Sixteen feet of hexagon
Local fighters prepare for a night inside an Ultimate Cage Fighting enclosure
If you go
What: Ultimate Cage Fighting
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion
Cost: General admission tickets cost $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Cageside tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m. and fights begin at about 8 p.m.
Craig — Up front, there are signs advertising smoothies and shakes: They’re called gainers, builders and burners. Off to the side are places for massage therapy and acupuncture treatment.
In the back, women casually burn calories on treadmills and weight machines.
It’s an unassuming, quiet place, this Holistic Health & Fitness on Breeze Street. A place people come to treat mind, body and spirit.
But tonight is different.
It’s Fight Night Eve and underneath the tranquility, battle plans are being drawn.
“We fix ’em up here,” says Josh Magnuson, who owns part of Holistic, “and hurt ’em back there.”
The back there he’s referring to is a concrete and wooden room with punching bags on the perimeter and a menacing black and red caged hexagon in the center.
“Sixteen feet wherever you go,” Magnuson said. “Not much room to run.”
Today, the cage will make the short trip from Holistic to the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion. Twenty-eight fighters – spread across five weight classes – will step inside and take part in an Ultimate Cage Fighting event.
Some of the fighters weighed in Friday night. They range in age from 18 to 48 years old.
“Do you know if I’m going to have a fight for sure?” Jesse Brookshire, a Moffat County High School graduate and 155-pound lightweight, asked Magnuson, one of the event’s organizers.
Brookshire got the answer he was looking for.
“I’ve watched mixed martial arts evolve,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been interested in since high school. I’m excited.”
Mixed martial arts is a combat sport that allows a wide-variety of fighting techniques, including striking and grappling. The fights are limited to three, two-minute rounds.
Contests are ended by knockout, tap out, referee’s decision or decided by a panel of judges.
Magnuson will referee the fights.
“It gets stopped real quick,” he said. “If a guy isn’t defending himself, that’s when I’ll step in, or if he’s just not all there. : If I see that, it’s done.”
Most, if not all, the fighters have a background in wrestling, boxing or martial arts, Magnuson said. The allure of the fight is competition, he said.
“I would say it’s more about the competition than going out to try and hurt somebody,” Magnuson said. “It’s more about proving to yourself you’re No. 1.”
Tonight will be the second fight for Joe Garcia, a 1994 MCHS graduate who lives in Gillette, Wyo., and made his cage fighting debut in September.
He trained with a kickboxer, studied Jujitsu and won the fight after landing several strikes to his opponent’s head.
“I was nervous, but once I got in the ring, all the nerves went away,” Garcia said.
“I guess it’s kind of a challenge for myself. When I’m not working, this is what I want to do.”
Organizers said they anticipate 400 people for tonight’s contest. Magnuson said excitement for the event has been building, particularly in the past few days. About 200 tickets have sold in three days.
Not everyone in the community is at ease with the cage fighting event. Spiritual leaders said they have moral objections.
A chaplain’s group, comprised of about eight church leaders, which gathers once a month with local law enforcement officers, discussed the event at a meeting Nov. 13.
Calvary Baptist Church pastor Rod Compton said the group opposes the cage fighting on ethical and moral grounds.
“I don’t think it’s real healthy for either one of (the fighters) or the public watching it,” said Compton, who’s also a Craig City Council member.
He said group members believe the event should be sanctioned or licensed in some fashion, or the “public should have a say in it.” If the public had no qualms about the event, so be it, he said.
“If that’s the case, as we do in America, majority rules,” Compton said.
Erin Miller, an assistant to the Moffat County Commission, said the two requirements for event organizers to rent the county pavilion was providing proof of liability insurance and arranging for private security. Holistic Health & Fitness paid the $300 rental fee and $500 deposit, Miller said.
Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said two off-duty police officers were hired to work security for the event.
The pavilion is a county-owned facility. Although it is within city jurisdiction, event organizers did not have to gain authorization from the city to host the event.
City manager Jim Ferree said there is no ordinance preventing the cage fighting. He also said the City Council has neither discussed nor taken a position on the event.
The city has heard no opposition, either.
“We haven’t heard anything one way or another, pro or con,” Ferree said.
Father Randy Dollins, a priest at St. Michael Catholic Church, is part of the chaplain’s group and shares its opposition.
“I’ve seen these fights. : They always end up with bear hugs and guys trying to punch each other in the face,” Dollins said.
“It doesn’t seem to be an event that builds virtue in any way.”
The priest said he views cage fighting in a different light than a sport like boxing, which involves fighters being licensed, sanctioned, trained and possessing a certain skill set.
Dollins said he’s worried the event is another sign of an increasingly violent culture and sends a wrong message.
“Where does this lead?” he said. “We wouldn’t promote a fight pretty much anywhere else in our society. If people were just fighting anywhere else, they’d get arrested. : For some reason, it’s going to be OK Saturday night.
“The question hasn’t been asked – and it should be – whether or not we should have it.”
Dollins talked with Karrie Booth, one of the Holistic owners, about his concerns.
Booth defends the event.
“It’s really no different than boxing,” she said. “It’s a very disciplined sport.
“These guys volunteered to do it.”
Magnuson said the event is about competition and sport.
“I would say, for one, everyone knows what they’re getting into,” he said. “They know things can happen in that ring. These guys want to compete. They’re competitors.”
Emergency medical personnel will be on-site tonight.
Organizers are seeking to expand tonight’s cage fighting event into a series with contests in surrounding communities such as Meeker, Rangely, Montrose, Steamboat Springs and Rifle.
Craig resident Jesse Caperton, 22, is signed up to fight. He saw an advertisement about the event and thought “it looked like fun.”
“It’s a little more than I bargained for,” Caperton said Friday. “But, it’s cool. I’ll still fight.”
The nerves will come, Caperton said, but like the opponent standing across from him, he’ll try to fight it off.
“I will be (nervous),” he said. “As much as I try not to be, I will be.”
Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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