PARKER,Fla- The sport of Mixed Martial Arts is set to make it's Bay County debut. "The Panhandle MMA Showdown" shows just how big the sport has become, locally and beyond.
MMA has become one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Organizations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship, World Extreme Cagefighting, and Strikeforce are introducing millions of fans to MMA.
"There's kids growing up that don't want to be a boxer, but they want to be a UFC fighter now." Amateur Fighter Lionel James said, "It's a good thing for the experience, it's a good thing to watch."
Tito Jones is a Rutherford graduate who fought professionally for Strikeforce. He's now the head trainer for Panhandle Combat Sports in Callaway, and he says he came back to his hometown to help other fighters learn the sport.
"It's a great outlet. You see alot of people in here that are just here to test themselves, push themselves to the limit. I think that's what life's all about in every aspect."
Until this July Jone's fighters couldn't put their training to use in the cage, because the state of Florida didn't allow amateur MMA events. That changed when the Florida State Boxing commission voted to sanction the sport for amateurs.
"They've been waiting for this." Local promoter Jeff Pabalan said. "I've had some of these fighters tell me I've been waiting for ten years for places to fight, and now I'm glad that you guys are promoting one."
Pabalan and his partners Mack Kilpatrick, and Mike Hawkins are promoting the "The Panhandle MMA Showdown" which has been sanctioned under the International Sport Karate/Kickboxing Association. It will be the first amateur MMA event in Bay County. Derek Levesque is proud to be a part of that history. "It's an honor, our younger generation we're all about this sport," Levesque said.
The 10 bout card will set the stage for future events in Bay County, so the promoters, and the fighters not only want to put on a good show for the fans, they want to leave a good impression of the sport with everyone in this area.
Doors for the Panhandle MMA Showdown at the Bay Banquet Hall in Parker will open at 5 p.m. Saturday August 21st. The first bout will start at 7.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for 20 dollars.