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Chapman hopes to make city proud

For those at the highest levels of the sport, mixed martial arts has long since blown up.

Network deals with FOX, an ever increasing pay-per-view schedule and a raised international platform have secured mainstream exposure for those athletes under the employ of promotional juggernaut UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

While the organization continues to bring the goods to fans worldwide, the promotional adage of the world’s fastest growing sport doesn’t quite ring true. On the regional level, martial artists and athletes are still faced with the challenges of establishing themselves amongst a slew of organizational setbacks, questionable officiating and — above all — quandaries in a ranking system that has yet to really find its footing.

These are precisely the obstacles that Calgary based Hard Knocks MMA has its sights set on erasing. While other organizations in the Central Alberta area continue to simply promote fight cards with no clear agenda, Hard Knocks has left the writing on the wall.

With 29 events already in the books and a broadcast agreement on the Fight Network, it’s safe to say that Hard Knocks MMA isn’t going away any time soon and they have a plan.

The promotion is looking to root itself deeper than it already has; not only with existing fans of MMA, of which there are plenty, but amongst the network of pro gyms and the up and coming athletes toiling within.

One such up-and-comer is Chris Chapman, who this weekend will look to slip quietly into the Pantheon of regional sports heroes as he is set to face off for the vacant Hard Knocks amateur lightweight championship.

The bout, which takes place in Estevan, Sask., is an important one for the 19-year-old fighter, but also for Canadian MMA. While there are no guarantees for Chapman that he will be propelled into the limelight with a win, it will provide a visible trajectory.

When questioned about his state of readiness for the first title fight of his career, Chapman comes off as almost self effacing, simply shaking his head no. But watching him hang tough with Arashi-Do heavies Advin Omic and Ryan Machan speaks volumes to the contrary. Those two names alone have a combined total of over 40 fights. For anyone looking to make a name in a sport where not an inch is given, these are the kinds of men you want testing your mettle.

It’s tough to say whether or not his opponent (David Swanson of Winnipeg) will carry a similar advantage. Has he been tested? With only one fight less (3-1) than the Red Deer fighter, it has to be assumed. However, if the glowing review from Chapman’s coach — Arashi-Do honcho Gary Vig — is any indication, the championship hopeful has a little something extra that will parlay into a successful title bid.

“He has a dangerous submission game, but it’s his striking that is shockingly powerful,” said Vig. “The kid gets tougher every single day he’s in the gym, which is really saying something considering the company he keeps. He’s training with champions”.

Again, this is a sport where not an inch is given and positive reviews from seasoned combat professionals should be taken as more than just regular promotional embellishment.

For Chapman, it’s exactly the kind of feedback he craves, as he’s not entirely consumed with the prospect of becoming champion. More than anything it’s about legitimacy.

“Winning the belt will definitely elevate my name, people will know I’m for real,” said Chapman. “I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to do locally. I’ve placed well in Jiujitsu and Muay-Thai tournaments, but this is where I make my statement.”

Chris Sullivan is a Red Deer freelance writer



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