The promoter of the Quest for the Title kickboxing championships, Keith Varga, is on a quest of his own.
Looking to find the best of the best from throughout the country, Varga hopes to recruit a Yukoner to represent the territory next March in Quest for the Title VII, and possibly get a shot at a Canadian, or even world, title.
“For a Canadian title, we’re looking for someone who has had about five amateur fights with a 4-1 or 5-0 record,” said Varga. “There are people around there because I know of people who (qualify), but I just can’t find them - they moved to Victoria or Edmonton.
“There are some people out of Dawson or Whitehorse who have had world-class training and might be back there working, and that’s the kind of guy we’d like to find.”
The International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) sponsored event, which will take place March 19 in Nanaimo, BC, is putting two world professional titles, two world amateur titles and two amateur Canadian titles for Muay Thai kickboxing up for grabs.
Varga has heard of there being accomplished Yukon fighters, but so far no one is biting.
Going right to the nearest source, the Yukon News approached the recently founded local mixed martial arts gym, Avalanche MMA in Riverdale, to help in Varga’s search. Although some of the gym’s martial artists have been training years before Avalanche opened at the start of last month, no one there is quite ready to compete at a national or world level.
“The Quest for the Title is kickboxing and we have to have five professional (or amateur) fights under our belt,” said Cliff Schultz, owner/instructor of Avalanche MMA. “There’s no kickboxing in Whitehorse, so nobody here - unless they came from out of another territory or province - has even amateur fights.
“We’ve practised kickboxing and Muay Thai; everybody is really good at it, but none of them have had amateur fights yet.”
While underqualified now, Schultz and a few other fighters will be going down to Vancouver next March to compete at the Tiger Balm Internationals, which will feature martial artists from throughout the world. They will be competing in submission grappling, kickboxing and pankration, which is like mixed martial arts but with more protective gear.
“We’re heading down to the Tiger Balm and things like that, so we can get the experience under our belts,” said Schultz.
Whitehorse’s Ryan Leef, who recently fought in his second professional fight in the Armageddon Fighting Championship (AFC 4), was approached by the News about the opportunity, but he is not that kind of fighter.
However, Leef’s striking coach, Charles Eshleman, a retired kickboxer with roughly 30 fights, including about eight professional ones, knows of a couple possibilities.
“I have two guys that I’ve trained through the years that have enough experience and might be able to do it if they got back into it, but both of them are in Dawson right now,” said Eshleman of Ben Rudis and Kevin Mendelson. “(Medelson) hasn’t fought for a while for a couple years, but he’s still young. If he dedicated himself, he might be able to pull it off.
“This is a big tournament; there are a lot of top guys who fight regularly from their gyms. Up here we don’t have that same base. You have to have you’re A-game to go against these guys down there. “
Although the requirements for the championships may be significant, qualified fighters should give it serious consideration.
Varga, who worked as a helicopter pilot in the Yukon during the summer, has already secured some local sponsorship and plans to cover the costs of travel, accommodation and sanctioning for the fighter.
“Even for an amateur fight, we pay all that,” said Varga.
Furthermore, things are flexible in terms of weight classes. Quest for the Title organizers will attempt to bring in title holders to accommodate different classes.
“We want to find someone who truly deserves a shot at a Canadian title, when we find that person we will find out what weight they are and that’s the title we’ll do,” said Varga. “If someone has that title, and they happen to live in Quebec, then I’ll fly them in from Quebec. The fighters always want to fight.
“That was always the idea: to give the legitimate fighter a chance.”
If you or someone you know is up to the challenge, contact Keith Varga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com