This is the 27th 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 Nebraska MMA. Be sure to check out the previous part on Montana.
History of Nebraska MMA
Nebraska, the 37th state to join the Union, has hosted a few UFC events and will be the site of this weekend’s UFC Fight Night: Gaethje vs Vick event. The state has also produced a handful of active UFC fighters, still in the organization today.
Nebraska Athletic Commission
The Nebraska Athletic Commission is responsible for sanctioning both professional and amateur bouts within the state per LB471 during the 2007 legislative session. The commission sanctions around 25 events a year within the state. Aaron Hendry is the current athletic director. The commission employs four inspectors which are paid on a per event basis. Brian Dunn is the current deputy director making it a six-person board. Nebraska has also adopted The Unified Rules of Martial Arts.
Major Organizations Visit The Cornhusker State
So far the UFC has been to “The Cornhusker State” for two events with a third visit on the horizon for August 20, 2018. Though Bellator has never visited Nebraska, Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) has made a visit and has an upcoming event scheduled for September 7, 2018. This event will be headlined by a Nebraska native to be talked about further into the article.
UFC’s First Visit to Nebraska
UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Neer took place on September 17, 2008, in Omaha at the Omaha Civic Auditorium. The event kicked off the season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir. The main event of the night was headlined by a Nate Diaz split decision victory over Josh Neer. Three of the four main card bouts ended in a decision. The only contest to have a finish was Eric Schafer submitting Houston Alexander in the first round. Diaz and Neer took Fight of the Night honors. Alessio Sakara took home Knockout of the Night honors for his first-round head kick knockout of Joe Vedepo. Wilson Gouveia submitted Ryan Jensen in the second round with an armbar to take the Submission of the Night award.
The Return of the UFC to Omaha
The UFC returned almost three and a half years later on February 15, 2012, for UFC on Fuel TV: Sanchez vs. Ellenberger. This event was actually the most watched program on Fuel TV for its time with 217,000 viewers. Due to injuries and pullouts, this card of nine fights was the smallest event card since UFC 91 in November 2008. The names on the card would more than make up for the low fight count. Several of those fighters are now big stars in the world of MMA.
A heavyweight showdown between Stipe Miocic and Phil de Fries would have most hardcore fans salivating to see now. Miocic defeated the current KSW heavyweight champion by first round knockout. The main event featured a welterweight scrap between Jake Ellenberger defeating Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision. The bout also took home Fight of the Night. Stefan Struve and Jonathan Brookins also won by knockout in their respective bouts. Ivan Menjivar earned the night’s only submission thus easily taking home Submission of the Night award. Miocic’s quick dismantling of de Fries earned him Knockout of the Night honors. TJ Dillashaw was also victorious on this card earning a unanimous decision victory over Walel Watson.
Fighters In/From Nebraska
A ‘Supa’ Standout Wrestler Representing the Cornhusker State
Legacy Fighting Alliance is set to hold LFA 48: Stots vs. Lilley in Kearney, Nebraska. Main eventer Raufeon Stots is currently 9-1 in his professional career “Supa” Stots has been in Nebraska since his college days where he wrestled at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Stots is an extremely gifted wrestler winning two Division II national championships. He is coming off of a first-round submission at Victory FC 59 and looking to keep the momentum going.
“I feel really connected to Nebraskan fans because of competing here in college and now. Nebraska fans are bred differently than other fans because they understand the value of hard work and dedication,” Stots told MMASucka. “They really show up and support local fighters to no end!” Stots feels Nebraska is on pace with the rest of the country with the boom of MMA over the years. “The worldwide growth of MMA has overflowed into the national/local Nebraska scene. People are more knowledgeable and excited about each event/fighter.”
The Lion of Nebraska
Anthony “Lionheart” Smith grew up in Nebraska City. The UFC light heavyweight has been on a meteoric rise to the top of the division over the past several months. Smith is coming off back to back first round knockouts of two legends, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. He is scheduled to take on Volkan Oezdemir in October 2018. So far the 30-year-old Smith has enough professional wins to tie his age with 30 professional victories. It is very possible Smith could be on the doorstep of a title shot should he become victorious over Oezdemir.
Part 28 of the series will be the state of Nevada. Stay tuned to MMASucka for the whole series and all of the breaking news in the world of MMA.
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