U of C students organize MMA championship

By Ryan Pike

Student-athletes have their hands full. They have to juggle classes, training and competition all while trying to pursue their life’s other passions. For a few University of Calgary students, competitive fire and their life’s passions melded into a unique opportunity.

After retiring from active competition as a Dinos wrestler and finishing his undergraduate career, current U of C law student Beamer Comfort faced a dilemma. A long-time fan of mixed martial arts, Comfort found that few Alberta promotion companies ran the way he felt they should, so he teamed up with fellow U of C student (and former wrestler) Rob Young to create Hard Knocks Fighting Championship. After running four events during 2009, Comfort has a straightforward approach to defining success.

“If you don’t make enough money to pay your bills, you are unsuccessful,” says Comfort. “How do I define success for our promotion? I want fans to walk away happy, which they have. I want fighters and the athletes who compete to walk away feeling they were treated respectfully and that their friends and family can afford to come. Our promotion is doing all of those things.”

The 2010 season of Hard Knocks Fighting Championship kicks off Sat., Jan. 30 at the Silver Dollar Casino. Two fighters on the card may be familiar to U of C students, but only if you’ve been in their classes. Kinesiology students Sumeet Gill and Chris Mattock will each be competing for the second time at a Hard Knocks event.

Originally training in hapkido (a Korean martial art and variation to jiu-jitsu, a Japanese martial art utilizing throws and grappling, which adds joint locks) from a young age, Gill was introduced to the sport of pankration (a Greek martial art, which is a mix of wrestling and boxing) by a coach and quickly became interested in the fighting aspect of mixed martial arts. He notes that balancing four classes, training and work as a pankration teacher may seem daunting, but it can be done.

“It’s just organizing your time, making your schedule work around your training,” says Gill. “Our school’s more of a traditional school, we mostly teach kid’s classes, so because I’m the only fighter it’s just talking about what times are available for training. We’re more flexible in that way, so it’s just working around it to make sure I have time.”

Training at the Gracie Barra Brazilian jiu-jitsu school, Chris Mattock became involved in martial arts in 2005 as a way to get into shape and was gradually drawn into the competitive world. He feels that Hard Knocks Fighting Championship seems to fit a niche in the current Alberta mixed martial arts arena.

“I think it’s a great place to start off,” says Mattock. “They do a lot of effort to make sure fights aren’t super unbalanced. You get good fights and people get an overall opportunity to prove themselves and learn the sport, otherwise they’d have to go pro right away and there’s a lot of chances for a mismatch. You could be fighting your first or second fight against someone with 13 pro fights and it doesn’t end up well for you.”

Plans are currently in place for six Hard Knocks events in 2010, with the next event, in April, hopefully serving as the kick-off for a pro tournament. In addition, Comfort plans to pit the top amateurs against each other ­– a format that could soon see Mattock and Gill do battle in the cage. For now, though, Gill just hopes that sports fans will continue to attend events with an open mind, noting the importance of maintaining the essence of martial arts.

“It’s something that you train hard for, you work your butt off, you go out there and fight each other and after that, it’s respect. That kind of thing. I think as long as you show that, it’ll get bigger and it’s easier for people to accept,” says Gill.

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