A chance meeting between promoter/gym owner Dusty Spaulding and local martial arts trainer Chris Rangel turned out to be the perfect storm for fans of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights in Newton.
Spaulding, who owns gyms in Kansas City and Emporia, was looking to get back into fight promotions (formerly helping put on shows for UFC Fight Path) — specifically near one of his two gym locations. Rangel sold him on the similarities of Newton and Emporia, though — as well as the former's tradition in grappling sports (i.e. wrestling) — and helped bring the first of several planned fight nights, scheduled to start at 7 p.m. March 2, to the Newton VFW building (1610 SE Third St.).
"They will range from Muay Thai kickboxing to MMA and grappling and they will feature fighters from Arkansas, Oklahoma and really local talent," Rangel said. "It's going to be a really nice deal."
Approximately 13 fights will be on the card for the fight night on March 2, according to Spaulding, mostly focusing on kickboxing and MMA. He also noted there will be at least a half dozen local fighters featured in the evening's events coming from McPherson, Hutchinson, Salina, Wichita, etc.
Plans are to build up a steady feeder system with the fights in Newton — as it was noted all of the competitors featured will be amateurs.
"These guys are looking to make a name for themselves," Rangel said.
Recently, Rangel added an MMA training octagon at his martial arts studio and currently has a handful of fighters using it. Between the work he has done with his students and the levels of success both they and local wrestlers have had, he is hopeful this fight night could bring more mainstream attention to the grappling arts.
"It's not really that new to Newton, I think we've just hidden it under a bushel basket," Rangel said.
"We just want to put on a smooth show. I want to have it run like my other shows that I've done professionally where I'll know who's fighting who at least a week ahead of time and these guys are actually ready and prepared for each other rather than just having people thinking it's like a backyard brawl," Spaulding said.
One of the keys in building up an audience in an undersaturated market, Spaulding said, is finding local fighters as well as local parties to help create a fan base. With Rangel, he has help in both arenas and both are hopeful there will be a consistent market for these types of events in Newton.
For Rangel, he is hoping the Newton community will become more educated about a new competitive endeavor and support those local fighters looking to make it big — while Spaulding is simply selling fans on the fight nights being something out of the ordinary.
"It beats going to the bowling alley," Spaulding said.
Tickets for the Newton Fight Night are $20 and will be available to the first 300 customers. For more information on purchasing tickets or the fights, contact Spaulding at 620-481-9982.