I showed up to the bar somewhere around noon. My friend Franky and I saw the trailer stacked with metal and padding sitting out front as we walked in. We were immediately welcomed by a coach of ours, Nic. He gave us the usual energetic smile/handshake combo and thanked us for coming. The three of us sat at the nearly empty bar, talking, until a few more guys showed up. All of us began emptying the trailer and assembling the smaller cage against the west wall of the bar. About 30 minutes in and MMA fighter Dennis Hallman (51-14-1) rolls through the front door. Dennis wastes no time in gathering the guys around to share dirty jokes and fight stories. Eventually we all made our way back to the assembly line and finished setting up.
Twenty-six hours later, the bar is packed wall-to-wall, sardine can style, with clambering fans. A couple buzzing spotlights directed the room’s eyes towards two amateur mixed martial artists as they tapped gloves. The ref gave the signal, a bell rang, and Franky put his hands up. This is local mixed martial arts, and it’s happening in your backyard.
The Pacific Northwest has been an MMA powerhouse since the early 1990s. In fact, there is likely an MMA gym within 25 miles of where you're reading this article. Oregon is full of them. And these gyms collectively have hundreds of amateur MMA fighters, building their records and experience in small events held at bars, restaurants, clubs, fairgrounds, and even parking lots. Events such as these offer fighters a chance to advance their talents and careers, build their popularity and fan bases, and practice the sport they love. They also offer fans a chance at front row seats to sanctioned fights for less than $20. I try my best to make it to as many local events as possible because of this. I've ran into many professional fighters, big name coaches, and have witnessed future champions fight in front of a crowd of only 150 people. The thrill of watching these athletes compete just down the street from my home is an amazing opportunity, and our local gyms and promoters hold these events in or near your town every couple of weeks. Don't miss out. Check with your local gyms about information on future events. I guarantee that once you go to one, you'll never stop. See you there!