Fight nights have happened in Terrace before – but none quite like the tournament taking place here on April 13.
Because this upcoming amateur fight night, Cage Fighting Force One, means Terrace sports fans get to lay eyes on “the cage” in our local arena – a professional-grade fight cage not unlike those used in big, televised events, except this one’s a hexagon, not an octagon. Athletes from all over the northwest, some as far away as Vancouver and Fort St. John, and at least half of the card hailing from the Terrace-area will be grappling it out in front of a packed Sportsplex, complete with a weigh-in the night before, ring girls, and ringside seating.
It’s the beginning of fight coach and promoter (we could actually refer to him as Terrace’s Don King) Tony Rutledge’s plan to build up a hub of amateur fighters here in the northwest. He and his national fighting federation, Cage Fighting Force, are set to start hosting events all over the area – Terrace, Kitimat, Smithers, Rupert to start – eventually moving to the national stage.
“We’re hoping we’ll be up to Cage Fighting Force 100 by the next four or five years,” said Rutledge.
By hosting a big tournament every few months, they’ll be showcasing local athletes in both mixed-martial arts (MMA) and kick-boxing, while drawing more new athletes to those clubs. This means Cage Fighting Force will have a bigger pool of athletes to draw from to showcase to the professional league.
“All and all, we’re hoping that a UFC prospect comes out of the Terrace area,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to take this journey – promoters like myself, I’m the only one outside of Prince George, and I’ve got Northern British Columbia pretty much to myself as an amateur promoter.”
And if these athletes don’t get showcased, they won’t get bigger opportunities.
“You can go to a thousand tournaments and be a great fighter, but if nobody knows about you…,” he said. “Now you can come onto one of our cards and thousands and thousands of people will see you and know about you and that’s how you get recognized for the pro-league.”
Rutledge has been involved in the industry since the very beginning – two of his fighters were on the card at the first Canadian-sanctioned event, way back in 1997 when they called the sport “shootboxing.”
Since then, it’s easily grown into one of Canada’s most-watched sports, and Rutledge’s experience as both a trainer and a promoter, has him confident he knows how to foster its growth in the area and get northwest athletes noticed across Canada.
For fighters, solid training is key, he says. Sometimes difficult for athletes who also work full-time, physically demanding jobs – especially when you take into consideration the amount of rest time an athlete needs after a tournament.
And Terrace athletes will have a slight advantage going into these events simply because the cage that they’ll be fighting in is right here, at Rutledge’s dojo in Thornhill.
“I’ve got the only cage outside of – holy mackerel – probably Vancouver,” he said. “I use it all of the time. Not everybody has a cage to train in – a lot of the athletes that come to these things have never been in a cage before, they train in a ring.”
But cage training isn’t just for athletes looking to compete in front of a crowd – Rutledge also does one-on-one work outs for those serious about getting in shape.
“A lot of people are intimidated by the concept of working out in a cage,” he said. “But once you get in there it’s like being in your living room.”
He says from a self-defence standpoint, it makes sense to train in a cage because if you need to fend off an attacker, it will more often than not be in an enclosed space.
And Rutledge confronts the stigma that these fights are dangerous and masochistic head on – first, the event is a all-ages without alcohol to encourage more women and kids.
He also wants to encourage females to try the sport, noting there is a solid group of female fighters he’s been training from New Aiyansh.
“There are a lot training, but not many fighting,” he said.
And he stresses they’re serious about proper training for their fighters.
“We don’t just take people off the streets, some of these guys have trained for up to two years before they decide to get into the cage,” he said. “We’re actually doing the opposite – we’re taking these troubled kids and bringing them off the streets and teaching them respect, discipline and then letting them showcase themselves through our cage and showing them the right way to do it – there’s a right way and a wrong way of course.”
Cage Fighting Force One is April 13 at the Terrace Sportsplex. Doors at 6 p.m.