The Ultimate Fighter reality television series has helped raise the profile of mixed martial arts and given participants a shot at glory with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Jeff Marchand is hoping to duplicate this success in Canada.
The owner of Sports Therapy Centre in Red Deer is helping organize a series of nine MMA events that will take place at Edmonton and the Ottawa-Gatineau region over the next nine months. The cards will feature fighters in the 155-pound and 170-pound weight categories, and will culminate in championship bouts in Edmonton on Dec. 10.
Television coverage has been arranged through CHCH-TV in Ontario, CHEK-TV in British Columbia and CJNT-TV in Montreal, with cable and satellite feeds to the likes of Bell TV, Shaw Direct and The Score Television Network. “It’s basically coast-to-coast — it’s blanketed — which is nice for us,” said Marchand.
The champions will each receive $25,000 and a contract with MMA promoter Strikeforce — giving them North American exposure.
Working with Marchand is promoter Elaine McCarthy, a former event co-ordinator with the UFC.
“She basically ran the show for the UFC from conception,” he said.
Also involved as executive producer is Mike Garrow, founder of The Fight Network.
Marchand, McCarthy, Garrow and the other partners in the event are operating as Let’s Get It On MMA. They plan to follow an elimination tournament format, with the cards alternating between the River Cree Resort and Casino outside Edmonton and the Casino Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, Que.
“It’s a reality show, so they’re doing 15-, 20-minute bios on each guy, and we’re really going to try to make this East versus West,” said Marchand.
In addition to the tournament fights, which are restricted to Canadians, other bouts will include “super fights” with high-profile MMA athletes. At the first Let’s Get It On MMA event in Edmonton on April 23, former UFC competitor Jason MacDonald of Red Deer will be featured in a super fight.
Marchand, who is Let’s Get It On MMA’s West Coast co-ordinator, is no stranger to MMA. He’s partnered with MacDonald to stage four MMA events in Red Deer under the name Pure Fighting Championship, or PFC.
He’s also treated MMA athletes at his clinic for years.
Marchand said he spoke with McCarthy last fall when her husband, well-known MMA referee Big John McCarthy, was officiating a PFC event. Garrow has also attended a PFC card, he said.
“They already had the concept of an east-versus-west (tournament).
“It unfolded from there.”
Let’s Get It On MMA is already planning future tournaments — and television seasons, said Marchand. These would involve fighters in other weight divisions.
The event is a great way to promote MMA in Canada, he said, and is a good way for young fighters — like those competing in the PFC — to build their careers.
“Guys like Jason probably would have been in the UFC a little quicker if he’d lived in the U.S.”
Local fighters at the April 23 event will include George Belanger, Ryan Machan and Josh Russell.
Additional information about Let’s Get It On MMA and its upcoming tournament can be found online at www.letsgetitonmma.com.