History of MMA in United States: Minnesota

Minnesota MMA
Lightweight Sean Sherk weighs in at 155 lbs at the UFC 119 weigh-in at Conseco Fieldhouse on September 24, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This is the 23rd of a 50-part series documenting the history and current state of MMA for each of the 50 states in the United States of America. You can find the rest of the series to date here. Each part will chronicle the history of MMA as well as several notable fighters and camps in each state. This is the history of Minnesota MMA. Be sure to check out the previous part on Michigan.

History of Minnesota MMA

Minnesota, the 32nd state to join the Union, may be low on major shows held within its borders, but has contributed many tough fighters to the world of MMA. The state is also well known for its amazing wresting program at University of Minnesota. One of the most popular MMA fighters of all time, Brock Lesnar, wrestled for the university.

Minnesota Combative Sports Commission

The Minnesota Combative Sports Commission is a nine member board (one spot currently vacant) responsible for sanctioning professional combat sports within the state. The commission was previously known as the Minnesota Boxing Commission which it was renamed to in 2006. In 2008 it received the name change to the current MCSC to include mixed martial arts. 2008 Minn. Laws Chap. 300 Art. 1 Sec. 9 and Sec. 20-36 dictate that the commission shall be made up of five members. All five members must be Minnesota citizens and appointed by the governor. One member must be a retired Minnesota judge and at least three must have knowledge of combat sports. 2012 legislative changes added four more members to the board.

Recent Event Cancellation

There was a recent issue with the commission where an event had to be canceled due to so many fighters being unable to secure a fighting license. Extreme Challenge 238 was set to take place July 2018 at the Olmsted County Fair. Brandon Helgeson, Olmsted County Fair Board Member, stated to the Post Bulletin, “In the state of Minnesota, it’s tough to get that done,” referring to fighters obtaining a license.

Major Organizational Visits to The Gopher State

Minnesota has yet to host a Bellator event but has been the home to two UFC events. It has been nearly six years since the UFC has been in The Gopher State.

UFC Makes Their Debut in Minnesota

The UFC made their debut in Minnesota for UFC 87: Seek and Destroy in August 2008. The 15,000 plus in attendance witnessed one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time, Georges St. Pierre, defend his welterweight crown against Jon Fitch. St. Pierre controlled the whole matchup taking the 50-45 unanimous decision victory. University of Minnesota wrestling star, Brock Lesnar, earned his first UFC victory with a 30-26 unanimous decision victory over Heath Herring. Jon Jones also appeared on the undercard earning a unanimous decision win over Andre Gusmao. Fight of the Night honors were taken by St. Pierre and Fitch. Rob Emerson earned Knockout of the Night while Demian Maia took home the Submission of the Night honors.

The Final UFC Visit Thus Far

Four years later the UFC returned to Minneapolis for UFC on FX: Browne vs. Bigfoot. The 7,000 fans who entered the Target Center in October 2012 saw a heavyweight clash between Travis Browne and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Silva earned the huge first-round knockout to take the victory. Diego Nunes and Bart Palaszewski earned Fight of the Night for their three-round war where Nunes took the victory. Michael Johnson earned Knockout of the Night for his second-round finish of the current Team Alpha Male coach, Danny Castillo. Justin Edwards opened up the main card with a guillotine choke victory on Josh Neer to take home Submission of the Night.

Fighters and Camps In/From Minnesota

The UFC’s first middleweight champion was born in the state of Minnesota. Dave Menne was born in Minneapolis and honed his craft at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy. The academy has been home to almost every great fighter to come out of the state. Menne collected 45 wins in a career that spanned nearly 15 years. At UFC 33 Menne defeated Gil Castillo to become the first UFC middleweight champion.

The Muscle Shark

Another Minnesota Martial Arts Academy fighter who made waves in the UFC was St. Francis born Sean Sherk. Sherk earned an impressive record of 19-0-1 before earning a UFC welterweight title shot against Matt Hughes. He would lose to Hughes by unanimous decision bout would go on another amazing run resulting in a unanimous decision win over Kenny Florian at UFC 64: Unstoppable for the vacant UFC lightweight title. Sherk defended the title once before being stripped for a failed drug test. Sherk has only lost four times in his career but to four of the greatest fighters of all times. In addition to Hughes, he lost to Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn, and Frankie Edgar.

The Beast of Minnesota

Though not born in Minnesota, Brock Lesnar, spent a very important part of his life in the state. After attending Bismarck State College, Lesnar transferred to the University of Minnesota where he made his name in the wrestling world. Lesnar was a two-time Big Ten champion both years at Minnesota as well as winning the 2000 NCAA heavyweight championship. Despite his 5-2-1 record, Lesnar remains one of the biggest draws in the history of MMA.

Minnesota Martial Arts Academy

Without question, Minnesota Martial Arts Academy is the home to the state’s best martial artists. The team was founded in 1992 by former University of Minnesota wrestler Greg Nelson. The team has been home to such fighters as Pat Berry, Sean Sherk, and Brandon Girtz. Several others such as Menne, Lesnar, and Rose Namajunas have also trained with the team.

Part 24 of the 50 states series will be the state of Mississippi. Check back with MMASucka to keep up with the series.

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