On Saturday night, the Butte Civic Center was transformed into a scene of struggle. A large hexagonal cage sat in the center, illuminated by flood lights that shone from every corner. Three cinema screens on the east side of the main floor showed the empty cage and crowd moving around, settling in before the mixed-martial and boxing "Homecoming" fight began.
Just after 6:30 p.m., Terrill Bracken, the owner of the Fusion Fight League, sponsor of the fight card, entered the cage and invited the first 10 athletes who faced to join him. Amateur fighters of all shapes and sizes made their way onto a raised track that extended from the giant screens, to the main floor and into the cage, circling and signaling the crowd to applaud.
Terrill briefly introduced the "Homecoming" event and said a "fighter's prayer" before the card began, with six amateur bouts and three professional fights.
First of all: amateur MMA fighters Matt Engelbart from Bozeman and Bobby Moreno from Butte. Both headed to the cage through the track in style, throwing punches and bouncing up and down. Moreno had a Mexican flag around his shoulders.
Engelbart, Moreno and the other amateur MMA fighters would fight for three 3-minute rounds, unless a referee, a knockout or a tapping stopped the fight before the full 9 minutes ended.
After the referee informed Engelbart and Moreno about the rules, they put gloves in the middle, made some swings while they were standing, then Engelbart threw Moreno to the ground. While Moreno worked to put Engelbart in his guard, Engelbart secured his mount, throwing punches in the ribs and the head of Moreno. Moreno could not put himself in an advantageous position and Engelbart continued to hit him.
Around half of the first round, the referee stopped the fight and Engelbart was declared the winner. Both fighters embraced several times before leaving the cage.
Next, Dallin Young of Cut Bank faced Andrew Long of Hamilton who faced off in another amateur MMA fight. For starters, both men kicked each other's calves, then Long took Young to the canvas.
Young quickly established a guillotine choke on Long, who started on the ground but then stood on Young. The men worked to gain advantageous positions, with Young wrapping his legs around Long's neck and Long responding with blows to Young's body. Both men were working to reposition themselves near the end of the first round when Long explosively threw himself to the ground and put Young on an arm bar. Young retired quickly and Long was declared the winner.
Ryder Small of Missoula and Shea O & # 39; Neill of Bozeman were the next two wrestlers who met in the cage, but for a very different fight: they fought in an 8 minute round of direct fighting, no punches were allowed, and the The winner will be decided solely by submission. This meant that the men would work standing up to be in a good position, but then they would spend most of their fight on the canvas, working for their opponent to tap.
Small and O'Neill did not waste time getting to the mat, and O'Neill placed himself at the top to start. O'Neill had Side's side control, but Small was able to put himself in half guard and block O'Neill's arms.
"It's human chess on the floor," Bracken announced to the crowd.
The ground tactics were remarkably different, since both Small and O'Neill constantly changed their position and worked faster than the MMA fighters, since they did not have to worry about being hit in the face or body.
It had been a few minutes and the two men trying to put the other in several guards and warehouses, but they could quickly maneuver out of them. O'Neill was able to get Small in an ankle block, which led Small to tap.
"In that situation, touch or lose your ACL," Bracken said again to the crowd.
Once Small and O'Neill cleared the cage, Bracken called in MMA fans Joshua King of Denver, Colorado, and Chaz Marsicano of Billings.
"I've been expecting this from the beginning, it could easily be the fight of the night," Bracken announced.
This was going to be the debut of King and Marsicano in the MMA. Both were inked on the chest, King with a large black crown and Martian with a full piece of color from the front of the body, with a dragon-shaped creature on his pectorals.
This fourth fight was the only one of the night to overcome all the rounds and a decision of the judges. Approximately 10 seconds in each of the three rounds, Marsicano would accelerate in King and execute a double leg knockdown to take him to the canvas. Although King was well protected and constantly sought a better position, Marsicano was the main aggressor, and received numerous hits on the head and body of the Kings in each round.
By unanimous decision, the three judges declared Marsicano the winner.
The last fight before the intermission was between Kody Shupe of Bozeman and Chris La Tray of Missoula.
Although it was an amateur MMA fight, both men stood for most of the fight. They kept their distance, but Shupe was the main aggressor, and eventually knocked La Tray to the ground with a kick to the body and a punch to the head, followed by a few more punches. Shupe was declared the winner by a knockout.
After the intermission, the last amateur fight between Harry Three Stars of Poplar and Andrew Huckeby of Butte entered the cage. Three Stars came out fast with several kicks and roundhouse moves on Huckeby, who dodged most attempts by Three Stars. Huckeby then proceeded to land a few kicks on Three Stars, taking him to the ground.
After a few blows to the head by Huckeby, Three Stars released their correct contact and continued fighting. Huckeby placed his hips on Three Stars' chest, connecting a few more punches before the end of the first round.
In the second round, Three Stars came out again with some kicks, but Huckeby dodged them and brought Three Stars to the ground again with a thump on the leg that was standing. Huckeby hit punches repeatedly on the front and back of Three Stars' head while riding him astride him, prompting the referee to stop the fight after the ground and the pound. Huckeby was declared the winner.
"This guy is going somewhere," said Bracken.
After the seventh fight it was the first professional MMA fight of the night between Travis Herbert and Anthony Curtiss, and possibly the most exciting MMA fight of the night.
Curtiss kicked out to Herbert, who pinned him in the cage. Curtiss then picked up Herbert and threw him on his back. About 15 seconds later, Curtiss hit Herbert in the back again, causing the crowd to go crazy.
Herbert responded by hitting Curtiss on the ground, and was able to put himself in a decent position. But Curtiss answered, sat astride Herbert and struck one blow after the other on the left temple with his elbow. The referee calls a knockout and Curtiss is declared the winner.
The last two fights of the night were what the crowd had been waiting for: the welcome fights for professional boxer Eric "Hammer Hands" Hempstead and Monty "King of the Jungle" Klistoff.
Hempstead was the first to fight in the only professional boxing match of the night against Tony "Kryptonite" Lopez of Great Falls. The men had to fight in 5 minutes, three rounds.
The first three rounds were quite neck and neck between the two men. None of them moved much on their feet, but it connected several strong blows to the head and body of the other. Hempstead was the main aggressor, and he got several heavy combos, but Lopez got some heavy answers.
In the fourth round, Hempstead stepped forward. With a few strokes that left Lopez reeling, he gave him a heavy right hook that made Lopez fall flat on his face with a thud on the mat. Lopez tried to fight again, but could not recover. Hempstead was declared the winner by technical knockout.
Last but not least, Klistoff faced off in the second professional fight of the MMA night against Theron "The Game" Martin. When Klistoff went to the cage, Martin did not take his eyes off him.
Martin quickly established himself as the aggressor, placing Klistoff in the cage. While standing, Martin tried to land a few punches and Klistoff tried to take Martin to the ground, but soon found himself below Martin.
After several blows to the ribs and an arm bar, Klistoff withdrew. He was visibly upset about the loss, but congratulated Martin. Martin congratulated Klistoff too.
"Monty is an amazing guy," Martin told the crowd. "And Butte is one of the best combat cities I've been in."