50 Part Series of MMA History in the USA: Alaska

Alaska MMA
Jared Cannonier enters the Octagon before facing Steve Bosse during The Ultimate Fighter Finale event inside the T-Mobile Arena on July 7, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This is the second of a 50 part series documenting the history and the current state of MMA for each of the 50 states in the United States of America. Each part will chronicle the history of MMA as well as several notable fighters and camps in each state. States will be completed in alphabetical order. Alabama was the first part of the series. Alaska MMA is this installment’s current state.

History of MMA in Alaska

Alaska, the 49th state to join the United States, is just as new to the MMA scene as they are to their state status as a member of the United States. No major organizations have yet to venture to the far north, which is nearly 500 miles away from Washington, the closest continental state. Alaska has yet to ever host a major MMA organization within its state’s borders. This boils down to one specific point.

The Land of No Commission

Alaska is one of two states (other being Wyoming) which does not have a sanctioning body acting as a commission to cover MMA. In 2002 the state’s Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing sent out a letter to the combat community state that due to a lack of funds, licenses would no longer be issued. The letter also mentioned that it would like fighters to continue to follow the rules and hold safe events. Major MMA organizations such as UFC or Bellator will never have Alaska as a host without a commission. One organization seems to thrive well though in “The Last Frontier” state.

Just as recently as 2016 Justin Hutchings, the man behind the first Alaska Fighting Championship event, unveiled a gimmicky version in MMA that would only be allowed in a land with no commission. Showtime MMA, as the company is known, launched its first event titled, “Cops vs. Cons,” and it was exactly what the title says. The event pitted current law enforcement officer fighting under masks to conceal their identity as they took on former convicted felons. “Co-promoter” and former UFC fighter, Rob Yundt, stated just before the event, “We lost one yesterday. He went back to jail.” Though many doubt the legitimacy of Hutchings and Yundt’s claims, the organization was met with mixed reviews from MMA camps across the state worried the organization would be looked at as mere spectacle and destroy the legitimacy of MMA in Alaska.

Alaska Fighting Championship

The Alaska Fighting Championship was founded in July 2004 and has hosted many future UFC stars. Stars such as Rich Franklin and Jeremy Horn who were both on the AFC 1 card. Others such as Justin Buchholz, Jared Cannonier and UFC champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson have competed in an AFC cage. AFC makes its home at the Alaska Airlines Center located in Anchorage. From AFC’s inception until just recently, events used to take place at the Sullivan Arena. The Sullivan Arena is located about three miles west of the home for AFC.

Alaska Fighting Championship landed a huge platform to showcase their fighters on by signing with UFC Fight Pass. The first event was aired on September 28, 2016, with Alaska FC 125: Herron-Webb vs. Dempsey. The last event saw Justin Buchholz take on Carlton Minus with Minus taking the unanimous decision in May 2018. No dates have been set for the next event which ran once a month.

Fighters and Camps in Alaska MMA

For being so far off the path of other MMA territories, Alaska has a good, solid range of fighters. UFC light heavyweight Jared Cannonier began his career in Alaska with a 7-0 professional record before signing with the UFC. He is currently 3-4 inside the UFC.

Niko Novelli, AFC featherweight champion is one of the solid, main organization ready fighters in the state. “Being that no major MMA organizations come to Alaska doesn’t stop the fact that AK loves fighting,” Novelli told MMASucka speaking to the fact of the citizens’ love for their MMA. Novelli also spoke on Alaska having no commission but stating, “Basically if you want to fight you sign the dotted line and that’s it. No blood test or physicals needed. It definitely needs to change someday but as fighters we need fights and we live here so it is what it is.”

The number one pound-for-pound fighter in all of Alaska, per Tapology, is the 25-year-old welterweight Carlton “Clutch” Minus. Minus is currently 8-0 with his most recent victory over Buchholz. Minus trains with many camps including one of the biggest BJJ schools in the state, Anchorage BJJ. Hopefully, Minus will get his chance with a big organization to showcase his skills. He has stated that his ultimate goal would be to compete in the UFC or Bellator.

Part three of the 50 states series will be the state of Arizona. Check back with MMASucka to keep up with the series.

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