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Fans of fighting to get a fistful at UVSC Saturday

Professional competition to have U.S. debut

SHARE Fans of fighting to get a fistful at UVSC Saturday

OREM — This time, the fighting won't be stopped.

After several failed attempts, Utah County fight fans will finally get some action Saturday night when a new international fighting competition makes its U.S. debut at Utah Valley State College. Rings USA has 16 professional combatants slated to stage 12 bouts at the McKay Events Center.

Given recent controversy over fight clubs, boxing at dance clubs and brawling for cash at a professional wrestling school, the timing of this week's event is ironic. Organizer Monte Cox hopes recent disappointments spur fight fans to buy a lot of tickets for the 7:30 p.m. matches.

"What I'm bringing is the real thing," Cox said Wednesday. "It's not just a fight club."

While on their feet, fighters will be allowed to punch, kick and strike blows with their (padded) elbows and knees. If the action goes to the ground, fighters can attempt submission holds or punch to the body, Cox said.

Referees monitor the action for two five-minute rounds, and judges decide the winners, unless there is a knockout. One of the three judges is Mark Schulz, an Olympic medalist and former coach of BYU's now-defunct wrestling team.

"It's not like ultimate fighting where they just kick the crap out of each other," said Rhett Evans, director of the McKay Events Center. "These are all professional fighters. It's kind of a combination of boxing and kickboxing."

Provo and Orem both recently made headlines when they curtailed proposed fighting events. Several weeks ago, Provo secured a court order to bar Club Omni from staging boxing matches, while last week Orem put the clamps on a tough-guy event at Gator's Pro Wrestling School. In both cases, city officials cited zoning ordinances as the basis for their decisions to stop the bouts.

But zoning ordinances won't affect Rings USA because municipal requirements don't apply to state property such as UVSC, said Orem assistant city attorney Steve Earl.

"We basically can't regulate what they do," Earl said.

Cox, a former newspaper editor turned fight promoter, already has staged several fighting events in Utah — but never in Utah County. Even before recent controversy about student-sponsored fight clubs and other organized violence, Cox knew Utah County might be a tough sell.

"To be honest, Orem is risky," he said, referring to the $100,000 it will cost him to stage Saturday's event. "It's a very conservative area and I understand that."

On the other hand, starved fight aficionados might just turn out in droves so they can finally see some punches thrown in Utah County. Cox will have a medical doctor on hand, and all fighters will wear gloves.

Part of Cox's motivation for bringing the debut of Rings, which is highly popular in Japan, to Orem is a film production company based there. JTV Productions will film Saturday's action for production of a videotape. The fights will be broadcast on television in Japan.

Among the 16 competitors is Salt Lake City jujitsu instructor Griffen Reynaud, who squares off against five-time ultimate fighting participant Jeremy Horn of Omaha, Neb. Three of the participants are from outside the United States. All are vying for a $10,000 prize and a slot in Japan's King of Kings tournament, which carries a grand prize of $250,000.

UVSC and Cox agreed to stage the event about five months ago, long before the fight club craze heated up among Utah Valley college students. Thus far, the McKay Center has had no complaints, nor has anyone suggested Saturday's event is linked to the fight clubs, where friends duked it out in parks and parking lots.

"There's a big difference between this and a bunch of high school kids trying to beat each other up," Evans said.

E-MAIL: carter@desnews.com