Lightweight: Tyler "TNT" Jackson (Vancouver) vs. John Mahlow (Jacksonville, Fla.)

- Lightweight: Sean Ragnitz (Ottawa) vs. Shaun Krysa (Georgetown)

- Welterweight: Eric Lacelle (Hawkesbury) vs. Jordan Jewell (Hamilton)

- Welterweight: Eric Beaulieu (Montreal) vs. Dan Grandmaison (Sudbury)

- Featherweight: Mike Hong (Burlington) vs. Stephane Denis (Montreal)

- Middleweight: Jason Motard (Gatineau) vs. "Prince" Aiteka Ukonga (Scarborough)

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos