Peninsula Fight Challenge brings mixed martial arts to Soldotna Sports Center

Area fighters get chance to show stuff

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2006

Kicking back with friends and watching the Ultimate Fighting Championships on television can be quite entertaining — for those who enjoy seeing two people bloody each other.

What can be even better, though, is witnessing it in person.

And for the sixth time in seven months, Peninsula fans will have that kind of opportunity.

There’s one exception, however: the talent includes local residents.

Eight matches, including the first-ever title fight, will be on display Saturday night at the Soldotna Sports Center when the Peninsula Fight Challenge gets under way at 7:30 p.m.

Rob Couture, who runs the Kenai Mixed Martial Arts Club, is the production manager for Theater of Pain Productions, the company presenting the sixth show of its inaugural series.

“It’s exactly like UFC,” Couture explained. “There’s takedowns, kickboxing, boxing, wrestling, jujitsu, knees, elbows and submissions.

“It’s about as edgy as combatant sports get before you start getting underground,” he added. “We have a pretty good fan following.”

Having to be at least 18 years of age to compete, potential contestants are run through a screening process prior to stepping in the ring — or cage, for that matter.

“I make anyone who wants to fight in the show put on a little audition, so when they get in there, I know they can safely take care of themselves and compete still and that they understand the rules,” Couture said, adding the oldest competitor has been in his 30s.

Local fighters from Fairbanks, Anchorage and sites in the Lower 48 compete in the competitions, he said.

“Just about anyone who wants to,” he said.

While the events are independent of each other, some fighters compete to build their resume for the chance at a title bout.

On Saturday, the lightweight title (155 pounds) will be up for grabs.

Jeff Baily, 21, is looking to avenge an earlier loss to Soldotna’s Jim Miller, 19.

“He’s a tough little monster,” Couture said of Baily, who hails from Fairbanks. “Jim beat him by knockout in the second round (last time).

“Both of these guys have busted their butts for this opportunity,” he added. “It’s definitely the main event.”

Soldotna wrestling coach Sarge Truesdell, who coached Miller in middle school, said he believes Miller earned a state wrestling berth during one of his two years at Skyview before transferring to SoHi.

“He’s always been a super, hard-nosed individual,” he said. “In my mind, he’s kind of made for that kind of thing.”

According to Couture, Theater of Pain was created for local fighters who wanted to compete, yet didn’t have the chance to compete in Anchorage.

“The reason we’re putting this show on, is more often than not, it’s hard to get opportunities for the fighters we train to get into Anchorage shows,” he said. “So what we did was we decided to make our own and have local events and have opportunities for people who compete here to compete in front of their friends and family.

“If they decide they have the taste for the game and show their aptitude for it, then we start taking them to other places.”

While the turnout at events has been steady, with nearly 1,200 seats filled on Oct. 20, the concept wasn’t created for profit. Rather, it was launched for the fighters.

“We’re creating opportunities for local fighters,” Couture said. “Some of these kids have legitimate next-level ability.

“We create the opportunity to see if they want to do that,” he added. “If they do, then we start building them up.”

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are on sale at the door or at Top Dog Supplies.

Matthew Carroll can be reached at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com



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