Mixed Martial Arts finds a home in the Yukon

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is often called ultimate fighting for a good reason. An MMA fighter is like the renaissance man of the hand-to-hand combat world.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is often called ultimate fighting for a good reason. An MMA fighter is like the renaissance man of the hand-to-hand combat world, studying various martial art disciplines, picking and choosing what works best for him.

“They have utilized all the martial arts into one,” said Whitehorse’s Cliff Schultz. “In the first (Ultimate Fighting Challenges) it was separated martial arts, so a karate guy against a wrestler and a jujitsu guy against a striker, and that was the way it was.

“Now one guy is all of them. What they are doing is taking the best from each martial art.”

The popularity of MMA has exploded in North America over the last decade-and-a-half – and the Yukon is no exception – culminating in the opening of the territory’s first gym dedicated to MMA, set to open at the start of next month.

What started with a half-dozen people trying out fight moves at Peak Fitness in Riverdale has ballooned into Avalanche MMA, which will open with more than 40 members next month in the same plaza as Peak.

“It probably started three, four years ago, we were just fooling around and one of our friends ended up having some mats,” said Schultz, who is owner/instructor of Avalanche MMA. “So we decided to get together and do some rolling – some Jujitsu and some MMA – and it just started from there. It kind of died off a bit because everyone ended up leaving town because of university so I ended up taking it over, inviting people to come out.

“I had a pretty good crowd, so I said we need our on space.”

Avalanche MMA, which also provides boxing classes instructed by former Golden Gloves middleweight boxer Jesse Staphen, is offering MMA classes Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays – well, at least to begin with.

“When we open up, it’ll be almost every day,” said Schultz. “It’s called an open mat, so I’ll be here from open to close every day. So if anyone wants to train certain things, or just come in and train themselves, then they come in. Then we have MMA (classes), where we break it down – Jujitsu, kickboxing, MMA and wrestling.

“So we try to utilize everything from stand-up to takedowns.”

In a way that embodies the nature of MMA, people can attend classes and choose what they want to work on, instead of being subjected to a stringent class structure.

“We break down the classes so people can come to learn what they want,” said Schultz.

However, the gym is just the beginning.

Avalanche MMA may be the doorway to bigger and better things for local fighters. Through its connections to Valley MMA in Chilliwack, BC, which has connections to Xtreme Conture MMA in Las Vegas, Avalanche MMA could be a springboard for Yukoners to get shots at the big time – maybe as early as this winter.

“Through them we can link up with professional fights,” said Schultz. “Probably as early as February people will be heading out.”

In fact, Avalanche MMA is in talks with organizers of the International Sports Kickboxing Association-sanctioned Quest for the Title event set for early next year in Victoria, BC. Quest for the Title organizers have secured local sponsorship to pay the cost for a Yukoner and his corner man to travel to the event and possibly fight for a national title.

“We will be looking for a kick boxer who wants to fight for the Canadian Modified Muay Thai title,” wrote Keith Varga, a Quest for the Title organizer, in an e-mail to the News. “This can be in any weight class, the most important thing would be to find the most talented, qualified fighter in the Yukon.

“Budget wise I would only be able to bring one fighter and his corner man down, unless we are able to secure more sponsorship.”

“I talked to some of our members about it yesterday at practice and there’s a couple guys that wouldn’t mind heading down,” said Schultz. “So they’re talking about training for it.”

Considering it’s not difficult to find Yukoners eager to catch the next big bout on television, it shouldn’t be hard to find those wanting to see it live in Whitehorse, which is also on the drawing board.

“We want to be able to throw fights up here once a year,” said Schultz. “Pretty much we just need (city) approval, we have everything else taken care of: doctors to insurance – everything.

“They can come up from down south, set up and we can have Yukon fighters fight in there as well as Outside fighters.

“So next year, as early as spring, we want to have something like that – at least once a year.”

Like any combat sport, preparation is a must. So to help insure any Yukoner wanting to enter the cage is adequately prepared, Schultz hopes to bring certified MMA instructors into town for seminars every couple of months or so.

“For the grand opening I wanted to get my friend – his name is Sean O’Hulloran from Valley MMA – to come up here to do a seminar,” said Schultz. “But the thing is, he went to Japan for a fight. So right after that he’s going to come up here – we’ll see what type of shape he’s in.

“So I’m getting him to come up and he’s a professional instructor with Xtreme Conture.”

For more information contact Avalanche MMA at avalanchemma@hotmail.com.

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