After a 10 year hiatus, MMA will officially be returning to Vernon.
The sport was banned by a 2014 city bylaw that prohibited professional and amateur mixed martial fights within the municipal limits. This decision was rescinded in March.
Now, the first official fight in a decade is officially set to take place next month. Aptly titled XFC “Unbanned,” 22 fights are scheduled to take place Saturday, Aug. 24.
Headlined by Vernon fighter Kenny Pope, the event will also feature six other Vernon athletes. Fighters from across Alberta and B.C. will be in attendance, including athletes from Kelowna and Penticton.
“I’m excited to showcase Vernon’s skilled and talented fighters, and on top of that, it’ll be a great event for Vernon to have and have people see what we’ve been doing on the coast,” said Vernon’s Unity MMA head coach Raja Kler.
The ban was originally put in place due to concerns from the city 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 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 Kler.
Event organizer Saverio Loria, of Loria Group Entertainment, explained 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.
“This is licensed but is a family event as well. It’s a good event for Vernon and gets people out. Hopefully we can continue to do more of these,” Loria said. “We are going above and beyond to make sure we meet every guideline that the city and the commissioner wants.”
Taking place at the Vernon Curling Club, the event will feature a 30-foot octagon and can hold up to 1,200 attendees and is also licensed for food and beverage sales. All involved said the public’s response has been positive and athletes are excited to compete in front of their home crowd.
“We’ve been having to travel all the time and now they finally get to compete at their own hometown and get cheered on and that’ll be fun and a nice change,” said Kler. “We all just want to put on a good show for Vernon.”
The event is organized by Loria Group Entertainment, Mahood MMA and Unity MMA. It is sponsored by Sir Winston’s Pub and Liquor Store, Ladies World Health and Fitness and Status Nightclub.
A contest will be held for a selection of ring girls at Status Nightclub on Friday, July 12. Sponsorship and VIP tables are available. For ticket info, to sign up for the contest or general information, contact Saverio Loria at 778-728-3746.