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Vernon MMA fighters competing in Kamloops

Connor Manahan competing for featherweight title; Cole Smith fighting in welterweight division
Vernon’s Connor Manahan (left) is competing for the amateur featherweight title at Mamba Fight League 12 in Kamloops Friday, July 28, 2023. (Submitted photo)

A pair of Vernon mixed martial arts fighters are heading to the octagon in Kamloops later this month.

Mamba Fight League 12 will take place Friday, July 28, at the Tournament Capital Centre.

Cole Smith and Connor Manahan, both from Vernon’s Unity MMA and Kickboxing gym, will be fighting at the event.

Manahan is fighting for the amateur featherweight championship at 140 pounds versus Elijah Leonardo. Both fighters have an amateur record of 1-1.

Smith (0-1) is taking on Wes Liefke (0-0) in the welterweight division at 165 pounds.

Unity MMA coach Raja Kler says Manahan is fairly tall and long for his division, standing about six feet tall.

“He’s definitely more of a striker, he’s really good at working on the outside and he’s a fun guy, and he works hard too and puts the time in,” Kler said.

As for Smith, Kler simply says: “the kid’s got moxie.

“He’s very dedicated, he’s on point with what he does, he’s very meticulous, hard worker, and that’s what we want,” said Kler, adding Smith’s style mixes kickboxing with a bit of wrestling.

Sanctioned by the BC Athletic Commission, Mamba Fight League 12 is a rare fight card taking place in the Thompson-Nicola and Okanagan regions. Kler says it’s one of two fights in the area in the last 10 years, including a card held in Vernon in 2019.

“They want to do more events like this and maybe we’ll even see some events here in Vernon again,” Kler speculated. “I’m excited to be a part of this and I’m glad to have our team on board here.”

Mamba Fight League 12 will be all amateur fights and is a cross event, meaning it will feature both MMA and kickboxing. Kler says when he last talked to the promoter there were 14 fights on the card. He expects that by July 28 there will be 10 to 12 fighters competing.

Kler is looking forward to seeing the months of training his fighters have put in reach a crescendo on July 28.

“Just trying to get a good performance out of the guys. It’s a lot like acting. You’ve got to get them relaxed and calm and then they’ve got to go out there on a stage.”

Kler says there are other fights to watch for as the year progresses, including fights by Vernon’s Damon Marlow, who has a 1-0-0 pro MMA record and is ranked 37th among pro lightweights in Western Canada. Rylie “The Coyote” Marchand is also expected to fight this year. She has a 4-1-0 amateur record and will either look to turn pro or fight for another amateur title.

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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