Friday, March 28, I landed in rainy Seattle, Washington. Allen Rygg, the boxing coach at Northwest Elite and buddy of Cagequest promoter Eddie Blackburn, picked me up and drove me through suburbia to my hotel.
On Friday, I went to weigh-ins to meet the fighters. Everything was organized and professionally run. Fighters had assigned seats in a sports bar restaurant private room, with a scale set up in front of a banner. The fighters weighed in and faced off. Paperwork was filled out.
I sat between Kendra “The Beast” Bukovac and Robert “part-time” Armas, and ended up making friends with them. It was interesting getting to know these fighters, and see how others started out their MMA careers. Kendra’s strength is wrestling, and she’s working as a professional massage therapist.
Robert got his nickname because he trains “part-time” due to his busy schedule, and is an amazing artist. He did some quick doodles on various name-tags pictured.
Sam “The SeaMonster” Selander had been in a horrible car wreck and confined to a wheel chair for a while, two years ago. It was uncertain if he’d even walk again, but he overcame that and got back into the cage again this night. That is inspiring.
Back in the day when I had my first pro fight ten years ago, I didn’t have the opportunity to fight amateur. My first few fights were in Smack Girl, a Japanese promotion. They didn’t allow punches to the head on the ground, the gloves were bigger than typical MMA gloves, and they stood us up after 30 seconds on the ground, even if one was about to submit one’s opponent. My stand up was pretty horrible for the first half of my career.
I’m glad that fighting amateur is pretty much required before going pro nowadays. Fighters nowadays are able to develop themselves much more before going pro. I’d just like to compare a few promotions that I’ve been to.
Cagequest IV took place in Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, Washington. The cage was set up in an open hall with chairs around it in orderly rows, with vender booths and food stands hugging the walls. Two screens hung on walls to project an enlarge image of the fighters, so the audience could still follow the action when it went to the ground. Guests were brought in, such as myself, Denis Holman, Lisa Ellis, and more, to say a few words to the audience. The fighters were generally well-matched up, and all the fights exciting. There were mostly finishes, and only a couple bouts went to decisions.
“I felt the event was a success from the start to the end,” Eddie said afterwards. “This was our biggest attendance to date. We had well over 1500 people.”
In Washington, fighters wear MMA gloves, mouth pieces, and shin guards.
Blackburn, the promoter, made beautiful championship belts for the aspiring athletes. He made matches for female fighters. He ran his amateur show better than some pro shows I’ve been to. Eddie is very passionate about what he does. Formerly a professional fighter himself, he runs his own MMA gym in addition to putting on Cagequest, working full time, and taking care of his family.
“I fought, I retired from fighting, and now it’s my time to give back to the community, to give back to the amateur fighters who are trying to make a name for themselves,” he said. “Last year we won the “2013 Best Amateur Event of the Year” through MMA Madhouse, who covers shows all over the US. I want to be the best event in Washington state.”
Tuff-N-Uff is one of the largest ammy promotions based out of Las Vegas, normally held in The Orleans Casino Mardi Gras Ball room. It’s run by a team at Tuff-N-Uff Productions, spearheaded by Jeff Meyer. I’m also extremely impressed by their show. It’s streamed online in an affordable pay-per-view. Fighters travel from all over to compete. They also have championship belts for the top dogs.
Vegas fighters don’t have to wear shinguards like their Washington counterparts, but at least they don’t have to wear headgear like they do in Japan.
“Our events have been selling out lately,” Jeff said. “We’ve had some very talented athletes compete, who I believe will be “Future Stars of MMA!” Tuff-N-Uff was founded by Jeff’s late brother, Barry Meyer, a visionary and true pioneer of our sport. “I hope to honor his legacy for many years to come,” Jeff said, and added, “I couldn’t make this company what it is today without the support of my wonderful staff, generous sponsors, loyal fans, and most importantly, without the wonderful support of the fighters and their trainers.”
The next Tuff-N-uff will be help April 11th, in The Orleans, and will host a tournament for 115 lb female fighters. The winner will get a contract with Invicta FC, the largest and most sought-after all-female MMA organization in the world.
The female participants are Jianna Denizard, Jamie Moyle, Laura Uyeda, and Molly Wren-Holmes. Keep your eyes peeled for these future stars of MMA, and support your local MMA fighters, amateurs and pros alike!