Vernon’s Kenny Pope (right) is hoping to have his arm raised in front of a hometown crowd Saturday at XFC Unbanned at the Vernon Curling Club as he takes on Dylan Schellenberg for the welterweight championship. (Contributed)

Crowd pumped for MMA return to Vernon

First card in 10 years set for Saturday at Vernon Curling Club

There has been a great response to the long awaited return of mixed martial art fighting to Vernon.

The Vernon Curling Club is the venue for XFC Unbanned Saturday. Doors open at 6 p.m. and 22 bouts are slated for the card.

There hasn’t been an MMA fight in Vernon in a decade, and city council officially banned competition with a bylaw in 2014.

That order was rescinded by the current council in March.

“Response has been very supportive for this event. People are very excited to finally have MMA back in our city,” said promoter Saverio Loria, of Loria Group Entertainment, joined in hosting the event by Vernon’s Unity MMA and Kickboxing along with Mahood MMA.

Front row and VIP seats are completely sold out for Saturday’s card, but general admission tickets remain, available at Status Nightclub, Unity MMA and Kickboxing, On The Roxx Show Lounge, Downtown Internet Lounge, Sir Winston’s Pub and Liquor Store, Nor-Val Rentals Vernon, and World Health and Fitness.

Professional and amateur MMA fights were banned over the city’s concern about the “apparent involvement of organized crime in MMA events.”

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher has since investigated and said that is not the case. She said the only concern now is the combination of liquor and potential audience fights.

“It is probably the most sanctioned sport in B.C. when it comes to amateur athletes and professionals so if the province is willing to sanction it, I think people kind of saw that it was probably a bit more of the politics in Vernon,” said Raja Kler, a Unity MMA and Kick Boxing coach.

Loria said that all regulations have been met. Doctors and paramedics will be on scene, attendees will be patted down at the door and gang colours will not be permitted.

“We are going above and beyond to make sure we meet every guideline that the city and the commissioner wants,” he said.

“We have a standard security plan in place with ICM (International Crowd Management) as per the city’s request.”

Fighters are coming from across B.C. and Alberta to compete in the 30-foot octagon, with the main event featuring Vernon’s Kenny Pope going up against Dylan Schellenberg for the welterweight (170-pound) championship.

The lightweight championship will see Vernon’s Cameron Lane take on Nick Rovers-Leblanc.

Jordan Cabrejos fights Will Grieves for the middleweight championship while the featherweight title will be contested by Solomon Courtoreille against Usman Khattak.

Sponsors for XFC Unbanned include Status Nightclub, World Health and Fitness, Nor-Val Rentals, Sir Winston’s Pub and Liquor Store, On the Roxx Show Lounge, Freedom Studios Armoured Tattoos, Dan’s Garage, Fort Knox Security, Fair Siding, and AMI Clothing.

Loria is already looking ahead to promoting more MMA fight cards for Vernon.

“We are 100 per cent planning on doing another show in the near future, but we’ll have to wait until this one is over before we set a date for it,” he said.

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