Tonight, the Region gets a new mixed martial arts organization. And if the promoters and organizers get their way, it's something fight fans will be talking about.
Hoosier Fight Club is the brainchild of Danielle and Paul Vale of L.A. Boxing in Merrillville and Portage-based MMA veteran John Kolosci, who has fought for the likes of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and, most recently, Strikeforce, playing the role of matchmaker.
HFC's debut show happens tonight at the Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso, and plans are already in place for its second show on Jan. 2 at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond.
Paul Vale said the impetus for starting a promotion in Northwest Indiana, which has several successful promotions already, was that, for them, MMA is beyond sport.
"John was doing a great job coaching our fighters (at L.A. Boxing), taking them all over the state for fights," Paul said. "We had seen some great shows and some not so great shows. We see MMA as the fastest growing sport in the world right now, and we also saw that local fight fans want great shows at affordable prices. We consider MMA to be a way of life, not just a hobby. We want to share that with all the local fans."
Paul said Danielle Vale, HFC's CEO, has done much of the groundwork in getting the promotion started, including working with the state athletic commission, for the first two shows. He said HFC looked to the biggest names in MMA right now for inspiration.
"Obviously, we looked at the UFC and WEC," Paul said. "They have it right. We want to model ourselves after the best ... We even have (Chesterton-based WEC fighter) Eddie Wineland as our 'Joe Rogan,' interviewing the fighters after the fight and analyzing it. No detail is to small, and Danielle has thought of them all."
Paul said HFC events will be fought inside a 24-foot cage, not a ring, because "real MMA takes place in a cage. Too many fighters use the ropes in a ring to their advantage." Paul said HFC's goal is to bring in big-name fighters, not just local talent.
"We want to bring in 'name' guys who have been in the big show with hopes of getting back ,and we want to match them up with local guys needing that big fight to get them to the next level," Paul said.
Tonight's debut card will feature seven pro and four amateur fights.
Notable fighters on the card include WEC veteran Joe Benoit; Jay Buck, who has fought the likes of Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Shonie Carter; Jake Rosenbaum, who recently moved from the Region to Sacramento to train with former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber at Team Alpha Male; WEC and Strikeforce veteran Ryan Healy, who trains at the renowned Team Quest in Portland; and UFC and IFL veteran Gideon Ray.
And if the thrill of launching the new promotion wasn't enough, Kolosci will marry his fiancee, Cathy Landeros, inside the cage tonight in what Landeros said recently was thought to be a first in mixed martial arts.
Editor's note: For more on this story, visit nwi.com/sports.
MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
Hoosier Fight Club: Raise Up
Where: Porter County Expo Center, 215 E. Division Road, Valparaiso.
When: Today, doors at 6:30 p.m., fights at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $35, general admission; $50 table seats (tables seat five); $100 cageside. Tickets are available at the door or at L.A. Boxing, 5210 E. 81st Ave., Merrillville, (219) 947-2269. Tickets include complimentary admission to post-fight party.
Web site: hoosierfightclub.com
155: Bryan Fielder (11-6) vs. Caleb Parrish (0-0)
175: Jay Buck (11-10) vs. Josh Rines (3-4)
170: Tony Wisnewski (11-4) vs. Craig Kaufman (7-3)
135: Jake Rosenbaum (7-1) vs. Mike Glenn (4-1)
170: Joe Benoit (10-2) vs. Steve Dycus (2-2)
155: Rod Montoya (11-6) vs. Ryan Healy (4-5)
155: Darren Elkins (8-1) vs. Gideon Ray (15-10)
155: Josh Dawson (3-2) vs. James Jimison (2-2)
145: Mike Leucuta (6-1) vs. David Shoemaker (5-3)
170: Terry House (4-0) vs. Percy Hicks (3-1)
Heavyweight: Aaron Noel (2-0) vs. Mike Gordon (2-1)