Since it was announced Watson Lake will be hosting Quest for the Title VIII in September, Yukoners have been lining up to get a spot on the fight card.
In fact, promoter Keith Varga has decided to expand the card from its original 12 fights to 15 or more.
So far the names of about 14 Yukoners have been penciled in to fight in mixed martial arts, kickboxing and boxing amateur bouts.
“If I can raise the needed sponsorship dollars there would be around 20 fights,” said Varga in an email to the News. “I would do the amateur boxing earlier in the day, have a short change of judges and then start the Quest for the Title event for kickboxing and MMA.”
The mixed martial arts fights will be the first ever held in the Yukon. Needless to say, Whitehorse’s two MMA clubs – Avalanche MMA and Chaos Combat Club – are thrilled.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lot of these guys to go out and showcase their skills in front of their hometown,” said Chaos owner/operator Sheldon Casselman. “It’s going to be good for the sport and good for the community.”
“What I told the guys was, we have to train pretty hard and show them what we’re made of,” said Cliff Schultz, Avalanche’s owner/operator. “It’s hometown and everything.
“It feels pretty good we’re finally getting something going on here. Everybody is so excited.”
Both clubs currently have six fighters on the card.
Fighters from Chaos include: Ken Hubbard, Owen Holmes, Jesse Fairburn, Bret Babuick, Dwight Snowshoe and Cody Ball.
In March, Snowshoe won silver in freestyle grappling at the Tiger Balm International, the biggest martial arts competition in North America. Ball also competed at Tiger, but it will be the first amateur fights for the other four.
On the card from Avalanche are T.J. Woodman, Miller Rogers, Stefan Brynjolfsson, Simon Pregent, Joseph Piper and Schultz. The Avalanche guys have a little more fight experience. Woodman has an amateur record of 3-2, Rogers 3-1, Pregent 0-1, Brynjolfsson 1-1, Schultz 1-1.
“I am working on matching opponents for all of them. That is not a hard thing for me to do,” said Varga. “I am actually darn good at making fair matches and in my last three events all fights went the distance and to the judges’ score cards.”
Out of the 14 Yukoners so far on the card, two in particular will likely spark a little extra cheering from the crowd.
Watson Lake’s Jordan Lutz and Jay Lutz (no relation) will be the hometown favourites.
“It’s a little bit of everything: I’m nervous, excited,” said Jay. “I guess you could say it’s the biggest stage I’ve ever been on. I’ve played a lot of hockey in my day, but it’s not quite the same.
“I just have to put the time in, do the training, and do what I was taught.”
A couple years ago, Jay travelled to Thailand on a vacation and ended up spending three months learning and training in Muay Thai kickboxing.
“It started as a vacation and kind of turned into more of a challenge,” said Jay.
In Thailand, Jay had one amateur fight, which he won. And Jay is no spring chicken; he is 56 years old.
“I don’t think I’ll be doing a whole lot more after this,” said Jay. “I might. I’ll see what happens.”
Jordan, who has lived in Watson Lake since high school, began training at Zuma Martial Arts in Victoria while attending university there two years ago.
“I went there and just started doing it,” said Jordan. “I’ve been watching UFC for a long time and I really wanted to do something different. So I learned wrestling, striking and submissions.
“I’m a mixed fighter; I’m comfortable everywhere. I guess I’d say I’m stronger on the ground, but I’m not afraid to stand up and strike.”
The Yukon Amateur Boxing Association is also pretty excited about the Watson Lake event.
“We have a few young guys who are interested in having their first fight in Watson Lake, so we’re pretty excited about that,” said the association’s Jess Staffen, a former Golden Gloves champion and Level 3 coach. “We think it’s going to be a great event for all three sports in the Yukon.”
Staffen hopes five Whitehorse fighters will get their first bouts at Quest for the Title, but so far only one is fully committed: 13-year-old Emon Williams.
“He’s probably going to be one of our stars, one of our future fighters,” said Staffen. “He’s actually the grandson of my old coach, Harvey Reti, a former Olympic boxer. So he comes from a long line of boxers.
“We also have a few older guys, in their early 20s, late teens, who are looking forward to their first fight as well.
“So far Emon is the only one I definitely have confirmed.”
The boxing bouts will be the first held in the Yukon since Whitehorse hosted the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Every single bout, in all three disciplines, will consist of a Yukoner versus a British Columbian with one very special exception.
Quest for the Title VIII, which will take place September 29, will also feature the first-ever kickboxing world title bout in the Yukon.
Going for his third world title will be Varga’s son, Gabriel. The title, which is currently vacant, is the International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) Pro K1 super light weight title.
Gabriel, 27, currently holds both the World Kickboxing Network and World Kickboxing Federation world titles, with over 20 professional wins under his belt. His opponent in Watson Lake has yet to be determined.
For a preview of the title fight, you can watch footage of Gabriel on YouTube by searching “Gabriel Varga Muay Thai.”
Tickets for Quest for the Title will go on sale July 9 and will range from $40 for general admission to $100 for the front-row seats. They will be available at the Watson Lake Recreation Centre as well as Peak Fitness and the Chaos Combat Club in Whitehorse.
For more information, or to help sponsor the non-profit event, contact Keith Varga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Fundraising is the biggest thing now,” said Keith. “The more sponsorship dollars I can raise, equals more opportunities for the Yukon athletes.”
Contact Tom Patrick at