MUNSTER | In a lot of ways, Paul Vale can't believe things have gotten this far.
Vale, who with his wife, Danielle, runs Hoosier Fight Club, on Friday had just finished watching 24 fighters weigh in for Saturday's HFC 16. But this time, instead of the weigh-ins being held in the L.A. Boxing (soon to be UFC Gym) location they own and operate, top-tier sponsor Harley-Davidson hosted the event at its Munster location.
Considering HFC only has been around since November 2009, the mixed martial arts promotion has come pretty far, pretty fast.
"I didn't even know if we'd make it to 16 shows," Paul Vale said. "It's definitely bigger than I expected. I never would've envisioned the day someone like Harley-Davidson would want to be with us. They sponsor the UFC. So to be able to partner up with them, I never envisioned that. We have waiting lists now for people who want to sponsor the red corner, the blue corner, the fight of the night."
HFC 16, like the majority of the promotion's shows so far, takes place at Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso. Early on, HFC had a show at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino, then at U.S. Steel Yard. The Expo Center has become home.
It's not so much of a home that Vale can picture cranking things up a few notches beyond the five or so shows HFC puts on each year.
"My heart can't take more," he joked. "But we enjoy it. We've met a lot of great people. I think we've brought something real nice to Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area. And for Danielle and I, it's exceeded our expectations."
One of the hallmarks of HFC has been its ability to attract talent beyond the local scene. Most of its cards have been headlined by fighters who have been in the big time, like the UFC and Bellator, against local standouts.
That will be the case again on Saturday as onetime UFC and "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 14 fighter Micah Miller, brother of UFC standout Cole Miller, makes the trip from the elite American Top Team camp in Florida to fight Hobart-based Josh Shockley.
Attracting talent from some of the nation's top gyms doesn't happen by accident, though. Word travels fast in the MMA world, and HFC has been able to build a strong reputation.
"Danielle and I have worked hard to gain respect in the MMA community," Vale said. "When big camps call us up and say, 'We enjoy fighting for you guys, you guys do a good show,' that means the world to me."
The world of regional MMA still has its hiccups, though, as the Vales experienced on Friday night, dealing with some fighters arriving late to weigh-ins. Those are bumps in the road they've become accustomed to and work their way around to make sure the show goes on.
On Friday, after the aforementioned hiccups, all 24 fighters for Saturday's card were official. Even though Vale may not be thinking about getting to HFC 160 any time soon, he'll help HFC do the best it can with 16.