When an e-mail from a fighter interested in the Armageddon Fighting Championship landed in Jason Heit’s inbox this week, he couldn’t help but smile.
The message from Daniel Gracie is little more than a feeler, perhaps one of many he sent around. But it also speaks of AFC’s growing caché in the mixed martial arts community.
For those unaware, the name Gracie is royalty in the kingdom of MMA, what Gretzky is with hockey, Jordan with basketball.
It’s a sign of the times for the AFC.
This Saturday night, Bear Mountain Arena hosts AFC 6: Conviction and the lineup is the biggest and best yet.
“It’s amazing the athletes trying to get on our card, guys we’d love to get. It means our reputation is out there in the (MMA) community and we’re continuing to rise,” Heit said.
A pair of extremely high-profile fights cap the night. And anytime there’s talk of high-calibre MMA there’s talk of UFC.
With Robert Drysdale headlining, the Victoria-based outfit is getting that much closer to producing their first UFC fighter.
Drysdale (205 lbs) returns for his third MMA fight having won his previous two in the AFC. The multi-time world Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion and coach of elite UFC competitors faces Mike Nickels out of Denver, Colo.
“(Drysdale) has high aspirations and wants to compete at the highest level possible,” Heit said.
A lot of eyes are on Drysdale’s progress right now. Should he get through Nickels, a fellow BJJ expert with UFC experience, it will add significant traction to Drysdale’s campaign as a UFC fighter.
Meanwhile the AFC conquers a first on Saturday as Surrey’s Kalib Starnes makes his title defence of the middleweight belt (185 lbs) against UFC and Strikeforce veteran John Salter (Ala.). Starnes has yet to defend the belt he won over Nick Hinchliffe at AFC 3 in July, 2010.
"Starnes has run out of opponents in his weight class in our region so we had to bring someone in,” Heit said.
Salter’s coming off a win in Strikeforce, the MMA organization recently purchased by the UFC and widely considered the second-most competitive league behind UFC. His participation is another rung of AFC’s success.
Added Heit, “I also look at our local talent being developed and see who’s being primed.”
Heit pointed to Derek Medler (170 lbs), who is 5-0 in AFC fights and has the toughest match of his career on his hands versus Jaret Evans.
“A lot of (local) fighters are getting an opportunity they wouldn’t have got.”
The strength of AFC 6 is its depth, with a massive heavyweight tilt among an electric list of undercards. Former B.C. Lions first round draft pick Paul Cheng will fight 6-foot-7 Adam Querido. Both are making their MMA debuts. Cheng, who once set a record for bench pressing the second-most repetitions at the Canadian Football League draft combine, needs to manage his weight to stay below the 265 lbs-limit for his class.
Tickets available at the door, 6 p.m. Saturday night, or through www.armageddonfc.com.
AFC 6 Fight Card
Kalib Starnes* vs. John Salter 185 lbs
*AFC Middleweight title match
Robert Drysdale vs. Mike Nickels 205
Derek Medler vs. Jaret Evans 170
A. Buckland vs. Chase Degenhardt 185
Adam Querido vs. Paul Cheng 265
Chris Jones vs. Dan Ring 155
Ryan Janes vs. Duncan Wilson 185
Corey Gower vs. Brendan Frost 140
Karel Bergen vs. Ethan Owusu 170
Nathan Swayze vs. Brian Coldwell 185
Tristan Connelly vs. Upneet Rai