The hard-charging atmosphere of mixed martial arts is coming to town, but one resident says the event could be a black eye for Valley City.
The North Dakota Winter Show recently announced its plans to host an MMA event, Bismarck-based Impact Fighting Championship, at the show's Event Center in late February.
Mixed martial arts is a full-contact sport that uses both striking and grappling techniques borrowed from fighting styles such as wrestling, boxing, karate, judo and kickboxing. Impact's state-sanctioned fights use a 20 foot hexagon cage for all events, and fights consist of three five-minute rounds with a one minute rest. The fight can be won via knock out, submission, judge's decision or referee stoppage.
The event would be the first of its kind to be held in Valley City, but the bloody nature of the sport has raised some eyebrows in the community.
"I don't see where they researched this at all," said local business owner Roy Dilts. "Some of the events (the Winter Show has) had in the past aren't for everybody, but at least it's not violent or hurting anyone. This is just embarrassing that our community would allow something so unintelligent."
Winter Show manager Dawn Riley said the NDWS is merely providing a venue for the fights, and Impact sought them out as a host.
"It's an event center that we rent out to organizations that want to hold their events there, and the community can choose to participate in it or not," she said. "We appreciate input because we want to hear from the community, but we have not gotten any negative calls about hosting the event."
Chad Kurle, President of Impact Fighting Championship, said that Impact has held seven events in North Dakota since its inception in 2010.
"The unique thing about MMA is that it is acceptable to submit, or tap out, if you are placed in a position in which you cannot adequately defend yourself," Kurle said. "While there are injuries in the sport, they historically are superficial cuts and abrasions. In the history of Impact Fighting we have never had a serious injury."
The company and all its professional fighters are licensed by the North Dakota Secretary of State’s Commission of Combative Sports.
In response to groups who are concerned about having Impact in their community, Kurle pointed out that the sport has been regulated by the state since 2007.
"The Commission of Combative Sports takes its job of ensuring fighter safety very seriously," he said.
Dilts said that, safety concerns aside, bringing the fights to the community could send too violent of a message.
"We've been bombarding our kids in the last year or so with anti-bullying and anti-violence rhetoric," he said. "I can't imagine how they figured this would fly. Since I read about this, I've talked to as many people as I could, and not one person has said 'I think that's a great idea.'"
The Fargodome and the Bismarck and Jamestown Civic Centers have recently hosted Impact fights, and Riley said that she is just trying to bring in a variety of entertainment that will interest the community.
Local Valley City fighter Travis McCullough is scheduled to fight at the event, which will bring some local flavor to the upcoming fights. McCullough, a veteran mixed martial artist with over 60 MMA bouts to his credit, wanted to see an event in his hometown, Riley said.
"We have this great building that sits empty for most of the year," she said. "The purpose of the (event center) is to get used, so we will rent it out to interested parties."
Dilts said he has been encouraging anyone who has concerns about the fights to share their views with the Winter Show office.
"They're within their rights to come up with whatever (events) they want, but it's also within our rights to say no," Dilts said. "Give it a shot in somebody else's town. If they want that, they can go to Fargo or Bismarck or somewhere else and see this. It sends the wrong message."
Riley maintained that MMA is no different than any other event that's regulated by the state. "It's a sport," she said . "It's no different than football, boxing or wrestling - just a little bit rougher - and I think it's going to be a very good turnout."