Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with one half of the Peninsula Fighting Championship’s promotional team, Isaac Kolesar, to discuss the future of the PFC and mixed martial arts on the Kenai Peninsula.
While talking over a cup of coffee at the local Small Town Coffee Roasters, I asked Kolesar about his bid to change the community’s mind-set toward mixed martial arts here on the Peninsula.
“We [PFC] haven’t near achieved our goal in any shape or form, however, the positive side of it we did put the buzz out there that it is changing,” Kolesar said.
He continued: “It (PFC) should be a family event, there are only two reasons you don’t come to our events. One reason is you don’t like the sport and don’t have any interest in it. The second reason is because you believe your child is too young to see the violent nature of the sport ... (violence) it’s not what we’re about yet we are fighting … but as athletes. It’s not the intent to hurt but the intent to win a competition.”
Along with an infectious passion for MMA, it’s clear that Kolesar is moving his promotion toward incorporating and educating a new demographic into the sport of mixed martial arts on the Peninsula. This, frankly, is a smart move. With the negative history surrounding fight promotions on the Kenai, Kolesar is fighting hard to change that perception.
“The difference with the events now is we have (ring) girls in clothes, we have announcers that are respectable members in the community and we are able to bring in a whole new demographic. We want fans to come in and bring their kids with them. We want it to be fun, clean and safe for the fans and especially the fighters. ”
He continued: “Fighters are fined $20 every time they swear on the mic. If they get on the mic and cuss, I’m in the back taking twenties out of their purse.”
Within minutes of discussing these issues with Isaac, it’s easy to tell that he’s serious about transforming those lingering perceptions. Yet, as event conscious as Kolesar is, he’s very aware of the economic impact his promotion has on the city and community at large.
“They (city of Soldotna) stand to gain, depending on how many events we do, $30,000 to $50,000 off our events,” he said.
He continued: “Restaurants would notice an influx during fight night and even the day after. It’s a very positive thing for the local economy.”
Kolesar is clear to point out, “I don’t do this for the money I do this to support a sport I love. Whatever money we make I want to give back to this sport.”
As Kolesar begins the undertaking of a communitywide change in perception of MMA , he’s still being met with challenges. When asked about those challenges, more specifically the hardest one, Kolesar answered without hesitation.
“The biggest challenge has been dealing with the (Soldotna) Sports Center. This fight with management at the sports center has been a big setback for us. Recently, though, we sat down with (Soldotna City Manager) Larry Semmens … and hopefully, working with him, we can get back on track.
Even with the current setbacks he’s optimistic that, moving forward, the PFC will eventually promote an event every two months. As always, though, Kolesar is clear on two distinctions: “I want to promote (PFC) as the clean event it is and the fighters as the athletes we really are.”
As the interview was winding down I asked Kolesar a final question: Where do you see the PFC in the next year to year and a half? After a thunderous laugh and ear-to-ear smile he responds.
“I’d have someone else that I trust put the event on so I can start fighting, but if that doesn’t happen I really think it’s going to take a year and a half to get the community on board to realize we are athletes,” he said.
You might say it takes more than one man or one promotion to undue all the negative effects caused by past precedents, but don’t tell that to Kolesar. While it may be an uphill battle, after sitting with the man for an hour, I don’t doubt his ability to change the Peninsula’s perception of MMA.