High appetite for MMA in Vernon - InfoNews

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High appetite for MMA in Vernon

Vernon’s own Angus Franks of Unity MMA lands a kick on Nick Matthews of C. Creed in Calgary in XFC Unbanned action at the Vernon Curling Club Saturday, Aug. 24. Saturday’s 14-card fight was Vernon’s first MMA event in almost a decade.
August 25, 2019 - 3:30 PM

VERNON - If XFC Unbanned is any indication, mixed martial arts has made its triumphant return as a spectator sport to the Vernon octagon.

Raja Kler, owner of Unity MMA one of the organizers behind Extreme Fighting Challenge XFC 11 Unbanned, estimated that more than 1,000 people came to witness the sport's return at the Vernon Curling Club Saturday, Aug. 24.

"We don't have the exact figures, but it was more than 1,000 because we had to get more bracelets," Kler laughed. "We worked really hard, the whole team, to get this event going. That was our first event. There hadn't been one in 10 years, but of course, everyone had a good time."

Given the long hiatus, Kler wasn't certain what to expect before the doors opened Saturday night. Kler said he hoped to see about 700 in the crowd.

"I'm really happy that it worked out as it did," Kler said. "We'll make a list on what we can improve for next time."

Kler said that, with the short turnaround time from the ban being lifted to XFC Unbanned, it would not have been possible without the support of all those involved, such as Saverio Loria of Loria Entertainment Group, Bill Mahood and the countless volunteers.

Before the event wrapped up at about 1 a.m., 28 fighters from across Canada stepped into the ring. For Kler, one highlight was seeing Vernon MMA phenom Jordan Cabrejos take the middleweight belt after dominating Calgary 101 Academy fighter Will Grieves.

"He's going to go pro soon," Kler said of Cabrejos.

Kenny Pope, another Unity fighter who headlined XFC Unbanned alongside Dylan Schellenberg of CMAC Lethbridge, got caught in a guillotine submission that signalled the end of the night.

"You've just got to take the losses in stride," Kler said.

The 14-card fight fell on the heels of council's unanimous decision to rescind a 2014 bylaw that banned competitive fights within the City of Vernon. Governed by the B.C. Athletic Commissioner, all MMA events that come to Vernon must be sanctioned and meet what Kler considers some of the heaviest regulations in Canadian sports.

"(It's) probably the most heavily regulated sport in Canada." Kler said in a past interview with iNFOnews.ca.

Loria was also pleased with the turnout.

“We will assess this one and hopefully do another one in the spring,” Loria said to the crowd.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Parker Crook  or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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