Sadly all good things must come to an end.
After 14 years of entertaining battles and brouhahas, the final bell has tolled for AM Ford Fight Night.
The annual Mixed Martial Arts melee at the Cominco Arena every April has attracted fighters from across North America and promoted and enhanced the careers of Pride Gym fighters.
The AM Ford Fight Nights introduced world-class grapplers like number-three ranked Morgan-River Jones, nationally ranked Brad Causey and Wesley Neil, former Canadian Light-weight title holder Gavin Neil and the likes of Cody McKenzie to Trail MMA fans, but “no more,” says organizer and Pride Gym trainer Glen Kalesniko.
“If somebody wants me to match-make or do something like that I would do that in another event, but for the big one – that’s it for me.”
Rising costs and decreasing attendance set back the last two Fight Nights, and with the prospect of a new provincial athletic commission taking over the responsibility of regulating MMA cards, the expenses are likely to increase even more.
“The risk is so great now, and I just see the slide of it. I mean we’re not gaining any people, if anything we’re losing people, and with the costs skyrocketing from travel to more government costs now that they’re involved, and they want security, and policing — everything comes with a price tag.”
On May 7, the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development announced that it will form a provincial athletic commission to replace the nearly 10 B.C. municipal commissions already in existence. The new commission will regulate and supervise professional contests such as boxing, kick-boxing, and MMA.
Kalesniko admits that it will make events less cumbersome to get off the ground. By having a centralized provincial commission, organizers won’t have to set up their own commissions in towns that don’t have them.
“But again, everybody that is small or are in the Interior areas or up north are going to have a really big cost coming with it.”
Municipalities like Trail and Cranbrook are worried that costs for a provincial commissioner to come and monitor an event would be prohibitive.
“We welcome and support the establishment of the provincial commission and its mandate of uniform and consistent standards,” Scott McLeod, chair of the Cranbrook commission told the Cranbrook Townsman.
“(But) any event promoted here would be considerably smaller and less profitable than the one in the major municipal centres on the coast, yet the costs of the provincial commission would likely be substantially larger.”
Kalesniko also points to the Ontario athletic commission that instituted extensive mandatory testing for fighters. Ontario requires out-of-province fighters to provide results of an MRI or CT scan, ECG and eye examination as well as HIV and Hepatitis B/C tests. Fighters are also subject to pre- and post-fight medical testing.
While safety is a concern, if the B.C. commission was to follow suit, it would severely impact most of the smaller events,” he added.
“If you have 20 fighters and you had to do MRIs for everybody, your cost would be another $20,000.”
Despite the Fight Night demise, the Fruitvale native says Pride Gym fighters will keep competing and the Element’s Caged Rage fights in Castlegar will continue.
“We’ll go to outside shows and do other fights, save me the headache. I had great support from my sponsors, but I needed more from the city and from the fans.”